First Light Exchange Programme

Taking its name from when the first light of the new millennium would hit New Zealand in the early hours of 2000. The Clan Cameron First Light Exchange Scheme has so far enabled seven young Cameron’s from Lochaber and New Zealand to experience another culture on the other side of the world.

Conceived by Dr. Maisie Earle (née Cameron) originally from Banavie, now long time resident of New Zealand. When Maisie was President of the Clan Cameron association in New Zealand in the late 1990’s she was concerned about the lack of younger Camerons getting involved in the Cameron association and so set up a youth exchange scheme; where-by young Camerons from Lochaber (the heart of Cameron country) and New Zealand would spend between three to six months living in either country experiencing a different culture.

Co-ordinators behind the exchange

Dr Maisie Earle and Margaret Cameron

Dr Maisie Earle
Dr Maisie Earle
Dr. Maisie Earle, founder of the First Light exchange scheme and former resident of the Station House Banavie. For the first couple of years Maisie coordinated the exchange scheme in New Zealand until handing over to Heather Lowes, again formerly of Fort William. Maisie continues to take an active interest in the First Light scheme.
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Past First Lighters

Alasdair (Astie) Cameron – Lochaber
Alasdair (Astie) Cameron – Lochaber
An environmental scientist and experienced piper, Astie worked with a water treatment company whilst in New Zealand. Travelling throughout the north and south islands, Astie managed to collect a range of old and new pipe tunes on his travels for clan pipe tunes book. Climbing some of the New Zealand’s highest peaks en route, he even managed to play a pipe tune or two on the summits. Astie is now Estate Manager at Achnacarry.
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Click the arrows below the blurb to see all nine previous First Light participants

Letter from NZ First Light Convener Bryan Haggit


bryan-haggitThe First Light Exchange was set up some 20 years ago to encourage young Scots of Cameron descent to venture out to New Zealand and, likewise, young Cameron Kiwis to visit Scotland and, particularly, Lochaber.

In its early years the Exchange was highly successful. Three of the earliest First Lighters to come out here from Lochaber were Astie Cameron (now Lochiel’s Estate Manager at Achnacarry), Bill Cameron, school teacher at Fort William and regular provider of photos for Neil’s Newsletters and David Cameron. David now lives just out of Christchurch with his wife Karen, a New Zealander.

A number of Kiwis took advantage of the Exchange and enjoyed great hospitality and the opportunity to explore ancestral haunts in the Highlands. Unfortunately, it is some years since Robert Nairn came out here and entertained us so well with his piano accordion, of which he was a master.

Dr Roddy Cameron, the new Clan Commissioner in Scotland, is eager to have a Scot come out to New Zealand – it is New Zealand’s turn to host. The usual period is around 3 months though this is negotiable. Some financial assistance is given and the First Lighter is hosted by Clan members and help given for them to find work.

We need to prepare for the next First Lighter – great hosting offers have been made in the past. President Nick has offered work in the seed and grain industry through summer months. Are there other hosting offers which may tempt a young Scot to visit? New Zealand leads the world in so many farming methods – dairying and beef plus silviculture, viticulture and horticulture. And home hosting in various parts of the country – who can help?

Further thought – post graduate studies at Massey of Lincoln Universities?

If you would like to be considered as an exchange candidate to Scotland please contact me.

Please, come back to me with ideas and offers – I look forward to hearing from you.

Bryan Haggitt

First Light Convenor – Clan Cameron NZ    Phones:  09 524 5254 or 021 0264 5021


How the exchange programme works.


The exchange is for a period of three months each year with the successful New Zealand applicant leaving for Scotland usually between June and September and a return visit by the successful Scottish applicant.

The age of applicants should be 18-28 years at the time of departure.

In recognition of the long distances involved and the expense in travel, the exchange members would be permitted to extend their travels privately for 3 months but would be expected to return to their home within 6 months of departure. In this time, we would ask that the applicants participate in three equal parts:

  • Professional development: exploring an area of relevance and interest to their careers.
  • Personal development: researching areas of personal interest, for example sports, piping, arts, flora and fauna, cooking, weaving, genealogy, history.
  • Clan Cameron development: undertaking a project of their design that assists Clan Cameron.

Applicants to the exchange would be expected to present details in each of these categories as to how they would spend their time on each part.