Macaulay, Kenneth (DNB00)


MACAULAY, KENNETH (1723–1779), alleged author of a ‘History of St. Kilda,’ was the third son of Aulay Macaulay (1673–1758), minister of Harris in the Hebrides, by Margaret Morison. He was educated at King's College, Aberdeen, where he graduated M.A. on 1 April 1742. On 15 Nov. 1749 he was appointed missionary to Lochaber, but declined it, and on 20 Nov. 1751 he was ordained as assistant and successor to his father, whom he succeeded as sole pastor in 1750. In 1761 he was presented by Archibald, duke of Argyll, to the parish of Ardnamurchan, Argyllshire, and was admitted there on 15 July. On 10 Oct. 1772 he was translated to Braaven, now known as Calder or Cawdor.

Macaulay was sent by the kirk on a special mission to St. Kilda in 1759, and published as his own composition in 1764 ‘History of St. Kilda, containing a Description of this Remarkable Island, the Manners and Customs of its Inhabitants, the Religious and Pagan Antiquities there found, with many other curious and interesting particulars.’ The volume was shown to Dr. Johnson by Boswell previous to his visit to the Hebrides in 1773. Johnson pronounced it ‘very well written, except some foppery about liberty and slavery.’ With Boswell he visited Macaulay on his journey to the Hebrides, and from conversation with him came to the conclusion that he could not have written the book. ‘There is,’ he said, ‘a combination in it of which Macaulay is not capable.’ Johnson may have been partly influenced in his opinion by a discussion he had on the English clergy with Macaulay, who was by no means respectful towards episcopal claims. Johnson pronounced him a ‘bigot to laxness.’ Boswell was told that the book had been written by Dr. John Macpherson of Skye from materials supplied by Macaulay, and this is confirmed by Croker.

Macaulay died on 2 March 1779, in his fifty-sixth year. By his wife, Penelope Macleod, whom he married on 4 Aug. 1758, he had a son Niel, who became a missionary minister at Harris.

[Hew Scott's Fasti Eccles. Scot. iii. 81, 138, 249; Boswell's Life of Johnson, and Tour in the Hebrides.]

T. F. H.