Isles’ Minister, Baker and Dr feature in new book

editorial image
Share this article

A Harris-born doctor who fought against malaria in Africa; a well-known Master Baker, and famous Stornoway minister feature in a new book due to be published this week.

While written from the point of view of the Isle of Skye and titled The Great Book of Skye, it touches all the islands, demonstrating how much people travelled for reasons of family, work and education.

The Harris doctor, whose life and work have been researched in detail, was Roderick MacKay, born in Geocrab in 1898.

After High School in Portree, he graduated in medicine from Aberdeen University and joined the Colonial Medical Service as a medical officer in 1925.

He became the first doctor to collate accurate statistical information on malaria in Africa and to record trials of methods of control.

His twin sons, Ian and Murdo, who though born in Africa in 1926, were sent to Harris for part of their education and both became doctors, settling in England. Dr Roderick Mackay died in England in 1966.

The research effort of The Great Book of Skye is well shown in the article on noted Stornoway baker, Malcolm Maclean, the founder of one arm of the firm that is now Stag Bakeries.

Born in Uiginish, Skye in 1864, Calum Sgitheanach, as he was known in Lewis, married Mary Ann MacIver, settled in Stornoway and became one of the island’s best-known and most respected figures.

Active in civic life, one of his many civic duties in Stornoway involved his being a member of the jury of seven local men at the Public Inquiry before Sheriff Principal Charles Mackintosh in Stornoway Sheriff Court on 10 and 11 February 1919 into the grounding of the SY Iolaire.

He named his house on Goathill Road, one of the town’s finest, Uiginish House, and he lived there until his death in 1938.

Perhaps the best-known Lewis-associated name in this innovative and attractive book, which contains over 600 pages, is Rev Donald John Martin, of an old Skye family, who was, from 1876 until 1897, minister of Stornoway Free English Church which now bears his name.

We learn that Rev Donald John Martin was also the first person to introduce Gaelic into the curriculum of the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway in 1895. He moved from Stornoway to Oban and died in 1913.

The collaboration which has become The Great Book of Skye was forged between two Gaelic-speaking men who live on Skye, Norman Macdonald and Cailean Maclean, whose voices are well-known to Gaelic radio listeners, broadcasting from Skye over many years. The fusion of their learning, training, research and photographic abilities brings the strands of the islands’ past together to present a richly illustrated and original portrayal.

After its launch from September 4th the book will be available in bookshops and through the publisher’s website

Pictured is Harris-born Dr Roderick Mackay and his English-born wife, Marjory Newlands, near their African home in the late 1920s.