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Authority record

MacPherson, John Alick

  • Person
  • November 12 1937 - August 31 2017

John Alick spent the first five years of his life in Leverburgh, Harris, then moved with his parents to Goular, North Uist. They lived, at first, with John’s paternal grandmother, before acquiring the house nearby, which would be the family home until the death of his parents. Like many Hebridean children of his era, he had to leave home at age 14 to complete his schooling, since no secondary school existed then in the Southern Western Isles. He went to Portree High School in Skye, which left him with many good memories. He went on to Edinburgh University for a degree in Celtic Studies and later, a teaching qualification from Jordanhill College of Education. He returned to Uist to teach school for a number of years in Paible School, before going to Glasgow and a position with the BBC Gaelic service.

A second career began in 1972, when he accepted a job with Atomic Energy of Canada, a prestigious pioneer in the nuclear energy industry. He was posted as information officer for this Crown Corporation to Glace Bay, in Cape Breton, where the company was building a heavy water plant. His arrival in Cape Breton coincided with the efforts of An Comunn Gaidhlig Cheap Breatuinn by a group of native speakers and learners determined to revive the language of their ancestors. His contribution to the cause came quickly and effectively, building on the group’s efforts to strengthen ties with the old country by way of introducing Gaelic in schools and mounting the first large scale visit to the Hebrides by descendants of the first settlers. John Alick’s support for the Gaelic Society initiative was a key to its success and opened a long break in communications between the Hebrides and Cape Breton. It was soon followed by the recruiting of Gaelic teachers from Scotland and a boost to the efforts of the Beaton Institute to preserve the music, language and dance of the Gaels.
During his years in Scotland, his experience in the nuclear field led him to be appointed to the UKAEA, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority board.

In his initial ‘retirement’ year, he was offered the job of managing information services for the Ottawa Civic Hospital during the consolidation of the three main hospitals in Ottawa, which kept him busy during a twelve month contract. Another unexpected, but welcome opportunity, came in 1997, when he was hired in Scotland by the Comataidh Craolaidh Gaidhlig, Gaelic Broadcasting Committee, as its deputy director. In this capacity, he contributed greatly to the shaping and development of the expansion and growth of Gaelic television, radio and education and never lost interest in the growth of Gaelic media culture, including the creation of BBC Alba, the Gaelic TV channel. At the invitation of the minister for Gaelic in the Scottish Government, Alasdair Morrison, he chaired a committee of experts and authored an influential report with recommendations for the future development of Gaelic.

Among his appointments, he was on the boards of Caledonia MacBrayne, Acair publishing, the Celtic Media Festival, Comhairle Nan Leabhraichean and Assynt Film Limited.
Originally designed to last for three years, the CCG job stretched to nine at the end of which, John Alick decided on a return to Cape Breton. During this time, he was an active, hands-on president of the Atlantic Gaelic Academy, an on-line Gaelic course, which attracts students from many countries. He also enjoyed his participation in the Mira Gaelic Choir and teaching a Gaelic class held at the local church hall.

One of the three books John Alick completed was a memoir, an interesting account of his life and hailed by readers as an outstanding example of Gaelic writing. He collaborated with Michael Linkletter in writing Fògradh, Fàisneachd, Filidheachd (Parting, Prophecy, Poetry) and his final work was translating Gaelic letters to the Cape Breton Gaelic newspaper MacTalla from John Munro, who left St. Anne’s, Cape Breton to live in Waipu, New Zealand.

John Alick passed away in Sydney on August 31, 2017.