Ralstons rally in Allanton

Reunion co-organisers Julia Ralston (left front), of the United States, and Janine Tansley, of Dunedin, reflect on a successful Ralston family reunion held at Allanton, East Taieri, on Saturday. They are holding photographs depicting young Ralston relatives early last century. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Reunion co-organisers Julia Ralston (left front), of the United States, and Janine Tansley, of Dunedin, reflect on a successful Ralston family reunion held at Allanton, East Taieri, on Saturday. They are holding photographs depicting young Ralston relatives early last century. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
About 90 people, including one visitor from the United States, converged on Allanton, in East Taieri, for a Ralston family reunion at the weekend.

Ralston family links with Allanton began about 1864 with the arrival in Otago by sailing ship of Alexander Ralston, initially from the Mull of Kintyre, in western Scotland.

After working as a farm labourer, he acquired his own farm at Allanton and many other family members followed his example, also developing farms in the area.

This farming era eventually ended in the mid-1980s when the last of the Ralston farms in the area was sold by Lindo Ralston, reunion organisers said.

Dunedin resident Janine Tansley met her New Zealand-born but US-based relative Julia Ralston for the first time two years ago, when Ms Ralston visited Dunedin.

The two then joined forces as reunion co-organisers, working from opposite sides of the Pacific.

''The two of us got together. It was a huge job,'' Ms Tansley said.

Ms Ralston, who lives near Philadelphia, did much of the organisational emailing of relatives, while Ms Tansley attended to hands-on organisation in Dunedin and contacting relatives in and around Dunedin.

More than a year of planning had paid off in a successful reunion, the first organised by Ralston relatives with Allanton-linked ancestry, Ms Tansley said.

''We're really excited. It's a dream come true for us.''

Ms Tansley had spent a lot of her childhood in Allanton and the reunion was ''just brilliant''.

''We can't believe that it's the day. I'm absolutely rapt.''

And despite the vast distances between them, Ms Tansley and Ms Ralston have become good friends and plan to visit Scotland, their shared ancestral homeland, together next year.

-john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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