Hugh William Mackay, Chief of Clan Mackay Dies

It is with sadness that we announce the death of Hugh William Mackay, 14th Lord Reay, Baron Mackay and Chief of

Lord Reay 1937-2013

Lord Reay 1937-2013

Clan Mackay. A distinguished parliamentarian, Mackay served in the House of Lords, held office for a short time in the Thatcher government and later sat for six years in the European Parliament. Mackay died in London on May 10 2013 aged 75 following a short illness. One of two Scottish elected hereditary peers who survived Blair’s Parliamentary reforms of 1999, Mackay’s death has triggered a rare by-election to appoint his successor in the House of Lords.

Born on July 19 1937 in Edinburgh, Mackay was the only son of Aeneas Alexander Mackay, 13th Lord Reay, and his wife Charlotte (née Younger). Mackay was educated at Eton College and Christ Church in Oxford where his sharp dress sense was first noted. He was living in Holland when his father died in 1963, inheriting the titles of Lord, Chief, Baronet of Farm (a Nova Scotia title originally bestowed on an ancestor by James VI) and the Barony of Ophemert and Zennewijnen (created in 1822 by King William I of Netherlands). With this latter title came the picturesque 16th-century manor house, Ophemert Castle in the Netherlands.

The Chief and his lady Victoria at the Gathering in 2009

The Chief and his lady Victoria at the Gathering in 2009

Lady Elizabeth Fairbairn, Hugh’s sister and president of the Clan Mackay Society, said her brother spoke with authority on a number of subjects related to the north of Scotland – especially the Highland Clearances. Mackay attended the Clan Gathering in Edinburgh 2009, walking the Royal Mile parade in Mackay tartan, and later spoke enthusiastically at the Mackay tent of the work being done at the Clan Mackay Room at the Strathnaer Museum in Sutherland. He also spoke of his love for Edinburgh, saying: “I have always had a 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 Clan Mackay.”

Mackay entered the House of Lords as a cross-bencher and played a prominent role in the abolition of capital punishment in 1965, joining the Liberals soon afterwards. However, disapproving of the party’s standing as a genuinely ‘national’ party he returned to the cross-benchers before joining the Conservatives in 1971. Upon the UK’s entry to the Common Market in 1973, Mackay was one of eight peers nominated to serve in the European Parliament. After the Parliament’s first public election in 1979, he was nominated to the Council of Europe which he served in until 1986. During this time his increasingly hawkish attitude on defence issues attracted the attention of Margaret Thatcher who appointed him as a Lord-in-Waiting or junior whip. Thatcher’s successor John Major appointed Mackay as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), however he decided to leave Parliament less than a year later. He joined the Select Committee on the European Communities, also chairing its food and agriculture subcommittee, until 1999. Mackay stayed a member of the House of Lords until 2013.

During his political career Mackay’s support of environmental issues was mixed – On behalf of the Department of the Environment he had to oppose pressure for the phasing out of CFC gases, however one of his first announcements at the DTI was a package of grants for recycling. As recently as May 2012 Mackay sponsored legislation to define minimum distances between wind turbines and residential premises, however during a debate on renewable energy he dismissed wind power as a pointless gesture towards an economically crippling green ideology. Mackay was also strongly against further EU integration, gay marriage and caused controversy when he suggested that Britain recognised the Dalai Lama as a spiritual (rather than a political) leader only.

Mackay married Annabel Therese Fraser in 1964, youngest daughter of the 17th Lord of Lovat, and had two sons and daughters. They divorced in 1978, and in 1980 Mackay married Victoria Warrender, daughter of the 1st Lord of Bruntsfield, having two daughters. His elder son, Aeneas Simon Mackay – Master of Reay, born in 1965, succeeds the titles including the chieftainship of Clan Mackay. The funeral is likely to be on the 23rd of May in Lancashire with a Memorial Service in London to be held at a later date.


About Nadine Lee

Originally from New Zealand, Nadine is a documentary researcher now based in the north east of Scotland.

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