A true-to-life lost and found family story
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-09-09
Man's capability to improve and degrade his environment is both a source of greatness and tragedy. Only man is capable of developing technology to make his piece of planet earth either a heaven or a hell.

The great tragedy of mankind is the amount of manpower and resources that countries allot to the development and stockpiling of weapons that can only promote death, destruction and misery. The greatest technology is not what destroys mankind and his environment but the technology that helps people.

Our family was the recent beneficiary of such a technological boon — the facilitation of a family reunion through the wonders of the internet. After over 60 years of disrupted communications with family relations in another part of the world due to World War II, we were linked up by a series of providential events and by the internet.

Technology created and solved our family problem.

The 20th century saw the dawn of weaponry and war equipment that increased the capacity for extending the boundaries of wars and increasing the death and devastation wars bring. Two world wars happened in the 20th century that saw the introduction of aircraft, far ranging weapons, more mobile troop transports on land, sea and air.

Our Scottish grandfather, Ian Collier Trotter Macgregor and his brother Roderick Robert, lost contact with each other when the Japanese invaded the Philippines and bombed our house in Bukidnon. Ian relocated to Manila and it was no longer feasible to communicate with his brother Robert who was then the Secretary in the British War Supplies Office in Africa.

Like most Scots, Ian and Robert went overseas to seek adventure — even if they came from a family with means. Our great grandfather Roderick had a coffee plantation overseas and in their registry records in the UK, they were listed as having lived in a big house with 10 rooms and six stay-in domestic workers.

Ian was killed, along with over 100,000 other civilians, during the Battle of Manila in 1945. As it turned out, Robert died in 1947 in South Africa before the two branches of the Macgregor family could re-establish contact.

Between the deaths of Ian and Robert, our mother lost her first husband in a Christmas Day sea tragedy off the coast of Samar while piloting a foreign vessel whose captain underestimated the force of Philippine typhoons. I, my two sisters Carol and Dorothy and our late younger brother Richard were the children from Mom's second marriage.

All these years, we wondered what ever happened to our granduncle's family in South Africa. We were to discover that they too wondered about what happened to our family here.

Last April, my sister Dorothy and her family spent their Holy Week break in New Zealand where they met our Trotter cousins. Grandfather Ian’s mother, Anne, is a Trotter who married Roderick Macgregor, our great grandfather.

During my first visit to Scotland and the former Trotter estate in Garguston, in 1985, I met John McCaw who is also a Trotter descendant. John’s great grandfather is the brother of my great grandmother Anne.

Those of Scottish descent make it a point to visit the land of their roots during their lifetime and it comes as no surprise that John and I met up in Garguston. It is also traditional in Scotland for current dwellers to invite former residents of their homes to come and visit.

That meeting in Scotland facilitated our re-unification with our Trotter cousins. I had the chance to meet more McCaws and reinforce the family Trotter bonds in the 1990s when my wife Meyang and I used to spend our vacations in New Zealand. John and his lovely wife Jill became our main links to our Kiwi Trotter relations.

Richie McCaw, perhaps the most popular Rugby star today, is John's nephew. Top New Zealand industrialist, Sir Ronald Trotter, is John's cousin.

My sister Dorothy's reunion with our Trotter cousins last April earned her and me a copy of the book ("Hasten with care") Sir Ronald Trotter wrote about the Trotter family heritage which included our branch of the family in one of the chapters. A valuable piece of information was provided by Sir Ronald in the Trotter-Macgregor chapter — the info that Roderick Robert Macgregor worked for the South African Railways.

For a journalist like my sister Carol, former chief of reporters of the Business STAR, that was a starting point for tracking our South Africa Trotter-Macgregor relations. Lo and behold, through the internet and its search engines, Carol found a Robert Roderick Macgregor who still worked for the South African Railways!

Carol was excited. It's too much of a coincidence that the same company had another Robert Roderick (same though interchanged given names) Macgregor with the name Macgregor spelled the same way (McGregor and MacGregor are the variants). Our records showed that the family tended to retain names through generations. Eldest sons were likely to be named William, as I was named, and so the name of our great grandfather Roderick was passed on.

Carol took a chance and e-mailed Robert Roderick Macgregor of the South African Railways and he confirmed forthwith that he is the grandson of Roderick Robert, the brother of our grandfather Ian. We thus learned that Roderick Robert had a son who then begot Robert Roderick, Andrew and Stuart.

The internet was then flooded with an exchange of e-mails between the Philippines and South Africa. We had over 60 years to make up for.

Last August 21, Stuart Macgregor, the youngest grandson of Roderick Robert Macgregor, arrived in Manila to cement the re-established ties between our two families.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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