Fergie: ‘My first thought was my dad and how proud he’d be of his son getting an MBE’

Fergie MacDonald at the Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge. PHOTOGRAPH: IAIN FERGUSON, ALBA.PHOTOS NO F02 Fergie Macdonald 03
Fergie MacDonald at the Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge. PHOTOGRAPH: IAIN FERGUSON, ALBA.PHOTOS NO F02 Fergie Macdonald 03

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Well-known figures from Scotland’s traditional music scene have been queuing up to pay tribute to Moidart’s ‘Ceilidh King’, Fergie MacDonald, after the legendary accordionist was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List.

Fort William’s Gary Innes, a member of group Manran and host of BBC Radio Scotland’s Take the Floor programme, was joined by Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band member and one of the most sought-after fiddlers in Scotland, Iain MacFarlane, among those sending their congratulations.

And fellow accordionist Phil Cunningham, who has achieved worldwide fame as part of his duo with Shetland fiddle legend Aly Bain was among the first to offer his congratulations when news broken early on Thursday morning that Fergie was included in this year’s recipents.

Fergie, 83, who lives at Mingarry near Acharacle, said he was ‘humbled’ by the award which was in recognition of his services to Scottish traditional music in a career spanning almost 70 years.

He told the Lochaber Times this week: ‘I got the letter notifying me I had been included on the honours list quite a while ago, but you’re basically sworn to secrecy not to say anything. So as soon as the news went public early on Thursday, the phone calls and messages started arriving.

‘The first call came at 7.30am when I was still in bed and it continued all day and then all the next day as well – in fact there were so many calls I could hardly find time to get to the loo on occasion!

‘Phil Cunningham, who’s a good friend, was among the first to send his congratulations. He’s been doing an impression of ‘Fergie’ at his shows for about 25 years and told me he’s now having to amend it to include the MBE!’

Mr Innes told the Lochaber Times: ‘There are not many folk in this world that can say they have been performing on stage for over seven decades and are still going strong.

Gary Innes. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

‘Fergie is a character and musician like no other and over his lifetime his dedication to traditional music has been immense so it’s only proper it has been recognised in this way and honoured with an MBE from the Queen.

‘And remember Ma’am, when you meet Fergie you, too, are in the presence of royalty, a King in fact. Long long live the Ceilidh King!’

And Mr MacFarlane added: ‘Fergie is an extraordinary example of someone who has dedicated his life to his music and culture which he loves. He also has an amazing ability to adapt and reinvent his music, hence his longevity and success in the industry.’

Fergie went on to pay tribute to all the outstanding musicians who have featured in his band over the decades, as well as thanking his legion of fans and his family for their enduring support.

And more than 50 albums  later, the man held up as an inspiration by so many of his fellow musicians, says he intends to keep going for as long as possible, even releasing his 51st album during lockdown, which featured other well-known musicians and his granddaughter Ciara MacDonald.

However, it was not musicians who were Fergie’s immediate thought after news of his MBE went public, but rather his late father, John Ton MacDonald.

It his recent book, The Moidart Sniper, Fergie told the story of his father who served during the First World War with the famous Lovat Scouts Sharpshooters.

‘The MBE is an amazing honour. But the first thing I thought of was my father and people like him who knew death could be just around the corner every single day for four years,’ said Fergie.

‘It’s men like these who should get honours. But my father and I were very close and I think he would have been extremely happy and very proud to have seen his son get this award.’

Other recipients from the Lochaber Times’ circulation area to receive honours – both also MBEs –  are Kenneth MacKay for services to the community in Rhenigidale, on Harris, and Kenneth Neil MacDonald, from Lewis, for voluntary service to dentistry and dental training abroad.

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Fergie MacDonald, who has been awarded an MBE for his  at the Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge. PHOTOGRAPH: IAIN FERGUSON, ALBA.PHOTOS

NO F02 Fergie Macdonald 03