Clanranald considered it was a privilege, indeed, to be invited to be the guest of honour at the 10th Anniversary of the founding by the dynamic group of Clans folk who formed the Clan Donald - Auckland & District Society, Inc. back in 1998. He suspects they little anticipated the colossal success which would ensue, nor perhaps the world Clan Donald events which would unite the Clan through the resumption of the High Council during this decade. Neither perhaps that two of their number should be appointed by the Chiefs as their High Commissioners for all New Zealand!
Every single moment of his ten-day visit was planned in detail, with sympathy for not tiring him out, but arranging for activities close to his heart, three wonderful trips out on the sea. One in the yacht of High Commissioner Emeritus Donald Webster, as he skippered his guests and crew back into the marina berth without the aid of the engine, which suffered with water coolant problems. The Auckland Clan Donald's very able secretary, Tom McDonald, was nimble crew/navigator, producing a print out of the entire course we traversed. Guests on board were Clanranald and Dame Cath Tizard (nee MacLean), who had not only been Mayor of Auckland but had made her mark as New Zealand's first woman Governor General. The failure of both engine and wind curtailed the distance travelled to just round the harbour, but not the spirits of the four aboard, fortified by an excellent lunch and fine New Zealand wines.
Allison, Harold's secretary, delighted Clanranald when she was charged to escort him on a day's outing among the islands of the Hauraki Gulf to see the wonders of marine mammals and bird life, again the lack of sighting whales or dolphins did not detract one iota from the fascinating time at sea among the great flocks of many varieties of sea bird life.
Whilst staying with Allan and Lee MacDonald of Vallay (incidentally a not-too-distant cousin of Clanranald's) at their lovely country home on the farm which has been in Lee's family for over 120 years, indeed it was a privilege to meet Lee's parents, her father having been a distinguished spitfire pilot in the RAF during WWII. Allan took Clanranald out in their 235hp fishing boat, with Lee's two brothers. This powerful craft wasted no time in getting to the fishing grounds, where the quarry was snapper, all four catching several of this delicious fighting fish.
Yes, Clanranald was not only there just to enjoy himself, he was there to attend several Clan functions. His first event, which much impressed him, was the now famous Paeroa Highland Games, celebrating their 15th Anniversary, a full and eventful day as the games were followed by a most ambitious and highly successful tattoo, nearly 2 hours of spectacles including massed pipe bands, singing groups, dancers, timber chopping, relay races, heavy event demonstrations, and even a spot-lit lone piper high up on a rock on a mock-up of Edinburgh Castle. Clanranald met many clans folk at Clan Donald's fine pavilion at the games with its informative historic display coupled with generous hospitality at their site which took pride of place among the many other clan tents. Many vendors were there too, with impressively crafted products.
Clanranald was most impressed with the standard of every single event. The dancing, where he presented the prizes, was to the highest degree of expertise, all danced with emphatic skill and enthusiasm. The piping, both individual and that of the pipe bands, was, in Clanranald's opinion, world class. This did not surprise him, as he remembered 20-or-so years ago a New Zealander winning Scotland's premier piping award at Inverness' Northern Meeting, where the Gold Medal was awarded by the prestigious Highland Society founded in 1782, of which Clanranald was president from 1987 to 1993.
Harold McIsaac, High Commissioner for New Zealand, hosted a lunch and dinner for Clanranald to meet the leading folk who had been so important in the founding and building of the Auckland Society. At the lunch, held in a beach-side restaurant appropriately named "McHugh's," Clanranald was so pleased to meet again former president Murdock Macdonald and his wife, Lois. After re-emigrating from Nova Scotia in 1852, Murdock's people landed at Waipu, where subsequently one of the oldest Highland Games, perhaps in the world, has been held annually on the same field since 1873. The vice president and Chaplin, the Rev. Barrie MacCuish, and his wife, among others, were there to enjoy a fresh seafood buffet.
There was a sumptuous dinner, again hosted by Harold and Mary, attended by Bruce McGechan, a fine piper and a key player with the City of Auckland Pipe Band, which had competed at the World Pipe Band Championships on Glasgow Green in 2003. Bruce, together with Donald Webster had hosted Clanranald and Lex Brown for three days, whilst they were over for the Waipu Games in 2003. At the invitation of Doug McGeechan, Cellar Door Manager at the Church Road Winery in Hawkes Bay, they were hosted at the winery's VIP villa. Church Road Winery was established by the well known pioneer, Tom MacDonald. A luncheon at the winery allowed Clanranald and Lex Brown to meet Hawkes Bay members of Clan Donald, including Keith Addis and other relatives of Allan MacDonald's.
The most important event of Clanranald's visit was the 10th Anniversary Dinner of the founding of Clan Donald - Auckland and District Society, held on the evening of Saturday, 16th February, attended by nigh on 100 clan folk. Our Feir an Teigh was the energetic and charming Andrew Wilkie, who ensured the evening would be a success. The whole program at this event would have stirred any person of any ethnic background toward the magnificence of our Highland Heritage. Donald Webster's enthusiasm for the Gael during his toast proposing Clan Donald was only surpassed by his addressing the Haggis! Great dancing, wonderful piping and very warm, happy comradeship much encouraged Clanranald in his words emphasizing the unique importance of Clan Donald. Being the Royal House of the Isles, which ruled for over 300 years, he explained that the present independent Chiefs of Clan Donald were descended from the princely houses of that Royal House, which remained after the breakup of the Lordship of the Isles in 1493.
Clanranald had the privilege of being hosted by Bruce McGechan to a very memorable lunch-time whiskey tasting, "Whiskey Live," the professionalism of which would have impressed anyone anywhere in the world with the magnificent displays, the detailed organisation, and the variety of whiskeys consumed, from a new brand, "Finlaggan," to a delicious 30-year-old Glenfiddich. The fact that this tasting preceeded the great 10th Anniversary Dinner prepared the participants to fully enjoy the occasion.
Clanranald has so many reminiscences of close, kind little moments, enjoying the family atmosphere at Allan of Vallay's country home, to sitting on Harold's terrace, glass in hand, watching the yachts and shipping vessels entering Auckland Harbour, to little bistros and restaurants where delicious meals were enjoyed with lovely friends...but most importantly the Oh! so, so special New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which can only be fully enjoyed in the country of origin...sadly it loses some of its alluring spring bouquet away from its country of origin!