Biography:Alexander Mackay

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Alexander Mackay

 Given name:     Alexander
 Middle name:     
 Family name:     Mackay
 Place of birth:     Islay
 Place of death:     
 Year of birth:     c. 1775
 Year of death:     
 Profile:     Collector, Composer, Musician
 Source of information:     

Biographical notes

ALEXANDER MACKAY was born c. 1775, and was a fiddler-composer from Islay. He published one collection of original airs and tunes dedicated to the Right Hon. Lady Elinor Campbell of Islay and Shawfield. This collection was printed for him in Glasgow by music publisher J. MacFadlyen (30 Wilson Street), but the dating of the volume varies. It has been dated to 1805 and Charles Gore dates is to c. 1802, John Glen to c. 1822; J. Murdoch Henderson found a watermark on a page of the volume he examined to have a date of c. 1832. However, Mackay's volume is dedicated to Lady Elinor Campbell of Islay and Shawfield. I believe this is Lady Eleanor Campbell (1796-1832), nee Eleanor Charteris-Wemyss-Douglas, daughter of Francis Charteris-Wemyss-Douglas, Earl of Wemyss of Gosford House, Haddington, East Lothian. She married WIlliam Frederick Campbell of Islay and Shawfield in 1820, which would mean that Mackay's volume was published after that date, lending evidence to Glen's dating of c. 1822 [AK].

The contents of Mackay's volume reveals a large amount of tunes named for landowning families in Islay, and not a few distillers of Scotch whisky. These families (a number of whom were from the Campbell clan) would have substituted for local gentry or lairds, more numerous in other parts of Scotland, and presumably would be in position to hire Mackay as a music teacher or as an entertainer for events. There are a number of compositions in his volume attributed to him, and several without attribution, but his volume also contained compositions by:

  • D. Campbell Esqr. Balinaby (Islay)
  • Mr. J. Patton ('Mr.' indicates a university degree) - several compositions
  • William MacInleor - Piper
  • Peter MacIntyre
  • C. MacMillan
  • M. Keith
  • D.M. Sutton
  • H. Currie