Family taken to historical site

22:44, Jan 19 2014
Macdonald family reunion
A beautiful finale evening attending by 600 people where the Macdonald family celebrated with speeches, songs and a special waka-themed cake depicting their whanau and clan motto - by sea, by land.

Celebrations of the Macdonald family continued into the weekend, with a visit to the Wairau Bar, a "pretty special area" for the whanau.

About 50 members of the family gathered at the bar to learn about its history.

Phillip Macdonald, of Blenheim, welcomed his relatives to the site, an area he said he went to as a child with his siblings to catch fish for their family.

"This is quite a significant area for all of us who still live around here," he said.

"We are here for Francis [Macdonald] they started here, this is why we are here."

It is believed their Rangitane ancestors arrived at the bar in the 1300s, when Whatonga, the grandson of Rangitane arrived in his waka Kurahaupo. After discovering the area, Whatonga returned to the Wairarapa, north of Wellington, then came back to Marlborough with the Rangitane people.


In the 1800s John and Sarah Macdonald, who arrived in Nelson from Scotland in 1843, moved to Marlborough, opening Macdonald's hotel on the boulder bank at the Wairau Bar.

Their son, Francis Macdonald later had two children with Rea Te Rangihiroa, marking the beginning of the Macdonald family, which has reached at least 450 members.

The Macdonald hotel was the first hotel in Marlborough, before two others were built on the boulder bank.

"This area was, in the early 1800s, the colonising of the Blenheim area," Mr Macdonald said. "This is where our people lived, they were buried here, they had one of their main pa sites, which is on my property here . . . and between here and Rarangi . . . was full of our people."

Phillip's father, Manny Macdonald, who died in 1980, thought there had been at least 2000 people in the area then, Mr Macdonald said.

"[It's] rich in the history of the Rangitane people out here," he said.

The Macdonald family reunion wound up last night.

The Marlborough Express