If the Covid pandemic's done nothing else, it's reinforced to many of us the importance of family. And that is why this column is coming from Australia, where I've taken the much-awaited opportunity to meet our 13-month-old (and first) grandchild for the first time.
I also took the opportunity for another first when I attended my first Australian Anzac Dawn Parade, at the Gums Reserve War Memorial Garden in Adelaide.
The only downside of all these firsts, is I had to forgo the opportunity to be the guest speaker, for the first time, at the Anzac service in my old home town (it's a village really) of Riversdale in Southland. And what a tale I had to tell.
It's the story of Robert and Walter Adcock who became overnight celebrities in 1901 when, at the ages of 10 and 11 respectively, they decided to go and see the visiting Duke and Duchess of York in Dunedin (the Duke was later to become King George V in 1910 and is the grandfather of the current reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II).
The problem for the adventurous brothers was they lived in Invercargill and they lacked the means or the permission to go. Undeterred they set off from Invercargill in mid-June, walking along the railway tracks and bypassing towns, eating turnips and sleeping rough in haystacks or ditches.
Incredibly, in mid-winter, the boys made the more than 200km journey in just three days, covering the last 80km leg from Balclutha to Dunedin on the final day. According to a newspaper report of the day they staggered into the Dunedin railway yards "half starved, in rags, with feet cruelly lacerated". They were arrested and hospitalised, but then, as a result of the national attention the Adcock Boys had received they were made guests of the city.
With their father's permission the boys were allowed to stay and meet the future King of England. The Duke reportedly remarked: "Fancy these little fellows coming such a long distance just to see me!" He added that, "these boys are the stuff to make fine soldiers of the Empire".
The equally dumbfounded public was further amazed to learn the boys had taken two of their sisters and younger brother Cliff, aged just 3, on their escapade before the "junior section of the patriotic army succumbed" and turned back due to exhaustion.
And true to the Duke's prediction the Adcock boys were to serve the Empire, with the younger Cliff joining older brother Walter at Gallipoli. It was there he celebrated his 18th birthday after lying about his age to enlist under the assumed name of James Green.
Cliff was eventually evacuated to Egypt suffering from dysentery then, like many Gallipoli campaigners, spent the remainder of the war facing the horrors of the Western Front in Europe.
He was discharged in August 1919 after five years of active service overseas, having just celebrated his 22nd birthday. When interviewed at the age of 89, the old soldier demonstrated his enduring courage by stating, "I hope this doesn't sound silly but if war broke out tomorrow, I would be there". Cliff Adcock died the following year in 1987.
I would love to claim this inspirational tale as my own and it saddens me that I didn't get to deliver it to those gathered at the Anzac service in my beloved home town.
This story was not written by me. It was penned by my younger brother, Dr Don Mackay, a noted war historian. This tale is an excerpt from his excellent book, The Troopers' Tale – The History of the Otago Mounted Rifles.
Supposedly the non-academic in our family, Don left school at 16 to go mustering on a high country sheep station. He only found his love of learning and academia in his thirties. Sadly, not long after his book was published, he passed away prematurely from a long term lung condition.
As kids we fought like cat and dog. And as silly as it sounds, it took me until his deathbed to tell him that I loved him. Don't make the same mistake with your near and dear. If Covid has taught us nothing else, it's that family is everything.