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Chance encounter leads Berry couple to help organise inauguration for ancient Buchanan clan in Scotland

When Berry residents Shona and Paul Gibson met a friendly Scottish couple at a function in Canberra in 2019, they had no idea it would lead them to the pomp and ceremony of a Scottish clan inauguration.

John Michael Baillie-Hamilton Buchanan was on a trip to Australia, after finding out that years of genealogical research had revealed he was the chief of Clan Buchanan in Scotland.

Mr Buchanan was in the process of organising his inauguration when the Gibsons mentioned they had years of experience in event management.

Ms Gibson, who has Scottish heritage, said that conversation set the new friends on a path towards a monumental project.

"They [the Buchanans] came to Australia for the Edinburgh Tattoo and through a conversation, we were invited to help them run the inauguration, which is a big deal," Ms Gibson said.

"What started in 2019 has been a constant part of our lives, and our friends' lives, in Berry."

'It's a big deal internationally'

The ancient Buchanan clan has not had a chief since John Buchanan died in 1681 without a male heir.

Ms Gibson said the inauguration, which happened earlier this month, followed a similar itinerary of formalities to what will happen for King Charles' coronation next year.

She said there had been a lot of research into the traditions of clan ceremonies, and she was fortunate to be able to draw on some of her own family history for help.

"My grandparents represented Australia at Queen Elizabeth's coronation, so I have their diaries and information from there and that helped us with what we should do," she said.

"I've been secretary of the Berry Show and we run events and weddings at our vineyard and Paul is a compliance person, so he's very capable of developing documents and protocols."

Being part of pomp and pageantry

In Scotland, clans are group of people united by a common surname linked through family ties or perceived kinship.

Clan names are usually associated with land and were the main political system in Scotland until 1746.

Over the years spent organising the inauguration, the Gibsons formed a close friendship with the Scottish couple.

Their surname Gibson is a supporting family of the Buchanan clan and they were invited to be part of an official parade during the four-day celebrations.

"We were both in the procession with all these dignitaries, eagles, trumpeters and pipers and we started to cry because the reality of what we'd done had just hit us," Ms Gibson said.

"It was such a privilege to be able to be recognised as a significant part of the clan and reaffirmed to us that the work we put into it was real."

Leading first clan parliament

One of the key moments of the weekend involved the first sitting of the Buchanan clan parliament in centuries.

The parliament is an opportunity for the clan to discuss how its traditions can be celebrated.

Ms Gibson was invited to run the meeting.

"Something I am so proud of is when the chief asked if I would run the first parliament that the clan had had for 340 years, not only as a woman, but also as an Australian and someone whose family left Scotland," she said.

Mr Gibson said the event had given him an international family.

"We had guests from the US, Canada, South America, New Zealand, Australia and across the UK," he said.

"We had 300 guests over four days of events where we celebrated the return of the ancestors.

"It's like a family tree where at the top you have a chief, and he wants the family to grow and have a connection with the people, so after the inauguration, we now have family across the continents."

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