Nelson, New Zealand.
Set in a basin surrounded by hills on three sides and the sea on the other, Nelson boasts an enviable position. At the top of the South Island of New Zealand, nestled in the sweep of Tasman Bay and at the northernmost edge of the Southern Alps, the city enjoys New Zealands highest sunshine hours.
This is where Clan MacRae Society members, family and friends joined together to enjoy the friendship and fellowship that comes through being a member of our family. Members travelled from as far away as Auckland in the North and Winton in the South.
We all gathered at the Kingsgate, Beachcomber Motor Inn, Tahunanui for the weekend of 1-3 September 2006 to celebrate our Scottish heritage and to enjoy some of the glorious sunshine that warmed us all weekend. We were intending to meet on the Friday night in the Beachcomber Bar to kick the weekend off, only to find they werent open on Friday nights so had to move our venue around the corner to Smugglers, a new award winning restaurant and bar which was very popular! (One should never assume what is printed in the brochure is correct!)
Saturday saw us meet in the Tasman Room for the day. Commencing with morning tea, most took the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine in the courtyard, catch up with news from fellow members and view the very interesting displays inside put up by Colin Wilson, the subject being of course Clan MacRae, Eilean Donan Castle and the emigration to New Zealand of Colins McRae ancestors who were very early settlers in the Nelson area.
Many photos were taken before we gathered for a light lunch. Following lunch we were treated to one and an half hours of entertainment organised by Ian McEwan. Ian, a member of various Scottish Groups in the Nelson area, put together a programme that everyone enjoyed. Included were Highland Dancers from the Jocelyn Douthett School of Dancing, Scottish Country Dancers from the Richmond and Nelson Groups, Ian playing the Bag Pipes and also the Small Pipes.
Before dinner we all assembled in the Restaurant where Ian McEwan piped in Arch Barclay to Address the Haggis ably assisted by Ian Rae, the Haggis carrier and Cohn Wilson, the Whisky carrier. They all looked splendid in their kilts of various tartans, McEwan (Green), Barclay (Yellow) and MacRae Red and MacRae Dress (Navy & White). Ian Rae, our new South Island Clan MacRae Representative, said the Selkirk Grace before we enjoyed a splendid Buffet Dinner in the Restaurant.
Sunday morning was glorious once again. Skippy, the driver of the vintage bus we hired, collected us from the Beachcomber at 9am. The bus, a 1969 Leyland Comet, was an ex Newmans Bus. It was restored by Skippy and his partners in the Newmans White Star Association 2002 and is hired out for special occasions.
We travelled around Nelson visiting historical sites. The first was Fifeshire Rock where our wonderful Tour Guide Colin Wilson explained how the immigrant ships entered the Nelson Haven and how Fifeshire Rock was named after the ship Fifeshire that ran aground onto it. Then it was on to the Early Settlers Memorial where the pioneers would have come ashore. We went on to visit Wakapuaka Cemetery where a lot of the pioneering settlers are buried, and Nelson College, New Zealands oldest secondary school established in 1856, which had the honour of hosting the first game of rugby in New Zealand in 1870. The game was introduced by a Nelson College old boy, Charles Munroe who had returned from studying in the UK. This is also the college attended by the world-renowned physicist Lord Ernest Rutherford between 1887 and 1889. The Nobel Prize-winner, most famous for his atomic research, was born and raised in Nelson.
Out of town we wound our way through the suburbs of Stoke, Richmond to Wakefield passing Leadale Farm, Templemore Farm, Bonovoree Farm and the Star and Garter Hotel all owned at one time by McRaes. At Wakefield we visited Pitfure Farm now owned by Jo and Peter Donovan. Peter and his family joined us to explain the features of the original farm managed by George and Helen McRae who arrived in Nelson on the Mary Ann on 5 February 1842.
Descendants of George and Helen on the tour were Gwen Sanson, Flo Dalgleish, Sandra Clark and David Henderson. Sandra Clark was very knowledgeable about her ancestors and was able to help Colin with extra information about the family. They were employed by Capitan Richard England to manage his property in Waimea South (now Wakefield) that they named Pitfure after a small country area outside the village of Rogart in Sutherland, Scotland that they had previously farmed.
The McRaes lived there from 1843 to 1850 when they moved to Blairich in the Awatere Valley. The first house, built of cob and timber, was later destroyed by fire. The second Pitfure House, now owned by Peter and Jo, is still situated below the historic St Johns church and was built in 1876. We continued our trip through the Upper Moutere to Motueka where we stopped for lunch. Following this, we returned to Nelson and said our sad farewells for another few years.
Colin Wilson certainly put a lot of time and effort into planning out tour. This is much appreciated Colin - we all had a wonderful day.