Angus MacVicar

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ANGUS MacVicar was a prolific and much loved author whose enchanting stories captured the very essence of Scottish life.

Angus MacVicar was brought up in the manse at Southend, Argyll, where his father was a distinguished minister for almost half a century. He attended Campbeltown Grammar School and then studied Arts at Glasgow University. But he had always hankered after following his father into the ministry, and he moved on to Divinity. His first post as an assistant minister in Glasgow convinced him that perhaps he was not a natural preacher and instead he joined the Campbeltown Courier in 1930.

His duties there ranged from tea-boy to assistant editor, but the experience showed that MacVicar had a powerful way with words and when, in 1933, he successfully published his first novel, The Purple Rock, he decided to forsake journalism and concentrate on books.

An invitation from the BBC to write and present an item on the herring industry for Children’s Hour opened up a new horizon for him. He showed a natural talent and somehow knew just what would "work" for children on radio. Over the next 70 years he wrote more than 500 radio scripts and adapted many of his own books. Notable plays included Satellite 7 (1958), White Heather Mystery (1959) and The Gripe (1982).

During the Second World War, he served as a captain with the Royal Highland Fusiliers in the Middle East and Italy.

In the late Forties, he built for himself and his wife, Jean, Achnamara in Southend, which is the most southerly village in Kintyre. The house, the countryside and its people became central to MacVicar and his family. He lovingly recreated many of the local characters in his books and he himself became very much part of the fabric of the community.

In 1954 he wrote what many consider his most endearing radio series, The Glens of Glendale. It was clearly modelled on his own upbringing, with the manse and the minister at the heart of the series. The programme however, was no idyllic view of a Highland village. MacVicar pioneered many social issues and involved such controversial subjects as drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and crime to drive home the problems that such areas, and the minister, had to face in the postwar era.

The series ran until 1958 (for over 100 episodes) and caught the mood of the public; Alex Allan (the brother of the Rev Tom Allan) playing the central role gained much prominence. MacVicar by now had become a respected figure at BBC Scotland and the renowned head of religious broadcasting, Dr Ronald Falconer, approached him with some ideas for programmes.

Initially, MacVicar contributed short items to the 9.55am spot on the Home Service, but he demonstrated such an excellent microphone technique it led to his presenting several religious and historical programmes. On television he had an easy and relaxed style and became a popular presenter of Songs of Praise.

One of his proudest moments came as recently as 1998 when a Songs of Praise was filmed in Kintyre and MacVicar was interviewed about his life and firmly-held Christian beliefs. As ever his sincerity, relaxed manner and obvious sense of enjoyment immediately endeared him to viewers.

In the Sixties, MacVicar began a series of novels that were to place him on the best-seller list. Often given quirky, alliterative titles (quite one of the most memorable was Golf in Galluffes), they were of a gentle nature but had a philosophical theme which reflected MacVicar's own strong faith.

Salt in My Porridge: Confessions of a Minister’s Son was an enchanting novel which, again, drew on his own childhood. But MacVicar always had a wealth of yarns and anecdotes which greatly added authentic colour and captured the characters with a strident honesty. The novels that followed - especially Rocks in My Scotch and Silver in My Sporran - won a following outside Scotland.

MacVicar’s energy seemed to know no bounds during these hectic years. As well as writing the novels, he also scripted a film, The Old Padre, and a collection of historical best-sellers based on St Columba and the building of the cathedral on Iona.

The Mull of Kintyre (and, indeed, Argyll) was a life-long passion for MacVicar. He was an avid attender - and a hard-working elder - of the Church of Scotland in Southend for over 50 years. He was a keen member of the Dunaverty Players, for whom he was often cajoled into writing plays, either to be performed locally or at amateur festivals. This he did with immense good grace, trying to model the stage characters on his friends in the village.

MacVicar was a proud champion (and captain) at the Dunaverty Golf Club. A single-figure handicap and an unpretentious bag of clubs ensured that his golf was like the man: honest, diligent and straightforward. His manner on the golf course, like everywhere else, was modest, considerate, compassionate and kindly. He was blessed with a genial sense of humour and a ready smile. He was an honorary Sheriff Substitute for Argyll and in 1985, Stirling University recognised his contribution to literature by awarding him an honorary doctorate.

He is survived by three sons, one at whom is Jock MacVicar, the sports journalist. His wife predeceased him.