McLay family gathers from far and wide

Nan Steel (72), a descendant of Margaret Blair, travelled from Scotland to attended the McLay reunion with her husband Douglas (78). Photo by Helena de Reus.
Nan Steel (72), a descendant of Margaret Blair, travelled from Scotland to attended the McLay reunion with her husband Douglas (78). Photo by Helena de Reus.
McLays from around the country gathered in Pounawea over the weekend to mark 150 years since their descendants arrived in New Zealand.

On December 1, 1862, widow Ann McLay (nee Aitken) with her five sons, James, Robert, Moses, William, and David, and one of her daughters, Mary, left Scotland on the ship Arima, bound for New Zealand.

The family members arrived at Port Chalmers on March 19, 1863, and took a paddle-steamer to Dunedin before spreading out across South and West Otago.

All of them eventually bought land at Ahuriri Flat, now known as Otekura, in South Otago.

McLay family reunion committee chairman Cyril Wilden, of Dunedin, said more than 170 people had registered for the event held at the Pounawea Convention Centre.

The reunion was spread over three days, with a barbecue and welcome on Friday evening, photos, a bus trip around South Otago taking in former and existing family farms, and a family dinner on Saturday.

Scottish woman Nan Steel visited New Zealand for the fifth time to attend her third McLay reunion.

Mrs Steel is descended from Margaret Blair (nee McLay), who was the only McLay family member not to emigrate to New Zealand.

Margaret married James Blair only weeks before the ship departed, and stayed in Scotland. She never saw her mother or siblings again.

Mrs Steel said she attended her first McLay reunion in 1995, but family members had kept in touch with the Scottish branch.

She and husband Douglas were looking forward to touring the South Otago area, and seeing where their relatives lived, she said.

The couple arrived in the country last Tuesday and depart on January 28.

The reunion also drew the parents of All Black captain Richie McCaw - Donald and Margaret.

Margaret McCaw is a descendant of James McLay.

Mrs McCaw said it was the first time she and her husband had attended a McLay family reunion, and they were enjoying catching up with family members.

''I've never spent much time down here, so it will be nice to see where the family is from.''

The reunion concluded yesterday with a church service and barbecue lunch.

helena.dereus@odt.co.nz