It's typical Edinburgh summer weather: warm enough for a T-shirt but a little cool for shorts, which has deterred precisely no-one. On Princes Street, a woman is carrying a newspaper bearing the headline: ''MSP speaks out against spiralling costs at Holyrood.'' The strains of Flower of Scotland carry over the traffic from George Street where a lone piper is busking outside a hotel. A white-haired American tourist ambles past, pulling a tartan tie out of a plastic bag to show her friend. This is, to all intents and purposes, an ordinary Edinburgh scene, right down to the Scottish burr detectable in the accents of passers-by.

Only, then it starts to get a bit surreal. On Moray Place, best known as one of Edinburgh New Town's grandest architectural set pieces, there is a Countdown supermarket. A gracious former bank in the

centre of town, fronted by great Corinthian columns, has darkened windows, a weak red light in the doorway and a sign outside saying Girls Girls Girls. And most tellingly of all, the Rabbie Burns pub shuts at 11 on a Saturday night.

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This is Dunedin, the Edinburgh of the south, situated on the south-

eastern corner of New Zealand and at the heart of the country's immigrant heritage. Its name, Gaelic for Edinburgh, was bestowed by the first Scottish settlers, who arrived in 1848 entrusted with the lofty mission of establishing a Presbyterian colony in this quiet unsullied land. The climate and the countryside, which was good for growing barley and oats, reminded them of Midlothian.

Thus Dunedin was born, complete with the Scottish capital's street names and suburbs (Roslyn, Corstorphine), waterways (the Water of Leith), and New Zealand's only regional accent, Scottish Kiwi. Dunedin's heyday was in the second half of the nineteenth century, when, following the discovery of gold in 1861 inland, it became New Zealand's wealthiest city. Many banks and insurance companies were built in the Scottish style and visitors such as Mark Twain commented on how Scottish the town was.

In truth, though, it is more reminiscent today of San Francisco than Edinburgh: built on slopes around a wide bay, the turn-of-the-century hotels downtown have outside fire escapes, the clapboard houses of the suburbs are painted in pastel yellows and pinks and the streets rise precipitously. Among them is Baldwin Street, which claims the distinction of being the steepest street in the world, with a gradient of one in 2.9.

Like other Kiwi cities, Dunedin is culturally diverse: it is twinned with Shanghai, Portsmouth in New Hampshire, USA and Otaru in Japan, as well as Edinburgh. Yet while Scottish immigration has all but dried up, there is still a lively interest in things Scottish, particularly Robert Burns.

Enthroned on a plinth in the centre of the Octagon, Dunedin's main plaza, ''with his back to the kirk and his face to the pub'', as one early Dunedin churchman huffed, Robert Burns is Dunedin's mascot. Robert's nephew, the Rev Thomas Burns, a somewhat more pious figure than his uncle, arrived on the first ship, the Phillip Laing, and became

the town's first


When Robert's statue was unveiled in 1887, 8000 gathered to watch. Today, Burns Supper in Dunedin is, on first glance, more of an event than it is in Edinburgh. Last year, marking the 150th anniversary of Dunedin's first Burns supper, the council set up a poetry competition with three categories: published, unpublished and McGonagall. It was a success and nearly 200 entries have been received this year. The McGonagall category apparently appealed to New Zealanders' sense of humour as well as their interest in history, prompting a flurry of odes to the wonderful city and its ''eight-sided Octagon''.

''We turn out a full pipe band which plays Happy Birthday on a wee stage under the statue,'' says Marilyn Anderson, the manager of Dunedin Events, a council body which organises festivals in the city. ''We serve haggis on biscuits and a wee dram of Grant's whisky.'' January 25 also marks one of three annual outings for the Rabbie, a ceremonial siege mortar (the others being New Year and Anzac Day). The cannon, which was built three years ago for the millennium by the Wellington Cannon Society, sounds a salute in the Octagon and has been blessed by the Moderator of the General Assembly Church of Scotland in Dunedin on the understanding that it must never be fired in anger.

If you thought that sounded like the sort of Scottish experience that would appeal to American tourists, then you would be right. American cruise ships dock regularly in Dunedin and, for some, it is the closest they will ever get to the real thing. Pipers sometimes greet the ships and it is now possible to hire a private company to stage a Burns Supper at any time of year.

Tourists support local, Scottish-themed businesses such as the two kiltmakers. New Zealand, a country of under four million people, has three official tartans - green-based Dunedin, the black and grey Pride of New Zealand and the startling yellow and azure blue Otago, which is available as a Tam O'shanter. The Scottish Shop, a gift emporium of Scottish souvenirs, has doubled its floor space in the past three years, thanks mainly to the support of tourists. The owner, Erin Hogan, travels to Scotland

every 18 months to order some new merchandise.

As in any other town, though, there is a gulf of difference between the experience of tourists and the experience of locals. Ask a group of

twentysomethings drinking in the Rabbie Burns how Scottish they feel and they are sufficiently aware of the town's Scottish identity to make playfully derogatory comments about the ''Sassenachs'', but after that, they are reduced to shrugs. A lot of it's for the tourists, they say.

The proportion of locals who can trace their heritage back to Scotland has dwindled, but there are still enough to keep the Caledonian societies alive (there are at least four in this town of 120,000) as well as the pipe band competitions, Highland and Scottish country dancing and, during Scottish Week each year, ceilidhs and poetry readings.

The town's Hogmanay celebrations, which attracted 15,000 people last year, are based on Edinburgh's (although they have a rather more restrained flavour: booze is banned). Throw in the local haggis maker and the penchant of some to dress al Fayed-style in head-to-toe tartan, and you have the ingredients of a Scottish identity.

Yet this, like the sight of a motel on Cumberland Place, has a surreal quality. There are those who regret what they feel has been the

tendency to reduce the Scottish heritage of Dunedin to bagpipes and shortbread.

Anne Dolphin, a former tour guide who worked for the council, can trace her ancestry back to Ayr and Perthshire and met her husband, an accordionist, through the Scottish music scene in Dunedin (she used to sing Scottish songs at functions and events). She describes Scottishness as ''an everyday part of my life'', but stops short of celebrating Burns night. ''Scottishness is alive and well, it's just the way its represented,'' she says. ''Scottishness is knowledge of your lineage and what brought your family here, not, I think, dressing yourself in lashings of tartan.''

She has visited Scotland to find the remains of the village near Pitlochry that her great grandfather left. She has a keen interest in the exact circumstances of the pioneers' departure from Scotland in two ships, the Phillip Laing and the John Wickliffe, including the proportion of Scots and English who were on board: ''The Phillip Laing sailed down the Clyde in November 1847. It had a full complement of Scots, including Thomas Burns,'' she says. ''The other had William Cargill. It had empty berths so he filled it at Gravesend. Those who boarded there weren't Scots and they weren't Free Church Presbyterians.''

Scots or not, they brought with them traditions that endured. The expedition leaders were acutely aware of the failure of the Darien experiment in Panama where Scottish lives and capital were lost on a grand scale and so they came

prepared with a ready-made social infrastructure including the minister, Rev Burns, and a teacher. They gave Dunedin distinctly Scottish characteristics, including two fine stone-built churches and an abiding passion for education. Soon after the settlers arrived, they established New Zealand's first university. Called Otago, it is now the second biggest in the country. Two high schools were also established early on, including Otago Girls School, one of the first state-run girls' schools in the world.

So in Dunedin, there is a corner of New Zealand that will be forever Scotland. And if, once the Rabbie Burns has shut its doors at an hour he would have baulked at, Scottish vis- itors to Dunedin are not quite ready to go home, they can instead try the real Kiwi experience as identified by the locals. The Woolshed pub has more Celtic opening hours even if its ambience is decidedly Saturday night Kiwi (the dancing plinth has hand rails). It may not seem promising at first, but, as the off-duty farm workers and Dunedin girls get down to talking the language of love and Bon Jovi, homesick Scots take heart: this might well be the only pub outside of Scotland where every punter knows all the words to Five Hundred Miles by The Proclaimers. What better proof of Dunedin's enduring Scottishness could you possibly have.