Go back to the start, mm hmm. And probably the start of the School of Scottish Studies is a good place to start because the archive really came in to being from the very start and it’s good to know who the people were at the start. Well my name is Margaret Mackay, I’m Canadian. I was born in 1945 in Regina, Saskatchewan prairies. My mother’s people emigrated from Scotland, her mother was from Kingussie and her father was from a bit further north and east, just after the First World War and settled in Regina. So my mother was born in Scotland but went to Canada when she was just a tiny child. My father’s people, Mackays, had come from Sutherland in the early 1830s and settled with other people from that part of the Highlands in Western Ontario but many generations ago. I studied at the University of Toronto for my first degree, I studied English language and literature there with quite a lot of history and I got interested in historical linguistics as an undergraduate and thought it was something I’d like to pursue at postgraduate level. In those days, and I think still, Edinburgh University was the place to study this subject, so I was lucky enough to get a grant to come for a year in the first instance and then to continue on and do a doctorate here and it was really, I suppose, an interest in the history of language. I worked ultimately on my PhD on Medieval Scots, Lowland Scots, but it was that interest in language that brought me here initially, rather than anything really to do with family connections although it was very nice to have family links and indeed some relatives in Scotland. And when I finished my PhD I was fortunate enough to become research assistant on a series of linked projects to a man named Eric Cregeen who’d been appointed to the staff of the School of Scottish Studies in the late 60s. He was of Manx origin and his particular area of interest was social organisation and he and I worked together, with others, on a project to do with the island of Tiree in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries mainly, the outermost of the Inner Hebrides. It was a kind of testing ground for the introduction of crofting and we were looking at an island community through a period of quite considerable change and within that story there was emigration to Canada from Tiree and I also then worked kind of independently on a study of culture transfer and adaptation amongst Tiree people in Canada. So I gradually got drawn into the life and the work of the School of Scottish Studies and in the 1980s was appointed to a lectureship in the department and became director of its archives in the 1990s.

  • Margaret Mackay
Thursday 17th June 2010