Biography

Iain MacGillivray was born in November 1947 in a nursing home called ‘Rossel’ in Inverness, to a shop assistant and an ex-sailor who had just that year retired from the service, and was yet a few months away from becoming the caretaker of the Workmen’s Club in Bridge Street. The most attractive part of his contract was the two bedroomed flat that was tied to the job!

A new bridge planned to span the Ness meant that one side of Bridge Street was due for demolition, so in 1959, with mgill's Dad already having joined the Post Office as a postman, the family moved to a new flat in a location surrounded by parks, islands, the Caledonian Canal and the world-wide renowned Tomnahurich Cemetery, where the teenage mgill spent his school summer holidays in gainful employment as a grass cutter.

 mgill in 1970  As a teenager, mgill became very involved in the running of a youth club called ‘Doc’s Club’ at the top of Raining Stairs, which had evolved from the Crown Church under the auspices of one Dr Hay, a leading gynaecologist at the local hospital, who had probably played a part in bringing into the world the majority of the kids who were now members of his youth club.

One quiet night at the club in 1963, Doc collared mgill and asked him if he fancied learning one or two chords on the beat-up guitar he was unsuccessfully trying to hide behind his back. So, having become hooked on the music provided on the BBC TV programme ‘Hootenanny’, the answer was a resounding ‘Yes please!'

Two years later mgill arrived in Edinburgh to attend Napier Technical College (as it was known then), as a student of photography, art and design. A fellow student introduced him to the ‘Buffs’ (a folk club on a Monday within the ‘Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes’ club in Albany Street) and also to the Waverley Bar at the top of St Mary’s Street, where folk music was on tap six nights a week … mgill had arrived!

Within weeks, he had met up with a wonderful bunch of musicians all starting off their musical careers, and he took to it like the proverbial duck! He also became a player at many of the city’s clubs, as well as quickly getting involved in organising some new ones.

 mgill (left) in 1972 with Harvest  During the next few years he played in duos with Dick Gaughan, Chuck Fleming, the late Bobby Eaglesham and the ex-Corrie, Bill Smith. Clubs he was involved in organizing included: the Buffs in West Register Street on a Sunday (where he and Dick first played); The Friars FC in Lothian Street; and The Coffin FC in the Cephus Cellar, under a church in the West End after pub hours - where you’d be just as likely to see Liam Clancy as you would to see the guy from the pub down the road!

mgill returned to Inverness on a full time basis in 1972 to form the three-part close-harmony group ‘Harvest’ with two Aviemore-based Glaswegians: Gordy Kennedy and Dougie Taylor. The group only lasted around eight months, so mgill returned to playing solo. In August 1973 he played thirty-four consecutive nights to found the now world famous ‘Market Bar’ as a live music venue - which is operating still!

During this time he met up with an old school acquaintance who had just returned from Europe, and they played together in sessions and parties, ending up joining forces as a singing act in 1975. That man was - and indeed is - Ranald Smith, with whom mgill has had many wonderful musical experiences since that first concert on December 22nd 1975. (Follow this link for a history of mgill and Ranald.)

 Ranald Smith and Iain MacGillivray

At that time mgill was working in the North Sea oil industry as a roughneck, which suited his singing perfectly, with him offshore earning for two weeks, alternating with two weeks in which he could arrange gigs and go to festivals.

A year later began his involvement with the Inverness Folk Club, a club which had been formed by Duncan MacLennan the year before mgill had left Inverness for Edinburgh. This involvement related to supplying the sound for some concerts at the eighth Inverness Folk Festival and, from that point on, mgill threw himself into the promotion of the club and annual festival in every possible way, as well as being a regular club singer. He took over the post of Organiser in 1978 and was responsible for the next two festivals, but continued in some capacity on the committee almost until the club, and festival, folded in 1998.

In 2001 various health problems loomed large, mostly all related to the diabetes mgill had contracted in early 1978. Those problems culminated with the amputation of his left leg below the knee in 2007, and further problems raised their head in September 2009. Although this could have ended up in further amputation, great work by the surgeon and the attendant staff has meant that the ulcer on mgill’s right heel has healed completely!

Various unseen medical problems, however, will keep him from touring - although he is able to perform individual gigs such as his acclaimed appearance in 2011 at the late Maggie Cruickshank’s 22nd annual cancer charity fund raising concert in Edinburgh along with Tich Frier, Tony Mitchell and Adam McNaughtan.

 

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