The story of Angus MacKay's turbulent life —from his boyhood in a cottage on Raasay, to fame at Victoria's court, to his ultimate battle with mental illness— in his own words.
Angus MacKay of Raasay (1812-1859) is a legendary figure in the history of Scottish music, with his work still celebrated 160 years after his death. The remarkable story of the man
himself, however, has been neglected until now. In this fictionalized account, MacKay
pens the tale of his sensational life. From humble beginnings on the Isle of Raasay,
MacKay reflects on his rise through nineteenth-century society, gaining nationwide
renown and becoming the first piper to the Sovereign. Yet, despite his fame and musical
accomplishments, something is amiss. Why is MacKay writing his journal from the notorious Bedlam hospital? And why has he been dismissed from Her Majesty’s service?
“Revealing, sensitively written and eminently readable. It is an imagined autobiography of Angus MacKay, piper to Queen Victoria, but it is well-informed and thoroughly researched and convincing. Besides piping, it provides insights into the social life of the time, from croft to palace, as well as into the treatment of mental illness. Iain MacDonald is to be warmly congratulated.” — John Purser, author of Scotland’s Music
“A sympathetic view of a driven and complex man … Above all, a tale told with verve, flair, a fine eye for detail, and a sensitive depiction of the ultimate tragedy of the central character.” — James Beaton, former librarian at the National Piping Centre
“I loved this book … It empathetically captures the triumphs and tribulations of MacKay’s life —from Raasay croft, via Balmoral and Buckingham Palace, and ultimately to the asylum. It is true to the facts, deeply researched and easy to read. Victorian life is described with pathos, humour and colour. MacKay might have written this himself.” — Jack Taylor, former president of the Píobaireachd Society
“MacDonald has fleshed out the narrative of arguably the most interesting man in piping history, and certainly the most influential piper to date.” — Nick Hudson, pipes|drums
“Here we have a work of fiction, but based on true facts. The author himself says that the reader may struggle to work out ‘where fact ends and fiction begins’, but when you come to think about it, grace-notes and embellishments are so much a part of the piper’s world that it seems almost appropriate that MacKay’s story should be presented in this way. It’s an enjoyable and evocative read, and the author’s affection for both his subject and the Highlands is indisputable. Unlike a book of straight fiction, this one comes with an admirable bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and a useful Gaelic glossary for the odd phrases peppered through the text.” — Karen McAulay, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
“This book sheds new light on a well known, poorly understood, piper of national and international significance. Iain Macdonald presents a sympathetic, almost intuitive, account of Mackay, Piper to the Sovereign, recreating a voice silenced by mental illness. The reader moves from Mackay’s early days in Raasay, through the deterioration of his reason, to his final hours in Dumfriesshire. Macdonald adeptly combines primary source materials, including patient records, with sections of dialogue and description to create an engaging, illuminating account of interest to anyone fascinated by piping culture or, more generally, nineteenth century Scottish cultural interactions. It well researched, beautifully imagined, and empathetic.” — Valentina Bold, editor of Robert Burns’ Merry Muses of Caledonia
Fiction. History. Music.
Review @ Bagpipe News Review @ pipes|drums Author Website Megan Amato @ Scottish FieldIain MacDonald @ Regina Leader-Post
Iain MacDonald is from Saskatchewan, Canada and has lived there most of his life so far, with some years in Vancouver and Glasgow. He is descended from South Uist immigrants who arrived in Prince Edward Island in 1772. A varied career has included work as an editor for an educational publishing firm, a freelance writer and editor, a communications director for an educational television company, and over 20 years running Avonlea Communications, producing websites, magazine and web advertising, brochures, annual reports and a wide variety of events. MacDonald teaches bagpipes through the Conservatory of Performing Arts, University of Regina. A life- long piper, MacDonald has performed and competed, recorded and also has written many articles for piping magazines and websites over the years. In 2017, he was named by pipes|drums magazine to be among Canada's Top Fifteen Living Pipers and Drummers in a feature celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary. His life-long interest in bagpipes and history, plus the acquisition of a very special artifact, led him to the story of Angus MacKay of Raasay.