William Mann Somerville

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the story of Scotland’s connections to Chile shares many similarities with those of Brazil and Argentina. As a result, many Scots who visited Chile also have links with Argentina and Brazil. A famous example would be Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, who commanded the Chilean Navy during the country’s war of independence from Spain. Nevertheless Chile plays an important part in the picture of the Scottish Diaspora and there are stories of influential Scots making their mark, and indeed their fortunes, in Chile.

Among the most successful Scottish settlers was William Mann Somerville from Haddington, East Lothian. After an eventful few years working for the Anglo-South American Bank, he set up a mixed farm called Fundo Edina in Chile’s Elqui Valley. Here he produced wine and Pisco, a young brandy. The farm was later inherited by his sons who established Capel, the first Pisco Cooperative in Chile.

Valparaiso, one of the most prominent seaports in the South Pacific, was the birthplace of a Scottish owned Chilean company, the Williamson-Balfour Company. This company exported goods such as wool out of Chile to England and the USA and for a time ran a sheep farm on Easter Island through a subsidiary company. Valparaiso is also the location of the Mackay School, which was founded in 1857 by Scots settlers who aimed to provide quality education for the children of those working in the factories and railroads during the 19th Century. The school still survives and is now one of the most prominent educational establishments in Chile.