James Shaw Grant CBE, MA, LLD, FRAgS, FRSE,
historian; born May 22, 1910, died July 28, 1999
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James Shaw Grant and his late father William represented a remarkable link with the past, spanning nearly one hundred years of newspaper reporting in the Highlands and Islands. The elder Shaw Grant was an Inverness man, sent to Lewis in 1899 by the Highland News, which published a weekly page of reportage of the Western Isles. From this grew the legendary Stornoway Gazette which Shaw Grant set up and which James was to edit from 1932-1963.
Educated at the Nicolson Institute, Stornoway, James Shaw Grant went on to Glasgow University, from which he returned on graduating to edit his father's paper. His illustrious career as a reporter in the Western Isles was followed by many years of distinguished public service. Described as the ''Quango King'' long before sleaze and cronyism brought the acquisition of a role in public life into
disrepute, Shaw Grant first of all became chairman of the Crofters' Commission. He held the post until he retired in 1978. He joined the Highland Panel which was set up in 1947 as an advisory body to the Secretary of State, the precursor of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, set up in 1964. Mr Shaw Grant then sat on the Consultative Council advising the HIDB before eventually sitting on the Board himself from 1970 to 1982. He was also, over the years, a director of Grampian TV, a Governor of Eden Court Theatre and Pitlochry Theatre (of which he was also Chairman), a member of the Scottish Advisory Committee, British Council, a member of the Council of the National Trust for Scotland, and Chairman of the Harris Tweed Association.
James Shaw Grant was a great supporter of the Gaelic Society of Inverness and had contributed four papers to its Transactions in recent years, most notably one on ''Seventy years of newspaper reporting in the Hebrides''.
Where his father had reported on the greatest Lewis tragedy of this, or any century, the loss of the Iolaire with 200 lives on New Year's morning 1919, James reported on many other remarkable events during his own life-time, including the dramatic foundering of the Clan MacQuarrie off Lewis in 1963 in 100mph gales. He also reported on the first successful flights by jet plane across the Atlantic in both
directions, illegal trawling,
poaching, tuberculosis in the Western Isles, and a remarkable fight between two Pakistanis named Mohammed Ali and Ali Mohammed. He was the first point of contact for many years for the national press on their rare
forays to the West, and introduced strip cartoons with Gaelic captions to the Gazette.
James Shaw Grant was very much his own man; single-minded, a man of strong views and determination in everything he tackled. He believed, for instance, and with hindsight, that the reforming Lord Leverhulme, who introduced a measure of industrialisation to the Western Isles, and land raiders ''were both wrong''.
He had actively embraced modern technology, was a fit and eager walker, with an agile mind, a busy pen and a formidable command of the English language until his very last days. He had a wonderful style of writing, and leaves an astonishing legacy in terms of his accounts of the various incidents he witnessed and took part in.
He was a prolific author, publishing many books about the
history of the Western Isles, and Lewis in particular, most notably The Hub of my Universe (1983), Stornoway and the Lews (1985), A Shilling for your Scowl (1992), and Morrison of the Bounty (1997). A further volume, The Brown Sack Apron, is being prepared for publication by Acair Ltd of Stornoway. He also wrote several plays.
Although he never spoke Gaelic fluently (nothing unusual in people born and brought up in Stornoway, although Grant was not one of those who regarded the world as a suburb of the town), the Gaelic Society of Inverness, of which Grant was elected Chief in 1990 and Honorary Chieftain until his death, is greatly grieved to have lost two of its Chieftains within a week, following so closely on the death of Donald Archie Macdonald. Both, in their own ways, made huge contributions to Highland history and the work of the
Society. Mr Shaw Grant, who
died in Forresterhill Hospital, Aberdeen, after a short illness, was pre-deceased by his wife Catherine Mary Stewart, and is survived by his older brother Eric and nephew Roddy, both living in England.