Scots merchant who made it big in 17th century Poland fêted in Inverness

Robert Porteous (1601-1661), a merchant who made his fortune in 17th Century Krosno, southern Poland, by trading Hungarian Tokaji wine, emigrated to Poland attracted by the “religious tolerance” and “opportunities the country offered”, according to Scottish historian Dr David Worthington.

The merchant, who was from Dalkeith near Edinburgh, is the subject of an exhibition now taking place in Inverness, Scotland and travelling to Aberdeen. According to Dr David Worthington of the University of the Highlands and Islands, who gave an opening address at the exhibition, Robert Porteous and was among a group of very successful Scottish immigrants to Poland between the 16th and the 18th centuries.

“It was a tolerant place relatively, compared to other places in Europe, and there were opportunities for Scottish merchants there, which maybe they wouldn’t have found in their home country,” said Dr Worthington.

The exact number of Scottish settlers was put at 30,000 by local observers at the time, but historians now dispute that figure. Dr Worthington says that there were a few thousand settlers at any time.

Porteous’s chosen home of Krosno was at the time right on the Polish-Hungarian border. He gained the status of a monopoly Tokaj trader for the whole of Europe.The Portius Society in Krosno, which also organizes an annual Hungarian wine festival there named after the Scottish merchant, was the brainchild of the exhibition, in conjunction with Krosno State College and Professor Władysław Witalisz of Kraków’s Jagiellonian University, as well as the host organisation in Scotland, Highlife Highlands.

Click here to watch the full interview with Dr David Worthington.