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For Auld Lang Syne, Bits of Coal and lots of Blarney

We were brought up, my brothers and I, to believe that we were Scottish to the extent that we would practise the ritual of first footing. Armed with liquor (the only time of the year please note), the family would procesh with small gifts and pieces of coal to visit neighbours and friends to first foot by leaving a gift and a piece of coal.

We could all do Scottish Country dances and what a thrill it was to dance with my Mum when she was at an advanced age. My father was a piper in New Zealand’s best Pipe Band – the Hamilton Caledonian Pipe Band. In both 1946 and 1947 they were the “A Grade Champions of New Zealand and well into the 1950’s we would go into a respectful silence when on the Sunday Request Session on 1ZH when the request for the Hamilton Caledonian Pipe Band performance in the quickstep march competition was completed to absolute perfection – 100 yards completed in 120 steps to the exact inch.A commentary accompanied this and rose in pitch and volume as the march was completed – imagine the end of a F1 Race, or the All Blacks scoring.

Well, in fact, we were only half-Scottish, the rest was Irish. That side of the family came from a young man who lived in a village called Ballingarry in County Limerick, Ireland, to be followed by two years later by a young woman who lived in the village of County Tipperary. They never knew each other in Ireland but married in New Zealand and they became prominent is local government and the hotel trade in the South Island.

Looking back I can see tinges of some tense opinions that the Scots in the North Island had of those from the orange sunset! Values and principles are set at a pretty young age. Secure in a set of beliefs and prominent among the values and behaviours of service and respect of others are paramount.

On Another Note

MIT started a project in Tonga in 2013 introducing the Certificate in Technical and Vocational Skills. Essentially this was a version of the Secondary/Tertiary Programme pioneered by the early trades academy programmes. The statistics are impressive. In 2021, 17 high schools delivered the programmes to a total of 767 students. 259 students graduated with the full programme while a number passed sufficient curriculum parts to qualify for entry to the Tonga Institute of Science and Technology. This programme, supported by NZ MFAT, has led to a doubling of the numbers of young students entering tertiary technical and vocational education.

Have a respectful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Published inEducation


  1. Kamaseelan Govneder Kamaseelan Govneder

    Thanks, Stuart, for another lovely piece. Have a Merry Christmas and a prosperous and Happy New Year.

  2. Sandy Eaton Sandy Eaton

    Would be great to see a video of you doing the Scottish dance now. I’m sure we can find someone with bagpipes to accompany. 🙂

  3. Wayne Dreyer Wayne Dreyer

    Hi Stuart

    Just a short note to congratulate you on your latest award in the New Year Honors it is so well deserved. Since I retired from MIT 10 years ago this is the only site I have to contact you so I will finish my comments by using one of your sayings that means a lot to both of us-‘not bad for a boy from Fairfield College.’

    Regards Wayne

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