Welcome to Clan Donald New Zealand
Clan Donald New Zealand consists of six autonomous societies located in Invercargill (Southland), Dunedin (Otago), Christchurch (Canterbury), Auckland, Wellington and Napier (Hawke’s Bay). Members trace their ancestry to any of the branches of Clan Donald or the more than 120 “Septs” or affiliated families that make up the total Clan.
Clan Donald New Zealand is an affiliation by blood and kinship, and is called “Clan Donald” rather than the “MacDonald’s” to recognise the diversity of names. Even the name “MacDonald” has a variety of spellings; Macdonald, MacDonald, McDonald, MacDonell, MacDonnell as well as the anglicized versions of Donald, Donaldson, Daniels and others. Add to these the names of the Sept families from north-western Scotland and north-eastern Ireland, and you can see why Clan Donald has been the largest and most famous of the clans for almost 1,000 years.
In 1992, Bill McDonald of Milton, Otago, was appointed by Lord Macdonald of Macdonald, High Chief of Clan Donald, as Commissioner for the South Island, and he held this appointment until 2006 when the task was taken on by Elwyn Martin of Queenstown, who was a foundation member of the Society in Auckland before moving South. Elwyn’s major responsibilities are to liaise between the three South Island groups and other like bodies. In 2004 Bill McDonald was appointed a Councillor of the Finlaggan Council, which functions as a Project Group and provides advice to the High Council. In 2014 Tom McDonald, from Auckland, was appointed the North Island Commissioner. Tom’s major responsibilities are to liaise between the three North Island groups and other like bodies.
In 2004 Donald MacDonald Webster of Auckland, was appointed High Commissioner for New Zealand to represent the High Council of the Chiefs of Clan Donald. In 2007 Harold McIsaac became High Commissioner, and Donald Webster then held the office of High Commissioner Emeritus until his death in 2010. Harold McIsaac‘s untimely death in June 2014 was felt by all Clan Donald members worldwide. Harold was retiring in December 2014 and the High Commissioner Elect was Alan MacDonald of Canterbury, who was then appointed High Commissioner for New Zealand.
After serving two 3 year terms as High Commissioner, Alan MacDonald has announced his retirement, effective from the 30th of June 2020. The High Council of Clan Donald has appointed Andrew Wilkie of Auckland as the new High Commissioner from the 1st of July 2020. Alan MacDonald will then hold the office of High Commissioner Emeritus.
A Brief History of Clan Donald Organisations in New Zealand
The first New Zealand Clan Donald organisation, Southland in Invercargill, was launched on 15th July 1959 as the Clan Donald Society of New Zealand. Their name was later altered to Clan Donald Society of New Zealand – Southland, following the establishment of other autonomous branches. Seventy-nine people attended the first meeting when it was held in 1959, and the Society still has a membership of around 60. A foundation member, Mrs Mary Batt was a Life Member and Patron of the Southland branch until her death in April 2004. The Southland Branch in February 1999, dedicated a memorial cairn at Glencoe in Southland, to commemorate the massacre of 1692.
The next Clan Donald organisation to be established was Otago in Dunedin in 1960. Unfortunately this branch went into recess about two years later, but was re-established in 1990 under the Presidency of Colin F. McDonald, who was one of the original founders of the Invercargill Society. Colin died whilst in office, in 1991.
In 1991 Clan Donald Otago and the President Bill McDonald were instrumental in having the grave of Alexander Ranaldson MacDonell the 17th Chief of Glengarry restored. Alexander MacDonell died in Dunedin on the 2nd of June 1862 and was buried in Dunedin’s Southern Cemetery. Over the years the condition of the grave had deteriorated. In 1991 with a donation from the Clan Donald Foundation and additional finance from the Southland and Canterbury Clan Donald Societies, Otago was able to have the grave restored with a new gravestone. On St Andrews Day November the 30th 1991, a dedication service was held at the cemetery, attended by the Dean of Dunedin, Rev Bob Mills and the Dunedin Mayor Richard Walls.
In 1988 Ian Donald from Christchurch, toured the United States and Canada with the Canterbury Caledonian Society Pipe Band. First stop was the Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. At the Clan Donald tent Ian introduced himself to Jim and Hester McDonald. This introduction formed the basis of a friendship that continues today. Clan Donald USA was touring down under later in the year and Ian was asked to book a venue for their final night. They have a tradition of concluding their tours with a prize giving. The Caledonian Hall was booked and the arrangements were confirmed with the tour guide, Douglas Murdock. Douglas encouraged Ian to establish a branch in Christchurch. Clan Donald Canterbury held its inaugural meeting on February 10th 1991 in the Burns Rooms, Tuam Street. The branch continues to grow and is involved with a range of social and traditional activities. The contact with the United States is maintained with two members regularly attending their AGM’s.
Clan Donald as an incorporated society in Auckland, is of relatively recent origin. An informal working party committee began efforts towards establishment in the late 1980s, the prime mover being Murdo MacDonald, a native of Stornoway. Incorporation as ‘Clan Donald, Auckland and Districts Society’ was finally achieved in March 1997. Now firmly established, Clan Donald’s pavilion where a welcome awaits Clan Donald members and visitors from other clans is a recognised and significant presence at Highland gatherings throughout the North Island. Functions for members, including the annual dinner, ceilidhs and other social functions are held throughout the year. Clan Donald, Auckland, also plays a significant part in its association with Clan Donald in Scotland. It has hosted official visitations, and maintains close contact with the High Commissioner for Clan Donald in New Zealand appointed by the High Council of Chiefs of Clan Donald from its membership.
In 2008 Harold McIsaac, the High Commissioner for Clan Donald New Zealand and the High Commissioner Emeritus Donald Webster, had a meeting with Angus McDonald in Wellington, to discuss the setting up of a Clan Donald organisation in Wellington.
Over the next few weeks Angus McDonald sent out a letter to every Mc/MacDonald listed in both the Wellington and Kapiti telephone directories, and within a short period of time the membership grew to around 20 members. Another mail-out was also carried out, this time including all the Septs.
In 2009 Wellington held its first annual general meeting.
With a good number of members and now well established, Clan Donald Wellington holds a proud position when attending and representing Clan Donald at Highland Games in the Lower North Island. Of particular significance on the 4th of December 2012, Clan Donald Wellington represented Clan Donald New Zealand at the annual lecture of the Parliamentary Scotland Friendship Group in the Grand Hall in Parliament. The lecture that year, by the Professors from the Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies at Otago University, focused on the forthcoming referendum, in 2014 in Scotland, on Scottish independence.
Clan Donald Wellington members meet on regular occasions. They also encourage the many other Clan Societies in the Greater Wellington Region, to come along and enjoy the fun.
The inaugural President was Angus McDonald.
In October 2010, a Clan Donald organisation was also established in Hawke’s Bay, with the active assistance of the Auckland organisation. The inaugural President is David McDonald and the inaugural Secretary is Jill Macdonald. The organisation moved quickly to become an Incorporated Society in its own right, and by now has definitely established its own identity. Clan Donald Hawke’s Bay firmly believes in maintaining an active social programme to keep its members interested and involved. To this end, it holds a “Happy Hour” at a local pub approximately once a month where members are encouraged to call in for a drink and socialise, and perhaps stay for dinner; holds one or two fund raising dinners during the year to enable members to mix and at the same time help the organisation’s coffers; promotes and organises an annual “Kirking of the Tartan” with a local church; puts up a pavilion at the Hastings Highland Games each year; and it holds an annual dinner every November complete with a piper, haggis ceremony and some form of Scottish entertainment. Further developments to its social calendar are under action, with the intention of having occasional weekend family activities along the same lines as the Canterbury organisation. One of the Hawke’s Bay members, Maurice Chisnall, is the Pipe Major of the City of Hastings Pipe Band and he is also the Honorary Clan Piper. Hawke’s Bay has also formed a link with another local pipe band, Drones & Sticks, with whom it socialises and shares activities from time to time. Clan Donald Hawke’s Bay places great value on the opportunity to mix and share with other Clan Donald folk throughout the country, which our national organisation provides, but also believes in maintaining contact with outside people who have an interest in Scottish culture. Its social functions are always open to anyone who enjoys Scottish food, music and ambience and, in particular, it is working to forge an alliance with the local Clan Cameron society. A major highlight for Clan Donald Hawke’s Bay was having the opportunity to organise the 2013 national AGM for the Associated Clan Donald Societies of New Zealand in Havelock North, and the successful Saturday night dinner function which followed, and to meet with Clan Donald people from all over New Zealand.
One of our great joys has been to see the way in which these separate organisations have re-established contacts with other Clan Donald members, not only “at home” in Scotland, but also with our kin in other parts of the world – notably the United States, Canada and Australia, and the valued connections which have now been made. A federal body to coordinate the efforts of the New Zealand organisations held its first meeting in May 2010.