The first Harland reunion was held in Peebles in Scotland in 1983. That developed from a plan hatched up between Kay Harland and myself in Greenwich Village, New York City. I was there in the Big Apple free-lancing as a sports medicine doctor to a crowd of runners from Northern Ireland, who had chosen to join in the New York Marathon, October 1980. That was the year that Salazar (USA) won in world-record style.
Fast forward to 2004 when Margaret and Bob Reiser were honeymooning in Australia, where they met up with Pam and Mal Sandon. A reunion was suggested. This heaped a great deal of work onto the Reiser family for they invited us all to a second reunion to be held over the Easter Holidays 2007 at Sea Island Georgia USA. It was to be centred on Cottage 481, the quite magnificent holiday home of Bimby and John Conant – several of us had been treated to previous visits there when John and Bimby were alive and we were all thrilled to be able to enter this time-capsule once again. It is now up for sale, surplus to requirements, so it is unlikely that the Harland clan will be back there ever again. Two other houses had to be rented to accommodate everyone who turned up.
In 1983 there had been 15 Harlands, covering three generations. Sadly, of those 15, 10 had died (Aunt Elinor, Uncle Arthur, May Harland, Mary and Art Statham, Arthur Harland, Elinor and Peter Gordon, & Bimby and John Conant) by 2007. Of the five survivors, only three (Kay, Paddy and me) made it to the second reunion - Richard (Scotland) and Jack (Vancouver) missed out this time round.
The Cloister, Sea Island GA is a very exclusive upmarket resort for the well-to-do. The tidal marshes which separate the resort from the mainland near Brunswick GA are teaming with wild life, from oysters to oyster catchers and pelicans; or from dolphins to blue heron and buzzards. But one doesn’t just have to look at the those birds. Even residents as short-term as us may use The Cloister’s magnificent social centre for the resort, which has a huge swimming pool and superb catering facilities. There are plenty of places both on and off the beach to sit and watch a very different world. So, if it is true that a cat may look at a king, then it was OK for folks like me to gape at the passing scene – I am now able to report, for example, that high fashion amongst ladies is striking by its absence.
There were 25 of us covering three generations. As our website will confirm we are a true diaspora, with six from Canada, two from Australia, five each from both USA and The Philippines, and seven from Ireland. Amongst the nine ‘outlaws’, a VIP group, were two of my daughters-in-law who brought with them six of my 11 grandchildren. (i.e. with Sabine and Wallace came three of their sons; and with Fran and Dave, three daughters).
It was a great pity that Simon and his family were unable to make it. Other missing links were Jack from Vancouver (a total of five) and Brenda’s extended family from Scotland (numbering 10): while Pam and Mal’s family in Australia, including the fourth generation, could also have joined in the fun (another seven or eight). Wallace’s other three children were also in this roll-call of absentees. They missed out on a wonderful get-together. But each received honourable mention during the many days of interaction.
I was the youngest of the four octogenarians at 81. We had an 88 year old matriarch in the tiny form of Cousin Kay Harland from California. Her sobriquet of ‘The Mighty Atom’ might appear too highly charged to her - but it is accurate. What a memory she has! How dynamic – and interested in all 3 generations too. Janet has made a wonderful recovery from her fractured hip and cataract extractions and is back playing golf. My brother John does very well to hide the undoubted fact that he will be 84 on 8th May. His only defect is some slight hearing loss; so here was one of the little problems. With my loss of power in my speech, just one of the many signs arising from my ‘idiopathic axonal neuropathy’ and his deafness we did not communicate as well as we both would have wished to do.
The next generation headed up by Pam and Mal were all goers. Bob would be the patriarch here; and Margaret and he did a quite wonderful job as hosts. Paddy gave us wonderful music on the piano. The four Canadians, Jan and Joe, Chris and Stuart; and the Anglo-Irish-German connection, Wallace and Sabine, and Dave and Francis completed this band of workers.
The third generation present was headed by Margaret’s son Stephen and his girlfriend Adrienne and included three young ladies from Dublin and three boys who flew half-way round the world to get there. So Jesse Dexter Harland was the youngest of the whole group; he is only nine years old.
So, what did we do? Interaction was the main idea. We had many a tête-à-tête, cycle rides, walks, swimming, shopping, drinking wine, canoeing and golf – each to his or her own. The antique Waterford cut-glass decanter from Hillside specially imported by me for the golf competition was played for on the Sea Island golf course, where Davis Love III is the Professional. That was on Good Friday. A very complicated handicap system was devised, and was so successful that we ended up with two winners – Margaret and Pam. As its first recipient Pam takes it back to Australia for three years and then it will be returned to the States.
The most wonderful thing of all was the food. All our ladies are good cooks. But it is obvious to me that nearly all the men are very good cooks too. This is particularly true of our host, Bob Reiser; he is a wonderful chef, and his fried chicken southern style will be long remembered – as will Pam’s roast lamb, Greek style, and Margaret’s shrimp curry. We even had one meal out in a magnificent Italian restaurant.
It proved to be a wonderful happy occasion, with so many side-shows going on. The diverse travel arrangements, often involving many other acts of kindness from our hosts - eight of us went out on a boat-trip through the tidal marshes – four of us went to the last day of play at the Masters Golf tournament at Augusta GA – golf practice preoccupied some. There were two special nights of bonding. On the first occasion we played a game when each of us had to write down two truths and a lie about ourselves and the whole group had to decipher the clues. Then the Talent Show brought something from nearly everyone with songs, readings, recitations and comment.
One thousand words are insufficient to say “Well Done Everyone”.
22 April 2007