Obituary: Hugh Mackay, 14th Lord Reay, Member of the European Parliament and chief of the clan Mackay

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Born: 19 July, 1937, in Edinburgh. Died:10 May, 2103, in London, aged 75

THE 14th Lord Reay was a most cosmopolitan member of the Scottish aristocracy. He had a distinguished political career as a member of the House of Lords, held office in the Thatcher government and was much involved with the European Union in Brussels. Reay was also hereditary chief of the Clan Mackay and attended clan functions and gatherings when other responsibilities permitted. In 1999, he was elected a member of the House of Lords.

The family holds an ancient Scottish title – dating from 1628. He was also Baronet of Farm, a Nova Scotia title bestowed by James VI and I on a forebear in 1627. His father inherited a barony in the Netherlands through the Dutch branch of the Mackay family, so on his father’s death in 1963, Lord Reay also became Baron of Ophemert and Zennewijnen. That had been created in 1822 by King William I of the Netherlands and the family still owns the delightful 16th-century fort Ophemert.

Lady Elizabeth Fairbairn, Lord Reay’s sister, has taken on many of the responsibilities connected with the clan and acts as its president. She confirmed that Lord Reay was proud of his Scottish heritage. “Hugh often attended clan gatherings and dinners and spoke with authority on a number of subjects related to the north of Scotland – especially the Highland Clearances. He was also against wind farms intruding on the moors of Sutherland. I kept him well informed about the activities of the clan and we spoke regularly.”

Hugh William Mackay was the only son of Aeneas Alexander Mackay, the 13th Lord Reay, and after Eton and Christ Church he worked on the family estates in the Netherlands. After the death of his father, Lord Reay was a representative Scottish peer at Westminster, initially sitting as a cross-bencher.

In 1972, he joined the Conservative Party, becoming one of eight peers nominated to serve in the European Parliament and was in the forefront of the campaign to restrict the commission’s expenditure. He particularly took issue that its administration was centred in three cities (Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg) and strenuously advocated one central location.

In 1979, after the elections to the European Parliament, Lord Reay was nominated to sit on the Council of Europe, serving until 1986. But he maintained a strong presence at Westminster and often spoke on defence matters – especially the funding of the forces. Margaret Thatcher much approved of such a stance and in 1989 appointed him a Lord-in-Waiting operating out of the Whip’s office.

Much of his duties involved meeting royalty and dignitaries at Heathrow Airport, but he also pursued contentious issues. Lord Reay strongly argued during the Tibet/China crisis that the Dalai Lama should be considered as a spiritual leader rather than connected with politics.

Lord Reay served at the Department of Trade and Industry for a short period in 1991 and argued that the British film industry should produce movies that were more commercial. Later that year he left the department to become a member of the select committee on the European Communities. He served on the committee until 1999 and chaired its food and agriculture subcommittee.

Lord Reay was a dapper man who always took pride in his appearance. Although not often in Mackay country, he cut a dashing figure in full highland dress. At official dinners, he wore the kilt with a specially made green jacket to complement the green, blue and black of the Mackay tartan. He attended the Gatherings in Edinburgh in 2000 and 2009.

At the former, Lord Reay walked down the Royal Mile in the parade in Mackay tartan with a grand cockade in his glengarry. In 2009 he visited the Mackay tent in kilt and glengarry and spoke enthusiastically of the work being done at the Clan Mackay Room at the Strathnaver Museum in Sutherland.

He said in a speech: “I have always had soft spot for Edinburgh, the place of my birth and still managing to hold its place as, in my opinion, the most beautiful city in the United Kingdom.

“I feel honoured to be amongst you. Clansmen, Clanswomen. I ask you to raise your glasses to the Clan Mackay.”

Lord Reay spent much of time between, London, the Netherlands and Lancashire. He was a keen angler and especially enjoyed fishing the Tweed. He was also an excellent shot. Lord Reay was a man of dignity and charm who combined the various disciplines of clan chief, politician and environmentalist with much grace.

Lord Reay married, in 1964, Annabel Therese Fraser (now Tessa Keswick), younger daughter of the 17th Lord Lovat; they had two sons and a daughter.

The marriage was dissolved in 1978, and in 1980 he married Victoria Warrender, daughter of the 1st Lord Bruntisfield. They had two daughters.

His elder son, Aeneas Simon Mackay, Master of Reay, succeeds to the titles.

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