Ceud Mile Failte. A hundred thousand welcomes to this web page for the Otago branch of the Clan Donald Societies in New Zealand - the furthest flung members of our great clan in the world.

There are six separate "branches" of the Clan Donald Society in New Zealand.  They are located in the very South of the country in the cities of Invercargill, Dunedin and Christchurch and in the North Island in Auckland and Wellington and Hawkes Bay. A National body, The Associated Clan Donald Societies of New Zealand Incorporated, exists to link all these autonomous societies.


Below is a brief history of the Clan Donald Societies of Southland and Otago.

The senior branch, 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. 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 first branch of the Clan Donald Society in N.Z. to be established after Southland, was Otago in Dunedin in 1960. Unfortunately this branch went into recess about 2 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.

Shortly after the Otago branch of Clan Donald Society was inaugurated, the City of Christchurch was enlivened by the arrival of Clan Donald - Canterbury and about the same time Auckland also arrived on the scene. Today all are alive and well.

One of the great joys which we have had, has been to see the way in which these separate branches 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. Long may this continue.

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 he passed the task on to Elwyn Martin who now resides in Christchurch, and who was in fact, 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.

If this is your first visit to our web site, and you are a member of Clan Donald by whatever name, you are doubly welcome, and urged to make contact with the branch of Clan Donald Society nearest to you. Please know that you will be welcomed as "family". To find that branch, try the THE HIGHLAND CONNECTION web site which is one of the principal web sites for Clan Donald in the United Kingdom.

OTHER SITES OF INTEREST: The Clan Donald Societies in New Zealand also have a website at  www.clandonald.org.nz   Additionally various branches of the Clan Donald Societies maintain web sites in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia and these are easily found. All that is required is to Google "Clan Donald" and you will find sites in the UK, Canada, USA, Australia. 
We particularly recommend www.highcouncilofclandonald.org and www.highlandconnection.org but there are many others in Australia, USA and the UK

CONTACTS FOR CLAN DONALD OTAGO.   Bill McDonald (Secretary).  12 Keinan Avenue, Milton. 9220 Otago.    email   invergarry@xtra.co.nz    phone 03 417 8413  or by mobile phone at 027 327 9043

Are you a member of Clan Donald and don't even realise the fact? Check out the Names of Clan Donald which you will find on the THE HIGHLAND CONNECTION site, and perhaps you might surprise yourself!


The Banner of  The Clan Donald Society of Otago.

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In 1977 the 7th issue of the Clan Donald Magazine carried a story on the grave, in Dunedin's Southern Cemetery, of Alexander Ranaldson MacDonell, 17th.of Glengarry.

Glengarry died in Dunedin on 2 June 1862 and was interred in the Anglican section of the cemetery on 5 June. The story relates how Glengarry, a young man of 28, had passed away of "rheumatic fever with fever of the brain". Alexander, or to his family "Alastair" was succeeded by his brother Charles as 18th Chief but he in turn died leaving no issue even though he had married. We learned that Charles died, and presume that he was also buried, at sea. There had been a brother Aeneas Robert who was older than Charles but he had been drowned in the Medway in 1855 at the age of twenty. He had been a distinguished student, having secured the highest prizes at Chatham.With the death of the 18th Chief came the end of his line and succession passed to Aeneas Ranald, 7th of Scotus, Great great great great grandfather of the present 23rd Chief, Ranald MacDonell of Glengarry. Glengarry is also Titular Lord MacDonell.

In 1862 Dunedin was virtually a "frontier town". Gold had been discovered at Gabriels Gully some 60 miles inland from the City and there followed a rush of miners of all kinds, seeking their fortunes on the goldfield. Glengarry was not one of these, but was passing through Dunedin on his way north to a property in which he and his brother had an interest, in North Canterbury.

Although Dunedin had been settled in the early 1840's,it was not until 1848 that the first organised settlement took place. This settlement was one of mainly Free Church Scots, with a few others, who had arrived in Otago on 23 March and their influence is strong throughout the Province of Otago to this day. However by 1862 many other people had found their way to Dunedin and the future city was beginning to take shape.

Into this place arrived Glengarry, apparently alone, as his brother Charles, who was travelling with him, had missed their ship in Australia, and here also Alexander was to die.

The burial was advertised in the local papers with a request, common at the time, for "Home Papers" to please copy, but there is no mention in the papers of the standing of the Chief who is described as of "Culladon", Oamaru, Canterbury. This is rather surprising to find in an Otago newspaper even at that time, as Oamaru is in North Otago, not Canterbury, It is a little akin to describing Carlisle as being in Inverness!

We have no reports of the actual funeral, but as Dunedin would then have been in early winter, it is not hard to imagine the mournful procession making its way by very muddy streets, to the Southern Cemetery. And there the Chief lay until in 1897 members of Clan Donald in Otago, recognised that he was buried in the Southern Cemetery and after some publicity, arranged to erect a suitable memorial over his grave. There is evidence that a simple marble cross bearing the name "Glengarry" had been placed on the grave by Mr. W. Crawford Brown at the request of Glengarry's sister Ellie, to whom he was related by marriage. Mr. Brown was employed by the National Bank of N.Z. in Auckland and had previously been in Dunedin. Ellie was Helen Rebecca who married Captain John Cunninghame of Balgownie.

At a cost of 120 pounds a sandstone memorial, with the Arms of the Chief and inscriptions in Gaelic and English, was placed on the grave and this memorial stood until the end of 1991.

Over the ensuing years, the Glengarry grave was probably known to various members of our Clan but there is no evidence that, as the original committee who arranged the memorial themselves died off, that anyone took an active interest in maintaining the site. As a consequence the fabric of the stonework gradually deteriorated with the action of Dunedin's climate. The choice of sandstone, although no doubt being an easy material to work, was not wise for our climate.

The writer first became aware of the grave sometime in the 1970's and the possibility of doing something to restore it was discussed but came to nothing at that time. Obviously whatever was done was going to be costly because of the dilapidated condition of the stonework. The Celtic cross bearing the name "Glengarry" had some time in the past, broken through diagonally, the broken half lay on the ground, and the grave itself had subsided, with the result that the stone pillar had a lean to one side of about 15 degrees. There was also a distinct possibility that it would fall down entirely in time unless it was braced or somehow straightened.

Nothing was done however until in 1988, a visiting party of Clan Donald members from the U.S. passed through Dunedin and when talking to the late Colin McDonald, who was to become President of a revived Clan Donald Society, and Rhondda Martin who was to become the Secretary, suggested that restoration of the memorial be considered. Consequently at a meeting to re-form the Clan Society in March 1990, a discussion took place regarding the matter. Because of cost no decision was made to proceed but the subject was not lost sight of. That party of Clan Donald USA members, was led by the late Doug Murdock former High Commissioner for Clan Donald USA.

Events began to accelerate with the impetus of interest from the U.S. and, in June of 1991, the magnificent donation of NZ$8000 from the Clan Donald Foundation. With this money available, together with some additional finance from Clan Donald Societies in Southland and Canterbury, work was put in hand.

On advice from Monumental Mason Mr. Ian Bingham, any thought of attempting renovation of the sandstone memorial was abandoned. The whole fabric was weathered to such an extent that this was impossible and it was decided that a completely new stone of brown Balmoral granite, on a resurfaced grave, was the preferred option, and this was put in hand.

With the new stone, the opportunity was taken to check and where possible, correct the wording on the original as it was suspected that there were inaccuracies. The name on the stone was "ALASTAIR RANALDSON MACDONNELL", but correspondence with the late 22nd Chief Air Commodore Donald MacDonell, CB, DFC, confirmed that this should have correctly been "Alexander Ranaldson MacDonell". Further problems were also found with the Gaelic inscription but it was decided to repeat exactly what had been put there in 1897. The same difficulty was encountered with the spelling of the Glengarry motto and this was resolved by correspondence with the Chief and the assistance of the late Mr. Jim McCready of Dunedin, an expert in heraldry.

Delays with other work in hand meant that Ian Bingham and his workers finally had something of a last minute rush to have the old stone removed, the grave re-surfaced and the new stone engraved and placed ready for the dedication in the early evening of St.Andrew's Day 1991.

The removal of the old stone proved the accuracy of the decision, as it disintegrated in the process. We were able to salvage the shattered pieces of the Coat of Arms which we have eventually been able to place in the care of the Otago Settler’s Museum in Dunedin.That Museum has now made a featured display of the grave and has the broken pieces of the original on display.

At 6.30 on the 30th November 1991, members of Clan Donald Societies from Otago, Southland and Canterbury, together with friends from other local Clan Societies, the Gaelic Society, the Mayor of Dunedin Mr. Richard Walls, and interested members of the public, were led to the graveside by Clan Donald Otago's piper Dr. Warwick Johnson.

The Official Party is led to the graveside by the Clan Donald Society of Otago's Honorary Piper Dr.
Warwick Johnson. The party includes the Dean of Dunedin the Rev.Bob Mills who dedicated the
new stone and the kilted Mayor of Dunedin, the late Richard Walls. November 30 1991.

The grave was guarded by two Ratings and an Officer from the R.N.Z. Naval Reserve, and the stone was covered with a McDonald tartan plaid and sprigs of heather.

After some introductory remarks from Bill McDonald, the President of Clan Donald Society (Otago), and the Mayor, a simple but very moving dedication service was conducted by the Very Reverend Robert Mills, Dean of Dunedin's Anglican Cathedral.The reason for asking the Anglican Dean to conduct the service, was because Glengarry had been a member of the Scots Episcopal Church which has no presence in New Zealand but is affiliated to the Anglican Church.

During the service "Glengarry's Lament", written for Alexander's grandfather the famous 15th Chief, was played by Warwick Johnson. Mr John Macpherson of the Gaelic Society, read and translated the Gaelic inscription.

One of the great joys of the work leading up to the placing of the new stone, was the discovery, in Otago University's Hocken Library, of material dating from the turn of the century. This dealt with newspaper correspondence and a small booklet published by Dr. Gordon Macdonald who was Chairman of the Committee which raised the original stone. Most valuable were copies of letters to Dr. Macdonald from Glengarry's aunt Miss Louise C. R. Macdonell, which shed considerable light on the young Alexander. Clan Donald is indebted to Mr. Gregor Macaulay of the University staff for drawing their attention to this material, copies of which were later forwarded to the current Chief and to Skye for inclusion in Clan archives. The existence of any such material was quite unknown to any of us and perhaps we may at some time, have this reprinted.

Additionally two descendants of members of Dr. Macdonald's original committee also appeared and one of these has recently joined the Clan Donald Society, Otago. We also believe that there is no Highland Chief buried anywhere in the world, further from his native land than the 17th Glengarry.

One or two other facets have also come to light. Annette McDonald, the wife of Bill McDonald, descends on her mother's side from one Anne MacPhail, who was born at Kyles Knoydart about seven miles from Inverie the birthplace of Alexander Ranaldson MacDonell, and we believe that Anne's parents may have been some of Glengarry's people who he was attempting to re-settle in N.Z. but this still has to be ascertained and probably we will never be able to confirm this.

The Clan Donald Society in the south of New Zealand is proud of the fact that, on behalf of clansfolk everywhere, they have been enabled to replace such an historic gravestone and as a result of the close contacts which were made with the late Air Commodore Donald MacDonell of Glengarry, CB DFC RAF (Rtd) the 22nd Chief, he became Patron of Clan Donald Society of Otago, something which has given the members of Clan Donald-Otago great joy. On the death of the 22nd Chief, his widow Mrs Lois MacDonell of Glengarry became Patron and in February 2002, the Clan Donald in Otago was delighted when she was able to visit them during a trip to New Zealand. We were again very happy to welcome our Patron on her return to New Zealand in February 2009.

To cement further the Glengarry connection with Clan Donald in Otago, Bill McDonald on joining the Council of Finlaggan, elected to name as his “chair”, at the Council, Castle Invergarry which was the ancient seat of the Glengarry Chiefs.             

 The Glengarry gravestone, replacing the one erected in the 1890's, which had disintegrated.


          Clan Donald is the oldest. largest and most famous of the Scottish Clans. Its Celtic heritage goes back into antiquity beyond the 6th century A.D. to the great clans Conn and Colla in what today is Ireland. Our ancestors were regarded as the heads of the ancient race of Conn, and the lineal heirs of the kings of the Dalriadic Scots.

          Clan Donald begins its recorded history with Somerled, a great leader and warrior king. In 1156 Somerled defeated the Norse King of Man, who had occupied the western isles and large portions of the Scottish mainland. He thus secured independence for the Celtic people who lived there and this Somerled became known as “Rex Insularum” or King of the Isles. Over time this title evolved to “Lord of the Isles.”His genius at both land and naval warfare gave rise to the clan motto “Per Mare Per Terras” which means “By Sea By Land.”

          Clan Donald takes its name from Donald, the grandson of Somerled. In Gaelic “Mac” means “son of.” For about four centuries “MacDonald” was a title, not a surname.

          Over the centuries, the power of the Lords  of the Isles grew and it brought them into conflict with both the English and Scottish Kings and with other powerful clans. This growth and power also gave rise to other forces which were eventually to cause the clan’s downfall. Territorial expansion made centralized authority more difficult to maintain. The increasing clan population gave rise to allegiances to strong local leaders of the branches of the clan. Territories assigned to sons of the various chiefs became more independent and weakened the central authority.

          When James VI of Scotland, who held the title of Lord of the Isles, became James I of Great Britain, the title went with him. Male heirs of the British crown retain the title to this day.

          MacDonalds remained powerful and important in the Highlands, but the six major branches of the clan were no longer unified as under the Lordship of the Isles.

          After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, and the clan way of life in Scotland was destroyed, massive migrations that sent MacDonalds all over the world began.


          Clan Donald in New Zealand consists at present of six autonomous branches located in Invercargill, DunedinChristchurch , Auckland, Wellington and Hawkes Bay. Members trace their ancestry to any of the branches of the Clan Donald or the more than 120 “Septs” or affiliated families which constitute the total clan. 

          Clan Donald in New Zealand is an affiliation by blood and kinship, not only by name. We regard ourselves as an extended family.

          We call ourselves “Clan Donald” rather than the “MacDonalds” to recognize the diversity of names within our extended family. 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 northwestern Scotland and northeastern Ireland, and you can see why our kinsmen have constituted the largest and most famous of clans for almost 1000 years.

          The High Council of the Clan which is composed of the High Chief Lord Macdonald of Macdonald and the other Clan Chiefs, appoint Commissioners in those countries where clansfolk have set up Clan Societies. These Clan Societies are to be found not only in New Zealand, but in Australia, U.S.A, Canada, and Belgium, as well as in Scotland. Bill McDonald of Milton, has the priveledge of being a New Zealand member of the Finlaggan Council, an advisory body to the High Council



          The Societies in New Zealand exist to help our members celebrate our common heritage, the customs and traditions of our forebears for socialising together, and on occasion joining with like Clan Societies to take part in special occasions.

          We seek to provide motivation and opportunity for those of MacDonald blood in New Zealand to actively share in our heritage through a variety of activities, communications, genealogical research and general camaraderie.

          Since being re-formed in Otago in 1990 the Clan Donald Society has taken an active part in Scottish events in the province. In conjunction with our kinsfolk in the U.S.A we replaced the gravestone of the 17th Chief of the Glengarry MacDonells in Dunedin’s Southern Cemetery, played an active and leading role in the 1998 International Scottish Gathering in Dunedin, organised social events for our members and friends, organised Services of Remembrance for our clansfolk massacred at Glencoe in 1692,  arranged a very successful “White Cockade Dinner” in 1995 to mark the 250th anniversary of the last Jacobite Rising in Scotland. For eight years until 2001 two of our members produced a monthly Scottish interest radio programme on behalf of the N.Z.Scottish Heritage Council.

          We maintain close and regular contact with Clan Donald members in ScotlandU.S.A.Canada and Australia, and are always aware of events of interest happening in those countries. We can therefore often assist members traveling overseas to make contacts and locate events of which they might otherwise not be aware.

          Worldwide, Clan Societies have sprung up and flourished in recent years as many people of Scots descent seek to find their roots and origins.   



          Alongside our kin Societies overseas, Clan Donald in N.Z. supports international efforts to maintain and improve the clan-owned lands and buildings at  Armadale Castle, our ancestral seat on the Isle of Skye. Currently the Clan Donald Lands Trust administers 20,000 acres on the Sleat Peninsula. Also established there is the Armadale Castle Gardens and  Museum of the Isles, which traces and explains the story of all those clans associated with the Isles.

          Members of the Trust have also been involved with professional archaeological researchers at Loch Finlaggan, Islay which is the site of the ancient Lordship of the Isles.

          Although Clan Donald looks backwards at its historic past, today clan members use the most modern technology to inform and communicate. There are several sites established on the Web by clan members in the U.K.U.S.A.Canada and New Zealand. The U.K.site which is found at   http://www.clandonald.info/  leads to all of the other sites around the world.

          The days of its military prowess and the like are long gone, but Clan Donald in the 21st century, remains a “force to be reckoned with” in preserving not only its own heritage, but the wider heritage of things Scottish and in particular, the Highlands.

“It is no joy without Clan Donald.”




Copyright by Clan Donald, Otago 2009. The Clan Donald badge graphics provided by The Highland Connection were used with permission.