Following in wake of city ancestors

Iain McKay, New Zealand honorary consul at Salt Lake City, in the United States, with a...
Iain McKay, New Zealand honorary consul at Salt Lake City, in the United States, with a photograph of his great grandmother, Emily Duff (nee Cameron). Photo by Jane Dawber.
A few tears were shed yesterday as Iain McKay, New Zealand's honorary consul to Salt Lake City, Utah, made an "emotional" return to his Scottish roots in Dunedin aboard the cruise ship Volendam.

Mr McKay (72) was born and raised in Wellington, later moving to the United States in 1976, where he has since lived.

He worked in Salt Lake City for a major television and radio broadcasting corporation for more than 30 years, until his recent retirement.

Mr McKay vividly remembers as a young child visiting relatives in Dunedin, descendants of some of the city's early settlers. One of his grandfathers, Allan Cameron Duff, could "recite Robbie Burns non-stop, in-between gulps of whisky and home-made shortbread", he recalled.

When Volendam entered Otago Harbour yesterday, Mr McKay and his US-born wife, Heidi, and 20 other members of their extended family were all on deck, mindful of the earlier arrival of their Scottish ancestors by sailing ship in the 19th Century.

During their stopover, three generations of the McKay family took part in an "especially memorable" and intense return visit to the city.

They were taken by minibus to several locations important to the family's history, including the grave of grandmother Hessie McKay (nee Steele) at the Green Island Cemetery.

And the Otago Settlers Museum, which has long been closed to the public during its $35 million redevelopment project, opened specially for the McKays yesterday, to help Mr McKay make inquiries involving his family genealogy, and to look at early museum artefacts.

Mr McKay yesterday praised Sharon Byles, of Dunedin-based Hoppit the Magic Bus Tours, for organising the shore trip, including arranging for the museum to open and organising an authentic fish and chip meal.

Mrs McKay said the Dunedin trip had been "wonderful", and Mr McKay said the return to his roots had been "very, very special" for him, their six children and other descendants.

Over the years in Salt Lake City, he maintained his connections with the Southern city, in a volunteer capacity, as an international adviser to the Mobil Song Contest - now the Lexus Song Quest - between about 1980 and 2000.

He arranged international tours for the winners, including for Dunedin bass baritone Jonathan Lemalu, who made his North American singing debut in Salt Lake City.

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