Macdonalds gather for 'beautiful homecoming'

Last updated 07:41 16/01/2014

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One of Marlborough's biggest families had the chance to reconnect or meet each other for the first time yesterday as the Macdonald family reunion got under way at Omaka Marae.

More than 300 Macdonald family members from around the country and as far afield as the United States came together yesterday on day one of a five-day reunion. Just under 150 more were expected to arrive in Blenheim over the next day or two.

Head organiser Wendy Hynes was delighted with the large turnout of her whanau.

"It's about reconnecting everyone with each other and with their homeland," she said. "And it's been a beautiful homecoming, a beautiful te hokingamai [the return home]."

Co-organiser Jeremy MacLeod, of Hastings, handed over the Macdonald family flag to the eldest family member, Cappy Macdonald, 86, to hoist at the marae during the hui.

For Mr MacLeod, 27, the reunion was his first such experience.

Asked what the reunion meant for him, he said: "Rekindling, relinking and reforging bonds, especially here in this part of the South Island because some of [the Macdonalds] left the region back in the 1800s and have spread out throughout the country and overseas.

"So [the reunion] is very spiritual for us, very emotional."

The Macdonalds are descended from John and Sarah Macdonald, who emigrated from Scotland and came ashore in Nelson on the Indus in 1843. John Macdonald, a gardener by trade, opened the Glencoe nursery in Nelson, which was named after the famous Massacre of Glencoe in Scotland in 1692, in which 38 Macdonalds were killed by guests who had accepted their hospitality.

John and Sarah had a son Francis who moved to Marlborough and opened Macdonald's Hotel on the boulder bank near Wairau Bar. Francis had two children with Rea Te Rangihiroa, of the Rangitane iwi.

"Francis Macdonald is who our Macdonald family is descended from," Ms Hynes said.

Francis was Ms Hynes' great-great-great grandfather and Beauty Macdonald, her grandmother.

Ms Hynes said the family was grateful for the backing of their iwi, Rangitane o Wairau, Ngati Apa Ki te Ra To and Ngati Kuia. 

Reunion a big day for clan Macdonald

What better way to celebrate a clan gathering than with haggis.

The traditional Scottish dish consists of sheep's heart, liver and lungs, onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the sheep's stomach.

This is what hundreds of Macdonald family members were proffered during afternoon tea on the first day of a five-day family reunion at Omaka Marae near Blenheim yesterday.

The Macdonalds are one of Marlborough's oldest and largest families. And they certainly are a large family - just under 450 people are expected to attend the gathering.

Leading the kitchen team at the reunion was Pikihuia Reihana, of Wellington, who had spent two years helping organise the catering plan.

Feeding people and everyone taking a turn to help prep, cook or clean was a big part of being on the marae, Miss Reihana said.

There were about 450 people attending the reunion, but her team of adults and children had been told to cater for about 800.

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"We've got spit roast for tonight [last night], 50 kilos of pork rib eye and 50 kilos of beef rib eye cooking out the back," she said.

"We've got four options for salads and a few of the guys have helped peel 40kg of red-skinned potatoes."

From today, the kitchen cooks and helpers would have a rest as families had been scheduled to prepare the meals.

Despite the heat and chaos of the first day of the reunion, Miss Reihana was grateful for everyone's help, especially that of Blenheim food businesses.

"We've been lucky with our suppliers. Sometimes we've gone to them at the last minute, and they've been able to accommodate us," she said.

"It's because Blenheim is a small town so they've obviously heard about the reunion and they're willing to help out."


- The Marlborough Express


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