Clan picnic, 2015

Some of the Clan Matheson Society members at the 2015 picnic

Some of the Clan Matheson Society members at the 2015 picnic

About 30 clan members attended the annual Clan Matheson picnic at Cornwall Park in Auckland on Sunday 15 February 2015.  The weatherman was kind and gave us an afternoon of warm sunshine, although it did turn a little chilly later.  Members mixed and mingled and it was good to get together and meet old and new friends.  We had two sets of  petanque (boules) going during the afternoon and some keen competition was enjoyed by both players and spectators.

International clan gathering July 2014

Clan Matheson members get together at international clan gatherings about every 4 or 5 years.  Recent gatherings have included Wester Ross in Scotland (1998), Canada (2001), Scotland (2004) and Australia & New Zealand (2008).  The most recent took place in Scotland in July 2014, as part of Scotland’s “Year of homecoming” for the Scottish diaspora scattered across the globe.

These gatherings provide a very enjoyable way to meet other Mathesons, as well as experiencing the hospitality, culture and scenery of some of the countries where Mathesons have set up home.

Clan Matheson international gathering

Clan Matheson international gathering

Chairman of the New Zealand branch of the Clan Matheson Society, Donald Matheson, travelled to the latest gathering, one of five Mathesons from New Zealand, where he joined with eight from Australia, 33 from the USA, two from Norway and others from Scotland and England.  Here is his account of the event:

The Chief and his excellent troop of helpers are to be congratulated on the manner in which the programme of events unravelled.  The initial meeting was a reunion of old friends and the happy meeting of new ones.  The friendliness at the first meeting set the spirit of events to follow. 

After a successful reception members gathered on the following day at the Attadale Highland Games where, because the Mathesons’ past connections with Attadale, the pipe band led the Chief and clan members in a march around the race track, cheered on by the many spectators and competitors present.  Among the highlights of the games was the 3-mile run around the hill in which 11 of our group entered and finished well.  Another was when New Zealand branch chairman Donald Matheson’s son Stuart was invited to enter a competition to beat the ‘world record at Attadale’ of knocking down objects with tennis balls.  He broke the record, which had stood since 2009, and won a bottle of whisky for his effort. 

The following day a goodly few members attended church and followed that with a walk to the ruins of the Matheson fort.  Others visited Eileen Donan Castle and the Isle of Skye.  On the final day members visited Ardross Castle for lunch and a clan parliament at which members were invited to talk on aspects of clan business.  Several members aired their views and some good suggestions were put forward.

Then it was on to Inverness where a few members gazed on Loch Ness (without sighting Nessie), before gathering for the formal dinner at Drumossie Hotel.  Members were piped to their seats by Piper Toni Moir of the Black Watch 3rd Battalion, prior to the Chief and invited guests being piped to their tables.  It was a very pleasant evening and the great spirit that abounded gave an insight to what had been a very successful clan gathering.  From the initial swirl of the pipes inviting members to be seated until the circle with Auld Lang Syne, the evening went all too quickly and before one could realise, it was all over.

There are more photos of the gathering on the UK branch website.

25th anniversary for the Clan Matheson Society in New Zealand

In July 2014 an important milestone for Clan Matheson in New Zealand was marked when members, families and friends gathered in Auckland for a memorable lunch to celebrate 25 years of formal clan activities in New Zealand.  Some 45 people attended, and there were many apologies from around the country.

Matheson crestTwo of the co-founders of the New Zealand branch of the Clan Matheson Society were present: Ailsa Matheson and Joan Matheson, both of Hamilton.  A number of members present had also been at the inaugural meeting 25 years ago.

Ailsa spoke about the thoughts and events that led to the forming of the New Zealand branch of the society.  Chief’s lieutenant Doug Matheson presented the toast to the Chief.  Branch chairman Donald Matheson spoke about the recent gathering in Scotland, which he and Len Matheson of Hamilton (also at the lunch) had attended.  Branch secretary Keith Matheson toasted absent friends.

The 25 cake (Custom)The excellent four course meal included haggis, neaps and taties, finished off with a special cake that Shirley Matheson had baked and iced.  The gathering was entertained during the meal by accordion player Lionel Reekie and his daughter Alexandra, and singer Margaret Matheson, a clan member from Te Kauwhata.  Of course the event concluded with Auld Lang Syne.

The event was a good boost to the branch committee, who worked very hard to arrange it, and resulted in new and renewed memberships.  Local functions are being planned in other parts of the country to celebrate this 25th anniversary.  If you have ideas of what you’d like to see in your area, please contact a committee member with suggestions.

Read more here about the founding of the New Zealand branch of the Clan Matheson Society.

Annual picnic, Auckland

Auckland members and their families gathered at Cornwall Park on Sunday 23 February 2014 for the annual picnic and petanque games.

Clan Matheson Society New Zealand branch annual general meeting

Members gathered at the Auckland Botanical Gardens on 7 July for the 2013 AGM of the New Zealand branch of the clan society.  Discussion covered family history research, attracting new members to the branch and items for the newsletter.

Graeme and Robin Matheson stepped down from the committee, and Graeme from the officer of treasurer, after rendering long and valuable service.  Clan genealogist Margaret Faed has kindly volunteered to act as treasurer.

Mathesons get together in Wellington, June 2013

Not even the tail end of the worst storm to hit the capital in decades could stop about a dozen hardy folk with Matheson connections gathering in Wellington on a damp Saturday morning in June.  We braved the rain to take a look at the newly reopened National Library of New Zealand, and what a fascinating morning it was.

logo-natlib-8b22fef5bcc88641f62280456c3173a4The nation’s library reopened late last year after an extensive refurbishment, which was about much more than just flossying up the building.  There’s a new approach to the collections — to make them much more accessible by bringing different types of items (for instance books, photos and newspapers) together.

The fascinating Lifelines touch-screen table in the entrance hall had us enthralled, and some of us might still be there if the library staff hadn’t dragged us away to continue the tour.  Two friendly staff introduced us to what the library has to offer.  For anyone interested in researching their family or community stories, the National Library holds a wealth of information in its collections.  Through the library’s computers you can also gain access (for free) to family history databases such as Ancestry.com or thegenealogist.co.uk.

P1070145 National Library (Custom)Within the library is the Alexander Turnbull Library, which is full of treasures that tell the nation’s story.  A letter written in 1918 by Colin Matheson, father of Chief’s Lieutenant Doug Matheson, is just one of those items.  Seeing some of the gems in the Alexander Turnbull Library prompted us to think about whether any of our family material would be better off donated to the library so it can be looked after properly and available to the nation.  The library is pleased to consider items for donation.

Of course you don’t have to visit the library to be able to use it.  The staff are digitising much of the collection as fast as they can, and you can search for material from your home computer.  The world-leading Papers Past collection of newspapers is just one of those, and the National Library also has an extensive collection of images.  Some items that haven’t been digitised can be borrowed through your public or university library.

It was good to meet or renew acquaintances with kinsfolk, and the visit to the National Library was certainly eye-opening.  There was interest in further Wellington gatherings of this type, such as a visit to the National Archives.

Andrew Matheson, Webmaster

Clan Matheson Society New Zealand branch committee meeting, June 2013

The committee of the Clan Matheson Society New Zealand branch met in Auckland over Queen’s Birthday weekend, kindly hosted by Chief’s Lieutenant Doug Matheson.  There was a good attendance, and some lively discussion about the branch’s future direction.

Some of the outcomes were:

  • Margaret Faed, already clan genealogist for New Zealand, has very kindly agreed to take over the jobs of treasurer and membership secretary that have been filled by Graeme and Robin Matheson.
  • Chris Binns has arranged for the Clan Matheson Society to be profiled in a national family history society magazine.
  • The committee will ask that an earlier website for the branch, which is still online and is confusing search results, be taken down.  This will ensure a higher profile for the new website www.clanmatheson.org.nz.
  • New Zealand members so far have been unable to access the password-protected material on the international website www.clanmatheson.org.  You’ll soon have the ability to do this; watch for an announcement soon.
  • Printing and posting the newsletter is the branch’s biggest expense.  To save money, and because many members would rather receive electronic copies, the newsletter will soon be sent out by email to members with email addresses who want to get copies this way.

Committee members are pleased to bring these improvements for members of the Clan Matheson Society New Zealand branch.

Mathesons join together across the Tasman Sea

A Clan Matheson gathering in Melbourne strengthened transtasman links and connections between clan members.  New Zealand provided ten of the approximately 35 clan members who assembled on Friday 22 March 2013: Donald Matheson, Keith and Shirley Matheson, Robyn Matheson, Norman and Rita Matheson, Margaret Faed, Dianne Chisholm, Phillip Chisholm and Doug Matheson.

The gathering kicked off with an evening meal and drinks.  The room was suitably decorated with displays of photographs and clan memorabilia, and items of Clan Matheson clothing and merchandise were on sale.  Lots of good talk and mixing — a good start for the gathering.

On Saturday morning 23 March transport was arranged to go to Melbourne Southbank, for members to either spend time there, or to travel by ferry down river to the historic seaport of Williamstown.  We enjoyed the hour-long ferry ride, providing scenic views of the city centre and other prominent buildings, Dockside and the WestgateBridge.  Some took a tour of the historic Australian naval frigate, Castlemaine moored at a jetty, very interesting and well conducted by a former sailor.  There were many opportunities for lunch among the old original shops, now cafes and restaurants, so we were well catered for.  The return ferry ride and taxis back to Eltham ensured we arrived in plenty of time for a little relaxation and preparation for the formal dinner to follow.

At the dinner many of the men wore kilts, and everybody was dressed for this occasion, a colourful scene.  The Chief’s Lieutenants were piped in by the Australian piper, and Australian Chief’s Lieutenant Colin Matheson proposed the toast to the Queen, and New Zealand Chairman Donald Matheson proposed the toast to absent friends — of which there were many.  We were served excellent food and drinks were available at the bar.  There was a lot of mixing and mingling, altogether a wonderful evening.

Sunday functions began with a forum led by Graham Simpson, an expert in websites,  genealogy and family trees.  We were all very impressed with his knowledge and ability to have us interested.  He is a valuable man and willing to share his knowledge and expertise.  Lunch followed, and then a general discussion with question and answer session on the broad subjects talked about in the morning, including the DNA project. We all gained some extra knowledge about our clan and family history, plus some more places and people we can contact to help in our research.  A valuable and interesting day for all.

Photos of Melbourne 1Afternoon tea was served and later ‘Auld Lang Syne’ was sung before folk departed, some to nearby homes in Melbourne, and others from New Zealand to visit family members in Australia.

Our sincere thanks to those Australians who put their time and talents into organising this gathering, Colin Matheson and Abigail Butler and others.  It was a wonderful time to meet old and new friends, and celebrate our clan and heritage.

It has been agreed that New Zealand clan members will host a similar event within a few years, and we all look forward to that gathering.

Article by Douglas Matheson, Chief’s Lieutenant for New Zealand, photos by Margaret Faed and Donald Matheson.

Annual general meeting, 22 July 2012

A wet and blustery Auckland day wasn’t enough to deter clan members from supporting the annual general meeting of the society in July.  More than 25 members braved the winter rain to gather at the Auckland Botanic Gardens to ensure the branch went into its 24th year in good heart.  Messages of support from the Chief, Sir Fergus, and his son Alexander Matheson reinforced the branch’s connections with the wider clan.

2012 clan annual meetingThe usual business of an annual meeting was transacted: electing or re-electing officers, approving minutes of the previous meeting and approving the annual accounts.  There were some new aspects to the meeting:

  • The committee is no longer comprised only of members from Auckland.  Four new committee members were elected: Blair Matheson (Taupo and Coromandel), Andrew Matheson (Wellington), Graeme Matheson (Christchurch) and Wayne Matheson (Queenstown).
  • Andrew Matheson reported on his new role as webmaster, and the work he is doing on a new website for the branch with invaluable assistance from Wayne Matheson’s son Ed.  The website you’re reading is the result of their efforts.
  • Some members questioned whether the aims of the branch would be better served and protected if it was an incorporated society.  This will be examined in more detail at the next committee meeting.
  • The branch is now more than 21 years old.  Some discussion was had about the need to collate and preserve the branch’s documents through the years, such as newsletters, annual reports and accounts.  This is an easy process now with high-speed scanners, and all the documents can easily be saved onto a single CD.  Developing the branch’s archives will be discussed at a future committee meeting.

In keeping with the custom of having some entertainment at the annual meeting members present once again enjoyed the talents of Lionel Reekie.  His prowess with the accordion has to be seen to be believed, and despite a touch of laryngitis his vocal skills were very clear to see.

International gathering of the Clan Matheson Society

Doug Matheson, the chief’s lieutenant in New Zealand, recalls the 2008 international Clan Matheson gathering ‘down under’.

New Zealand and Australia hosted the first international clan gathering held outside the UK.  At the 2004 Clan Matheson international gathering in Scotland the clan council agreed to hold an international gathering every four years, with the gatherings to be held alternately in Scotland and another country where there was a Clan Matheson Society branch established.

The Australian and New Zealand committees later offered to hold the 2008 gathering in these two neighbouring countries, and this offer was accepted by the chief Sir Fergus Matheson and the UK committee.  Planning for this prestigious event kicked off in 2010, and continued with good communication and planning between committees and officials of both countries’ branches.

The Chief Sir Fergus Matheson and his wife Jean, Lady Matheson, were not able to come due to her ill health, but we were pleased to have their son Alexander Matheson and his wife Katharine Matheson with us.  They entered into the spirit of the gathering and were much accepted and appreciated by all.

The gathering kicked off with the first few days in Melbourne in Australia, a transit time of two days, five days in Auckland, a transit day, followed by three days in Queenstown for the benefit of the members in the South Island.

2008 gatheringThere were many benefits from gathering.  The pleasure of so many Mathesons gathering for social and business pertaining to the clan.  The joy of organising such a gathering; so many people were involved, and time and effort was given unstintingly.  A sense of pride that we in New Zealand and Australia could have a gathering that was equal to any that had been in Scotland or elsewhere.

But there were some disappointments too.  Fewer members came from overseas than were anticipated.  We realise that it is a long way to travel from other countries, but we are sad more did not take advantage of the opportunity to come to this part of the world which is a major part of the Scottish diaspora.

You can check out some photos of the gathering on the Clan Matheson international website here.

Some statistics:

  • Attendance in Australia: 47 from Australia, 3 from New Zealand, 4 from the UK and 1 from the USA.
  • Attendance in Auckland: 150 from New Zealand, 15 Australian, 5 from the UK, 3 from the USA and 2 from Canada.
  • Attendance in Queenstown: 30 New Zealand, 2 Australian, 2 from the UK and 1 from the USA.