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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Turkey

26th November 2015

St Andrew’s Day: how Scottish was my great-grandmother?

30 November is St Andrew’s Day, named after the Patron Saint of Scotland.

St Andrew offers continuity across cultures: he was crucified at Patras, in modern-day Greece, and his body was taken to Constantinople – present-day Istanbul – before being transferred to Amalfi in Italy in the 13th Century.  He is Patron Saint of Ukraine as well as Scotland.

As the official Scotland.org website notes, “legend has it that a Greek monk known as St Rule or St Regulus was ordered in a vision to take a few relics of Andrew to the ‘ends of the earth’ for safe keeping. He set off on a sea journey to eventually come ashore on the coast of Fife at a settlement which is now the modern town of St Andrews”.


St Andrew became the Patron Saint of Scotland and the Saltire, or St Andrew’s Cross, became the national emblem and flag of the Scots.

For centuries, Scots have played a huge part in every part of British life, from the industrialisation of the 19th Century to the growth of the British Empire, the development of art and architecture – eg awesome designer and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh –to literature, with writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Homes, or J M Barrie, author of Peter Pan.

Today, here in Istanbul, we regularly interact with Scottish businesses – for example, when we lobby on behalf of the Scotch Whisky Association or when we sent a senior delegation of oil and gas executives from Turkey, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan to September’s Offshore Europe show in Aberdeen.  We’ve been delighted to work closely with Scottish Development International.

I also have a personal connection with Scotland via my maternal grandfather, Baldwin Hovey.

Baldwin’s mother Louisa Dempster, my great-grandmother, was born in Elland in Yorkshire.  She married my great-grandfather Ernest Hovey, a Yorkshireman born in Sheffield and one of eleven children.  Ernest was later killed, bizarrely, in a cricketing accident; but not before he and Louisa had had two sons, including my grandfather Baldwin, who was four when Ernest died in 1892.


You can see Louisa in this photo of Baldwin’s wedding to my grandmother Mildred, taken in 1920.  Louisa is the woman seated on the left, in the predominantly dark clothes.  Just looking at the picture makes me want to find out more about her.

Louisa was at least partly Scottish.  Her mother Elizabeth Dempster was born in Dairsie in Fife.  Her grandfather, John Bonella, was born in Leuchars – right across the bay from St Andrews, where St Rule or St Regulus came ashore. But I haven’t at the time of writing been able to establish whether Louisa’s father, Robert Dempster, was also Scottish.  That could in theory affect the degree to which I myself am Scottish – whether one-sixteenth, or one-eighth (I am also proudly one-eighth Welsh).

One may argue that such questions are irrelevant.  As noted in my July 2014 blog, Turkey: Cradle of Civilisations, you don’t have to go far back in history before everyone’s DNA becomes pretty jumbled-up – nowhere more so than in the United Kingdom.  But I’d like to know how Scottish I am – if only to know to what extent I can legitimately wear my kilt.


If anyone knows more about Robert Dempster, my great-grandmother Louisa’s father, do let me know.  Meanwhile we look forward to continuing to support Scottish or any other British businesses who need help in Turkey – please contact us at uktiturkey@fco.gov.uk or the British Chamber of Commerce in Turkey, http://www.bcct.org.tr/.

Follow Leigh Turner on Twitter  @LeighTurnerFCO

1 comment on “St Andrew’s Day: how Scottish was my great-grandmother?

  1. Dear sir,

    We are third cousins once removed – I think. My great grandmother was Mabel Demspter – her aunt was Louisa Hovey (nee Dempster). I have got quite a lot of info on the Dempster side of the family – some of which is here on my blog: http://archmusicman.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/mrs-pretty-and-sutton-hoo-little-about.html

    Edith Pretty (Dempster) is probably the most famous of the recent-ish Dempster family. Louisa Hovey’s father was a Scot through and through – the family originated in Brechin.

    Best wishes


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About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.