THE BBC Scotland journalist, Iain MacDonald, was on Friday evening presented with the Barron Trophy, for services to journalism in the Highlands and Islands. The presentation was made at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards, with Highland Council’s head of PR, Gordon Fyfe, saying the following about him …
Each year, we present the Barron Trophy in recognition of lifetime achievement to journalism in the Highlands and Islands. Tonight, I am delighted to pay tribute to Iain MacDonald, a past Journalist of the Year and committed trade unionist, who for more than 41 years has informed and entertained us with his pearls of wisdom.
Iain was born in 1950 – the year the Barron Trophy was donated by Evan Barron, the late owner/editor of the Inverness Courier for the local journalist considered to be the best at work and play. Tailor made for Iain.
He is recognised the length and breadth of the Highlands as much for his exploits in gathering stories as he is for uncovering and delivering the news. He is welcomed in many communities as a long lost friend because he goes beyond the story to establish close and trusting relationships.
Many community leaders have listened to Iain delivering a 7am Good Morning Scotland broadcast in wonderment, having left him only hours earlier at a local ceilidh, tapping on any drum he could get his hands and enjoying the company of local people.
It is true he did not meet every early morning deadline and there is still a D-notice on his exploits at the Royal National Mod in Oban some years ago when the mic went dead during a live broadcast.
After his formal education, Iain held a number of jobs including working as a door-to-door salesman and in a zoo, which he says set him up nicely for a career in journalism and working with politicians. He cut his teeth in journalism in Aberdeen with DC Thomson. He quickly established that writing a music column got you loads of free records to review, free tickets to the top concerts and the chance to meet rock stars, such as Rod Stewart. For a spell he worked as a roadie with Deep Purple.
He moved to Inverness in 1973, joining the Highland News, He then edited the Football Times before its untimely demise in 1977.
A Hearts supporter, Iain’s own footballing exploits should not be under-estimated. You have to be crazy to be a goalie. Iain played in goal for Inverness amateur sides, Dalneigh and Diriebught Thistle, and on a number of occasions for the Highland Press Corps.
He was known as the ‘Cat’. You might think this for his agility between the posts. But no, a teammate told me, it was because on his way home from the pub following a game he would piss in everyone’s garden.
At the time people asked what Iain had in common with Michael Jackson. The answer was that they both wore gloves for no apparent reason.
Iain joined the BBC in June 1977 and since then he has covered every story of significance and many more of insignificance. His nose for a story has sniffed out Naked Ramblers and cashed in on international bank crashes. I am thinking of BCCI. He has been with us for so long he’s seen more islands bridged than he had had lunches at Café 1.
No community land purchase party is complete without Iain, who has sampled history and whisky in Assynt, Eigg, Gigha and South Uist.
Iain will tell you that land reform has been his favourite story to cover over the years and he wants to see much more of this.
He has gone from lugging a reel-to-reel Uher and cutting quarter-inch tape to becoming a modern multi-media journalist working in digital news – on radio, on TV, online or, as he might say, “doing f…… everything”.
His nomination was penned by Craig Swan, news editor of the Beeb at Culduthel Road [in Inverness] and currently on manoeuvres in Afghanistan.
He said: “Iain has forgotten more about the Highlands and Islands than many will every know … and he can still talk, drink and swear the hindlegs off almost anyone. But most of all he can write and write beautifully. He captures a story, conveys a mood and unpicks the intracacies of Highland and Islands life with humour, sometimes outrage and always with great objectivity and insight.”
Iain is still waking in the wee hours to drive across the Highlands for an early morning live interview for Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme. It might be cold, dark and wet but his enthusiasm for broadcasting is still strong.
The doyen of broadcasting in the Highlands and Islands, is very much alive and kicking and we look forward to many more years of top-quality journalism.