Hey sister we got family ties

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Local videographer Michelle Buckham has a special connection to the woman that caused a sensation in Arrowtown last weekend. 

Buckham – who filmed local celebrations to mark the October 17 canonisation of Blessed Mary MacKillop – is a distant relative of the saint. 

“It’s about seven generations back,” she says. 

“Her grandparents are my great-great-great-great-grandparents, I think it is. But honestly it’s so far back I don’t claim the connection.” 

MacKillop, born in Melbourne in 1842, came to Arrowtown in 1897 and took over an existing school with her Josephite Order sisters. 

Buckham recalls her grandmother talking about MacKillop – now Saint Mary of the Cross – at the family’s Nokomai Station in northern Southland. 

“We always knew there was something pretty special about her. 

“She came and stayed at Nokomai and there was a story that she was so special then that nobody ever used the room again after she stayed. But my nana said ‘Rubbish, it was the spare room, of course people always stayed there’.” 

Buckham’s company Reel Art Video Productions voluntarily recorded festivities over two days, which culminated in 300 people attending a special mass at the Athenaeum Hall last Sunday. 

Buckham will make a DVD of the event to sell at Lakes District Museum and through St Joseph’s parish. 

“I did it for free because I think it’s an important thing in the community’s life,” she says. 

“There’s a proud tradition of people in Arrowtown that have documented things over the years, right back to the 1950s and 1960s and it’s really important to have somebody there recording what goes on in the life of a town.