We greet and part, it’s all part of life

As we publish this final segment of the Macgregor family story and their return to Dama Village in Bua. The siblings share how they met their dad, Ian Macgregor, who was more like a stranger after decades and how he, in the last few years, visited them in Australia. During those visits he used to cry and ask for forgiveness regretting his actions in the 1930s when he took his children away from their mother Ana Vusamu, of Dama.

Over the past week since these series of stories have been published, Anita and Rob Macgregor have been greeted by people in Suva and the Western Division who introduced themselves as people originally from Bua. Numerous callers have asked more about the articles.

Rob meets his dad

HE shook Ian Macgregor’s hands and it felt just like any another man, another stranger.

That’s how Rob Macgregor felt when he met his dad, Ian Macgregor, after a long time. That was in the 1960s at Martin Place, Sydney, Australia.

“We had nothing in common. I just shook his hands, said ‘hi’ and that was it,” he said.

Rob received a call from his older sister, Lina Macgregor, who offered to take him out for coffee.

“Lina rang me one day and said: ‘How about a cup of coffee at Martin Place?’ “I agreed and we met there. Actually, when I got there, Lina was waiting outside the coffee shop and when she saw me, she told me about a man who was supposed to meet us.

“Lina told me that the man we will meet was never late for appointments. A few minutes later, I looked across the road and saw an old man walking towards us.”

Rob could not remember him. Neither could he recognise the man’s face.

“But I suspected Lina tricked me into it because I told her in the beginning I didn’t want to meet my dad or have anything to do with him,” he said.

“My dad refused to help me apply for my citizenship in Australia and it was my sister Lina who helped and that is why I didn’t want to meet him. He was also the second highest decorated soldier in Australia.

“When the man finally came up to us, Lina introduced us and said: ‘This is your dad’.”

Rob was stunned. The hurts, pain, anger and memories of his childhood days of growing up with strangers flashed across his mind as he stood there, staring at his dad, who was more of a foreigner.

And those mixed feelings, not knowing what to do especially when he refused to have anything to do with his dad, made it a very difficult moment. However Rob’s character, being the humble, soft spoken and kind-hearted man, surpassed that difficult moment.

He stretched out his hands in greeting to the man opposite him — the man whose parental love should have been the encouragement to buoy, to inspire — the hopes of the little boy who vividly remembers him (dad) in a taxi. That was when he (Rob) was dropped off at an Indian family’s house in Suva at the age of five.

“I looked at him, shook his hands and we didn’t talk much. We had nothing in common. He was a total stranger.”

After the meeting, Rob used to travel to his dad’s house to visit.

“That was when I also met my other two siblings from my dad’s side and my older brother didn’t know I existed. But we got to know each other and he was in the Australian Air Force. We also have a bigger sister, Letitia Chute, who is my dad’s daughter and lives in Udu Point today,” Rob said.

Mrs Chute is the mother of successful and well known businessmen Pat and Ian Chute.

Anita’s last years

with her dad

In 1967, Anita travelled to Australia for a holiday so her older sister, Lina organised a meeting with their dad.

“I was in Sydney and met my dad but again, like Rob, we had nothing in common,” she said. “He was just like another man. Nothing special, no bonds but I used to think about my mother a lot.

“When I met dad, I thought of what he put my mother through and how in life did she cope having her three children taken away from her care.”

Two years later, Anita decided to migrate to Australia from New Zealand with her family.

“I told my husband about my plans and we moved over so my dad used to visit us every weekend,” she said. “During his visits, he used to cry and ask for forgiveness from us. He regretted so much what he did and it brought tears to my eyes as well.

“But I didn’t ask my dad why he took us away from Dama. I should have asked. But I am glad that we got to meet our dad before he died.

“Whenever he cried and asked for our forgiveness, I used to feel sorry for him because I guess, my life as a parent was different. I have a family and children who grew up in my care and I used to share to them about what happened to us when we were little,” she said.

The answer to why Mr Macgregor took his children away from Dama can now remain anyone’s guess but Anita and Rob are grateful they have come back to their koro ni vasu (mother’s village) and know their relatives.

“We also would like to thank the Tui Wainunu, Ratu Orisi Baleitavea, Mr and Mrs Ian Chute and The Fiji Times for helping us in our journey back home,” said Anita.

“Since the stories about us have been published, people have even greeted us the Bua way saying ‘bula re’.

“And I am happy to know that we can now identify ourselves as the people of Dama in Bua.”

Anita and Rob returned to Australia on Friday.

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