Fr Alexander MacDougall (Maighstir Alastair)

This is Fr Alexander MacDougall (Maighstir Alastair). He was born in Morar in 1859 and studied for the priesthood in England, France, and Glasgow. He was ordained in 1890 and first served for a few months in Eriskay before taking up the charge of St Mary’s, Benbecula, where he was parish priest until 1903. He served as parish priest of St Peter’s, Dalibugh, until 1920; Glenfinnan 1920-1921; Castlebay 1921-25; Knoydart 1925-1939. He retired then to Bracara and died there in 1944 in his 85th year.

While at Benbecula he was one of the foremost people behind the building of the pier at Petersport. It was while he was there that he was the main instigator behind the first games that were held in the Uists in modern times. He paid all the expenses of the Games held at Ardivachar in 1898 and was the chief organiser. He led the bachelor’s team in the tug of war and the parish priest of Ardkenneth, Fr Angus MacRae, led the married men’s team! Piping competitions were held along with running and throwing weights and, according to the report in the Oban Times, 300 people attended the gathering. It took place on January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany. The next Games were held at Nunton in 1905 and finally settled in their permanent home of Askernish machair in 1909. Apart from the first one held at Ardivachar, the South UIst Games ‘moved’ with Fr MacDougall who appears to have been the most active and enthusiastic member of the organising committee.

Fr MacDougall was also one of the founding members of the South UIst Piping Society established in 1908/1909 and took on the duties of organising secretary while he was parish priest of Daliburgh. It was this Society which arranged for piping tuition to be offered annually by Pipe Major John MacDonald of Inverness and his successors and which sustained the structure upon which the golden years of South Uist piping was built.

Fr MacDougall was clearly a significant ‘player’ in the life of the community of South Uist and Benbecula for thirty years. He seems to have been ‘politically’ involved if by that one means attempting to improve the position of the people. Fr Allan mentions that Fr MacDougall visited him once but all he spoke about was the politics of the School Boards!

Article by Fr. Michael J. MacDonald