John MacKay is anchor for Scottish TV's Scotland Today evening news programme. He is also the author of two novels set in his native Hebrides. John lives in Glasgow.
My granny's croft on Lewis was great for playing cowboys and Indians, running down the hills, hiding behind the rocks. Many, many years before, so I was told, a man from the neighbouring croft had emigrated to America and lived an exciting life on the frontier of the west. Iain 'Ic Iain, as he was known, had even married the daughter of an Indian chief. As I got older I dismissed the story as just a yarn told to a gullible child. But I was wrong. It was true, every word of it. Iain 'Ic Iain had done it all. And his was only one of the countless stories of the Scottish experience in America.
A Dance Called America by James Hunter is the story of how they got there and where they went. This is an academic book written in an accessible style. It is essential reading to understand the ties that bind Scotland and North America even today.
Neil Gunn's The Silver Darlings is the evocative story of the aftermath of the Highland Clearances, when people were forced off the land and had to look to the sea for survival. It was the life of my own forebears who sought the herring- the silver darlings- and Gunn's book brings these distant names to life for me. Although set in the nineteenth century, it is a timeless story of bonding and survival.
Whisky Galore by Compton MacKenzie is just a feel good tale full of charm and humour. Based on the true story of how islanders relieved a grounded government ship of its cargo of whisky, it was a far closer representation of the people I knew than the typical depiction of the islander as dour and slow. Wonderful fun.
John MacKay's Favourite Books
- A Dance Called America: The Scottish Highlands, The United States And Canada - - Paperback
In this book James Hunter provides a comprehensive account of what happened to the thousands of people who, over the last 200 years, left Skye and other parts of the Scottish Highlands to make new lives in the United States and Canada.
- The Silver Darlings - - Paperback
The tale of lives won from a cruel sea and crueller landlords. The dawning of the herring fisheries brought with it the hope of escape from the Highland Clearances, and this story paints a vivid picture of a community fighting against nature and history, and refusing to be crushed.
- Whisky Galore - - Paperback
It is 1943, and the war has brought rationing to the Hebridean Islands. It looks like the end of the world when the whisky is about to run out, and the locals are about to despair when a ship with a cargo of whisky is wrecked.
Books written by John MacKay
- Add to BasketHeartland - Paperback
Iain Martin hopes that by returning to his Hebridean roots and embarking on a quest to reconstruct the ancient family home, he might find a new purpose. But as Iain begins working on the old blackhouse, he uncovers a secret from the past which forces him to question everything he ever thought to be true.