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It was the mere toss of a coin and some fatherly advice that made New Zealand the destination for Scottish emigrant Thomas Aitken (the sixth) and his family, but one that his more than 100 descendants are happy for.

Forty-one of those descendants gathered in Clyde on April 19 to mark the marriage of Mr Aitken and his bride Magdalene (Lena) McAndrew in Elgin, Scotland, exactly 100 years earlier. A further 85 were unable to attend.

Combined anniversaries . . . Jeanne Barclay of Waihola and her older sister, Magdalene Barkman of Mosgiel, celebrate their parents’ marriage 100 years earlier, along with Anika West (12) of Wanaka, whose birthday is the
same day as her great-grandparents’ wedding.

Jeanne Barclay, one of three daughters and one son born to the couple, said in her speech at the event that after her parents wed in 1922, unemployment was high in Scotland.

Her father was the brewer and works manager at a distillery and his job was secure, but housing was also scarce and they lived in a bedsit with their infant son, Thomas (the seventh), where they had only an open fire for cooking and water was fetched from an outside tap. The couple decided to emigrate and learned that Mr Aitken’s teenaged brother Jim also wanted to try his luck abroad.

“Dad favoured Australia while Jim favoured America,” Mrs Barclay said.

Her grandfather, Thomas Aitken (the fifth), supported his sons’ plan to emigrate but recommended that they choose New Zealand, as he believed the opportunities here were better.

The fare to New Zealand in 1925 was £45, equivalent to approximately £1,848 today according to the United Kingdom’s National Archives currency converter, which the brothers considered prohibitively expensive.

Their father swung the decision by offering each son £50, which more than covered their fare.

Mrs Barclay said her grandfather joined his sons in New Zealand later that year, along with his daughter Helen and her husband, David McDonald, and his 14-year-old daughter Margaret.

Grandfather Thomas had been a baker back in Scotland and Thomas Aitken (the sixth) had worked as an apprentice baker after leaving school.

In late 1925, the extended family purchased a bakery business in Clyde that had a branch shop in Cromwell, adding another bakery in Temuka the following year and yet another in Portobello, Dunedin, in 1927.

Lena Aitken’s parents, James and Isabella McAndrew, also moved to New Zealand with her brother Alick in 1927, also settling in Clyde where the male McAndrews set up a coal merchant/general carrier business.

Mrs Barclay said her immediate family spent seven years in Clyde before moving to Portobello, then moved to Balclutha in 1953.

Both her parents were active in church and community organisations wherever they lived, Mrs Barclay said, and her father was a foundation member of the south Otago Masonic Lodge.

Her parents never returned to Scotland, but that was probably because their immediate families had joined them here.

“Several of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren have visited there for a time, but none permanently,” she said.