Meet Guest Author, Ronald Mackay…

Although I am Scottish born and bred, I have never been bound to Scotland or by it.

In our family line, as in our next-door neighbours, there were those who worked abroad all their lives and often died there. There were uncles and aunts in India, Africa and Malaya, returning on furlough by boat at three-year intervals. Tanned, at ease they sailed home, replete with tales.

A great uncle skippered a sailing ship to trade with Archangel. Twice, the harbour froze over and he had to winter over there. It made me oddly proud to be told that I resembled him, as if I too, had shared in unimaginable White Sea adventures.

My mother’s grandfather sailed for Argentina with two sons in 1887 to build a railroad there. Never was he heard from again. Two resolute aunts emigrated to Boston after the first World War taking their husbands with them. The Dundee Courier always carried offers of alluring posts on tea estates in Nepal, Hudson’s Bay trading posts along the Arctic Circle and on sheep farms in Australia, New Zealand and the Falklands. For those unwilling to commit their entire lives, these was seasonal work out of South Georgia on Salvesen’s whale-catchers.

Our school atlas was a menu of where we might spend part or all of our lives after school. Derring-do flowed in our blood, rattled our genes. Not tourism, since it barely existed, but ‘working abroad’. That kind of travel.

At 18, I left Scotland bound for Argentina, made it as far as the Canary Islands and worked in the banana plantations for a year there. It wasn’t a ‘gap year’, just the first year of my post-school working life when I took responsibility for everything I did and earned my way.

At 22 I emigrated to the US with my bagpipes and might still be there, a second Andrew Carnegie, had I not been drafted.

My two years with the 3rdBattalion Gordons had given me the confidence to decide what battles I would fight, where, and for whom.

Two years later I was behind the Iron Curtain in Ceausescu’s Romania as a cultural ambassador for Britain. At least that’s what I thought I was until, at a memorable dinner in the Athenée Palace, I was advised by the Head of Mission that my role was to be the sharp-end of trade.

Wanderlust persisted. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Singapore, Denmark, Israel, Sweden and Mexico with a bit of England thrown in for good measure.

Canada claimed me and I stayed put for 14 years. ‘Stayed put’ in the sense that, during that time, I never left the country. From my base in Montreal, however, I undertook projects from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island and throughout the Canadian Arctic. But staying quite so put was difficult, so then it was Indonesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Bangladesh and India. Even an eight-month contract in Edinburgh. From my office window, I could see the sun set over the Castle at 3.30 in the afternoon.

Then Latin America became my bailiwick because its time-zones were so close to that of my base in Canada that jet-lag was eliminated.

Although I’m Scottish born and bred, I have never been bound to Scotland. Wherever I live, whatever the skin-shade or the language, the voice of plea or prayer, I am at home because, like the swallow, I carry my sense of home inside.

Ronald Mackay

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18 thoughts on “Meet Guest Author, Ronald Mackay…

  1. Ron, it is always a pleasure to read anything you write. Your account of travel undertaken by you and other members of your family was enthralling.This piece was quite poetic in its embrace of “the world is my oyster.” The Scots and the Irish have always been great travellers. Oftentimes, it has been of necessity: poverty and even famine; oftentimes, because of simple curiosity to see how other people live.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ronald, I loved your article all the way through, especially the ending! I traveled to Scotland and have a close friend from there so I feel a kinship for anyone Scottish. I lived in Latin America, the Far East and the Middle East. Meeting other expats was my way of life for a long time. I’m now staying put because of family. But my heart is always wandering when I read stories of those I could easily have crossed paths with abroad.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Amy! It’s good to be appreciated by someone as widely travelled as yourself! I know what you mean about having difficulty settling down! Best wishes!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One can easily glean basic foundational footings for living from Ronald’s travel experiences. His ability to acclimate, sustain and endear himself wherever he lands is testament to hard work, perseverance and “to be content with such things as ye have”. A new favorite author.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Nice article Ronald. Your ending sentence brought to mind a very corny Elvis Presley rendition of “Home is where the heart is. The piece also made me think of my Uncle Ray. When I was small, he moved out of Brooklyn to New Jersey. The whole family was distraught – you would have thought he moved to Timbuktu – he was 45 minutes away! You certainly were roaming much farther than that. Uncle Ray was also a big Elvis fan. I titled a chapter in my memoir, “Uncle Ray and the King.” Lots of memories now intertwined together this morning. ”

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s flattering to me that the anecdote made you think of Elvis! I too was a fan! I’ll read your chapter on Uncle Ray and the King! I hope Ray’s 45-minute distance from his old home was not too traumatic! Best! Ron

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Tina! Indeed I have had the good fortune, and it still persists, to have an interesting life. Best wishes! Ron

      It’s lovely to meet you, Ronald. What a colorful life you’ve led! Wishing you all the best with your writing 🙂

      Liked by 3 people


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