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Nelson Mandela, 1997

Murdo MacLeod

Hosted by a fresh-faced Tony Blair, the 1997 Commonwealth heads of government meeting, held in Edinburgh from 24 to 27 October, was the largest in Commonwealth history to that point. Even the Queen made an appearance, the first for a monarch. This was Nelson Mandela’s second appearance as South African president – and his last. You feel as if you are intruding on a rare private moment for Mandela, as he sits on a train headed for St Andrews golf course for meetings. For photographer Murdo Macleod, it was the closest he could get to the retreat’s main players. “It was one of those pooling arrangements; glimpses in railway stations were about as good as it got,” he recalls. At the last CHOGM, held in London in 2018, Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, quoted Mandela: “Vision, without action, is just a dream. Action, without vision, just passes the time. But vision with action can change the world.”