Scottish Society honors 104-year-old founder Duncan MacDonald

Bagpipes pay tribute outside Henrietta Brewer House.

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Members of the Scottish Society Ed Pierce, Bruce McNamee, Rev. Leo Christian and Deborah Medders visited with 104-year-old Vineayrd Haven resident Duncan MacDonald, center. — Lexi Pline

The sound of bagpipes outside the Henrietta Brewer House in Tisbury drew neighbors and friends to celebrate one of the original founders of the Martha’s Vineyard Scottish Society.

Duncan MacDonald, a 104-year-old former New York Times radio broadcaster and founder of the M.V. Scottish Society, sat outside on the back porch of the Henrietta Brewer assisted living facility and clapped as Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee stood at a safe distance and played classic Scottish songs on his bagpipes.

A number of other Scottish Society members and past presidents joined in the ceremony, all wearing traditional kilts, tartans, sporrans, and gillies.

According to Deborah Medders, a member of the Scottish Society, MacDonald grew up in Texas, where she became heavily involved in Scottish culture and history. She lived in her own home until she was 100 years old, before moving into the Henrietta Brewer House.

Medders said MacDonald has been sheltering in place ever since the start of the pandemic, and said the Scottish Society wanted to honor her and give her a little joy on a sunny day. “It’s perfect weather for it. We want to give back and celebrate someone who has been and is so dedicated to her Scottish roots and to the Scottish culture here on the Vineyard,” Medders said.

Ed Pierce, a former president of the Scottish Society, said he was ready to rally behind this effort the minute he was notified. “I think it’s a great thing to do for Duncan,” Pierce said.

Once the procession moved from the front of the building to the back lawn where MacDonald sat on the porch, the Rev. Leo Christian arrived and greeted his friends and fellow members.

Christian too was dressed in full Scottish regalia, and waved at MacDonald as she listened to the bagpipes.

All involved were wearing masks and stood at six-foot distances as they walked around the yard and thanked MacDonald for her dedication to the society and to the Island.

The only time McNamee took his mask off was when he was playing his bagpipes.

Many neighbors stopped in the middle of their yard work or their lunches and walked to the fence where McNamee could be seen playing his bagpipes in the corner of the lawn under the shade of a large oak tree. The group began to stomp and clap along with the music in a traditional highland dance.

Year-round neighbor Donna McElroy was thrilled to hear the sound of bagpipes coming from the Henrietta Brewer House, but she was even more excited to see them being played. “I have heard bagpipes and always loved their beautiful sound, but I had never seen them played in person. It’s very powerful,” McElroy said. She thanked McNamee for giving his time so willingly, and said his efforts are well-received: “This was a very nice surprise.”

Before McNamee played the procession back over to the front of the building, he thanked MacDonald for bringing the Scottish Society to the Island. 

“Thank you very much for putting all this together here on the Vineyard,” McNamee said.

As the group waved and said their goodbyes, MacDonald thanked all who attended for giving her a special celebration.

“My first music that I heard when I was very young and living in Texas was Scottish music,” MacDonald said. “This really brings me home.”