MacKay’s proud Western Isles heritage

Journalist and television presenter John MacKay.
Journalist and television presenter John MacKay.

TV presenter John MacKay is familiar to many as the face of STV’s news bulletins, now a published diary reveals his spectacular insight into news.

Of Western Isles heritage, MacKay, has kept a diary for a number of years, and its publication brings a personal touch to major stories.

It may be a diary, but ‘Notes of a Newsman: Witness to a Changing Scotland’ is no day-to-day log of the mundane.

Indeed, how could it be, when the STV journalist has witnessed such extraordinary events in his distinguished career so far? His latest book takes the reader on an incredible journey through a tapestry of current affairs, and through the eyes of a journalist who was there to witness progress, disaster, and political turbulence.

MacKay tells the situation as he saw flames burning across Lockerbie in 1988, Scotland voting on a new parliament in 1998, the tragic loss in Dunblane in 1996, and people at the polls for an historic independence referendum in 2014.

John began his journalism career at The Sunday Post in 1986 and in a career that has spanned two decades there’s little he doesn’t know about what has made affected this country in recent times.

“We didn’t think there’d be a referendum,” he says, “we thought that the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 would settle the issue.”

Sixteen years later he told viewers the result after covering the campaign comprehensively.

Yet despite it being only a year ago, this new perspective brings the drama of ‘Scotland’s Decision’ into rejuvenated colour.

John MacKay’s mother and father are both from the Western Isles and he visits there every year. His fascination with his heritage has led him to write three successful books all set on the Isle of Lewis: Heartland, Last of the Line and The Road Dance.

“The Western Isles are an essential part of who I am” he told The Gazette, “I visit at least once a year and my kids are very familiar with the area.”

Indeed, John’s maternal grandfather was correspondent for The Stornoway Gazette in the 1930 and many of his entries found their way into its now staple ‘Butt to Barra’ district news section.

“I would visit my aunt in Blackhouse every Summer when I was younger and I still love to go back.

“I did Gaelic at school and think it is a great language, I don’t speak it as well as I would wish, but I have heard it all my life.

“My parents were from Carloway and the Western Isles will always have a very special role in who I am as a person.”

Readers will recognise John’s inimitable punchy but prosaic style as he talks about last year’s independence referendum:

“I consider this to have been the pinnacle of my career. As Big Ben chimed and I delivered that line to the nation about two capitals waiting, the hairs stood on the back of my neck

“ It was a moment of history for our nation and no one could know for sure what the next hours would bring and what it would mean for our future.”

So gripping is his hold on events, readers will be forgiven for wondering the outcome.

‘Notes of a Newsman: Witness to a Changing Scotland’ is published by Luath Press.