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Archive for January, 2009

Chronological highlights from past Gates Ajar

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

The third issue of the newsletter, Fall 1989, introduced its distinctive title of Gates Ajar.  It comes from page 98 of MacDonald’s autobiography where he wrote:   “… I came thus to play my humble part in the drama of ‘Gates Ajar,’ of west and east, in the world of the Pacific.”   Below are listed memorable activities as reported in the newsletters.

1989 – 1990

–  FOM held a seminar in Portland.  Principal speaker was Jean Murray Cole, Canadian author and editor and also the great-great granddaughter and biographer of Ranald’s father, Archibald McDonald. Sharing the podium was David Hansen, curator at Fort Vancouver Historic Monument.

–  Vice-chairman Stephen Kohl reported on his year in Japan during which he visited with Japanese FOM members in Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Rishiri.

–  A four page bibliography of Ranald MacDonald materials in English was published.


–  A second edition of MacDonald’s autobiography was published by Oregon Historical Society Press with a grant from Epson Portland Inc.  It featured an introduction by Donald Sterling and an epilogue by Jean Murray Cole.

–  Gift copies of MacDonald’s autobiography were sent to 110 major libraries in U.S., Canada, and Japan.

1992 – 1993

–  Members participated in bicentennial of Capt. Robert Gray’s discovery of the Columbia River by sponsoring Pacific Rim friendship awards.

–  Bruce and Mark Berney visited MacDonald places, making valuable contacts in Lahaina, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Sapporo, and Rishiri Island.

–  Mas Tomita reported on his trip to Toroda to see Ranald’s grave.


–  FOM co-sponsored with Oregon Historical Society a chartered bus trip from Portland to Spokane and Republic, WA to attend a ceremony at Ranald’s grave to mark the centennial of his death.  Many letters of greetings were read, such as from Washington Gov. Mike Lowry, Hokkaido Prefecture Gov. Yokomichi, and Consul General Masaki Saito.  OHS head Chet Orloff gave a talk, and bagpipes played for the assembled crowd from the Ferry County Historical Society of Republic, WA.  Author Frederik Schodt of San Francisco was aboard, planning a book on MacDonald.  At Spokane, Ed Tsutakawa (d. 2006) gave us a tour of the Ranald MacDonald Building at Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute.

–  Hosted a film crew from TV / Nagasaki which was making a documentary on Ranald’s life.

–  Hosted five FOM Japan members at dinners in Astoria and Vancouver, and Yuji Aisaka who visited later.  They told of the unveiling of the Ranald MacDonald monument at Nagasaki.

–  Mas Tomita represented FOM at the rededication of the Sea Drifters (Sankichi) Monument at Fort Vancouver.


–  Traditions begun: birthday luncheon in Astoria, followed by placing a floral tribute at birthplace monument.

–  Statue of Ilchee, Ranald’s aunt, erected by City of Vancouver, Washington.

–  Mas Tomita attended US-Japan Friendship exchanges held by the Cascade Council of Boy Scouts and the Hyogo Scout Council, Boy Scouts of Nippon at the Japanese Sea Drifters (Sankichi) Monument at Fort Vancouver and visits the Ilchee statue.


–  FOM grieved for the loss of our leader, Mas Tomita, who died in July 1996 of congenital hepatitis.

–  Charter member Steve Kohl became chairman.


–  Jo Ann Roe’s book Ranald MacDonald: Pacific Rim Adventurer was published by Washington State University Press.  She was an FOM charter member who attended the monument dedication. The book is particularly good with Canadian sources.


–  Charter member Jim Mockford, former high school Japanese language teacher, became chairman.  A maritime historian, Jim is also active in the group which preserves the tall ship Lady Washington.   On June 27 he led an FOM group reenactment on the Lady Washington of Ranald’s leaving his whaling ship to become a castaway.  Jim also became editor of Gates Ajar.

–  150th anniversary tour of MacDonald’s teaching in Japan, Sept. 10 to 23.  Ken Nakano, (Seattle) guided four other FOM members (Fred Schodt, San Francisco; Atsumi Tsukimori McCauley, Spokane; Massie Tomita and May Tomba, Seattle) to Tokyo, Sapporo, Rishiri, Matsumae, Mihama, and Nagasaki.


–  Canadian author Peter Oliva won a prestigious literary award for his novel City of Yes (McClellan & Stewart, Toronto) which recounts MacDonald’s experience.


–  FOM members, especially Atsumi Tsukimori McCauley, participated in the erection of an interpretive sign at Ranald MacDonald’s Grave State Park, 18 miles northwest of Curlew Lake.

–  Vancouver Volkssporters named a volkswalk for Ranald MacDonald.


–  Ferry County had a Ranald MacDonald Day.  A seminar included Eiji Nishiya, curator of Rishiri museum; Jean Murray Cole, Atsumi Tsukimori, and Fred Schodt.  The day continued with a picnic, parade, barbecue, and a country western dance.


–  Jim Mockford created an FOM display at Multnomah County Library, Portland OR, and at the public library in Battleground, Washington.


–  FOM Japan member Yuji Aisaka went to Australia and uncovered information about Ranald’s boxing prowess.

– Jim Mockford presented a lecture about Ranald MacDonald at Joyo City, Japan, sister city of Vancouver, Washington.

–  Frederik L. Schodt’s book Native American in the Land of the Shogun was published by Stone Bridge Press (The dust cover features MacDonald’s face as found on his monument in Nagasaki).


–  OHS hosted Ranald’s 180th anniversary with a seminar featuring Prof. Yumiko Kawamoto, lecturer at Waseda University, and Frederik Schodt.

–  Gifts of books, 100 copies of Jo Ann Roe’s and 100 copies of Fred Schodt’s, were sent to libraries throughout the U.S., Canada, and Pacific islands.  (See Winter 2007 Gates Ajar for complete list.)


–  Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission selected Ranald’s (OHS) autobiography for inclusion in Oregon State Library’s centennial “100 best history books.”


–  Consul General of Japan in Portland & Mrs. Akio Egawa visited Astoria for Ranald’s 182nd birthday celebration.

–  “Who Is Ranald MacDonald” seminar held in Honolulu.  Panelists included Dr. Kawamoto, Schodt, and Honolulu historian Dwight Damon.

–  Tokyo Broadcasting’s “Discover the World’s Mysteries” (Sekai Fushigi Hakken) filmed Ranald’s story in Astoria and was seen by millions of viewers.

– Consulate General of Japan in Seattle sponsored Jim Mockford’s lectures about

Ranald MacDonald at the 30th Annual Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese

Cultural Festival.


–  The Economist, with a circulation of 1.3 million, featured an article about Ranald on Dec. 19.  (See Winter 2008 Gates Ajar.)


–  Charter member Masaru “Mas” Yatabe, vice-president of the Azumano Group in Portland, was appointed to be new chairman of FOM.

–  Atsumi Tsukimori published a bilingual story of MacDonald for children, Unsung Hero, featuring illustrations by Mariko King.

–  Ranald MacDonald enthusiasts from Holland circumnavigated the world.  Fred Dijs and Josje-Marie Vrolijk visited sites in Long Island NY, Toroda, Astoria, Vancouver, Rishiri, Nagasaki, etc.


–  Mas Yatabe visited Nagasaki to see MacDonald sites and meet FOM Japan leaders, including Dr. Obama.

–  Fred Schodt received Japan’s “Order of the Rising Sun” award.


–  200 Unsung Hero books were sent to eighty elementary schools in Nagasaki.

–  Mas Yatabe visited Rishiri Island.

–  Mas Yatabe helped create the FOM website.