Our Gaelic world today owes much to Freadaidh Dhomhnaill Bhain (Fred, son of fair Donald). As a broadcaster at the microphone, but more particularly as a highly skilled and wary executive in the corridors of the BBC, his vision and

his commitment to his community leaves us rich at his parting. Naturally, we mourn his death in Inverness at the age of 78, but we remember with pride and gratitude his achievements on our behalf.

Fred Ewen Gillies Macaulay carried the stamp of the Sollas, North Uist, community that bred him throughout his life. His early education was in the local school, from which he moved to Inverness Royal Academy as a teenager in the middle of the Second World War. As the war came to its end, he was a young officer in the Cameron Highlanders working on the fraught border between Italy and Yugoslavia. His duties in Italy included being part of a team who guarded a prison camp containing SS men and Ukrainian detainees.

It says much for the quality of that young man that he should be driving on holiday through the Scottish Borders a couple of years later only to be accosted by some men hoeing turnips in a roadside field. Taken slightly aback it took him some minutes to realise that here were some of his Ukrainian friends and aquaintances greeting him with joy.

Post war, Fred was faced with the problem shared by many young men of his ex-forces generation - what to do next. He thought of becoming a doctor, decided that was going to take more years than he wished, and did an arts degree at Edinburgh University. That led to a post as a tutor in Gaelic under Professor Jackson in Edinburgh, and in the companionship of the late Rev William Matheson, another major figure in Gaelic scholarship. It was an exciting time to be in Edinburgh. The School of Scottish Studies was on the horizon and a linguistic survey of Scottish languages and dialects was under way and Fred's skills were in demand.

The archives contain much of what he garnered. As he wandered the borders of

Gaelic and Lowland Scotland, elderly people in Braemar and Perthshire, the Trossachs, and Arran had no difficulty understanding his Uist Gaelic and responded happily in their own rich dialects of the same language. Fred also spoke English, of course. Among all this activity he found time to meet Sybil Thom from Edinburgh, his life-long support and now his widow. He had a keen sense of priorities.

In 1954 Fred joined the BBC's two-man, two-secretary Gaelic department at Queen Margaret Drive, Glasgow, with Hugh MacPhee from Ballachulish as his immediate boss. Aunty Beeb was in one of her rather austere periods at the time but, unnoticed and unannounced, Fred began a gentle and quiet revolution. Great folk singers such as Flora MacNeill - who didn't quite fit Aunty's notion that all song came from a Victorian drawing room with a piano, preferably grand - were suddenly on the airwaves accompanied by the BBC Scottish Orchestra, clearly to their mutual satisfaction and even to the grudging satisfaction of some Gaels who thought the only accompaniment to Gaelic song should be the sound of tackety boots on a stone floor.

Even middle-class city Gaels, who would occasionally admit their grannies once spoke the language but had been cured, could be heard to mutter that an orchestra was almost as good as a piano.

Fred also had the vision for distant, but attainable, horizons. He quickly realised the potential of portable one-

person tape recorders and used it memorably in a radio programme about the loss of the Iolaire in 1919. With skilful editing, and no narrator, a dozen or so of the dwindling band of survivors told of the horror of that dreadful night when some 200 Lewis and Harris men drowned on the Beasts of Holm, yards off their native shore.

By the time Fred succeeded Hugh MacPhee as head of Gaelic in 1964, winning extra producer and secretary posts as part of the bargain, he had worked out that VHF transmission would be the language's broadcasting future, whatever immediate shortcomings it might have. A mob of angry Gaels quickly formed at the doors of Queen Margaret Drive, demanding to know why their language had been banished from medium wave transmission. Fred smiled quietly and let his superiors face the questioners.

That was in the mid-1970s. In the previous 10 years, much of them under Alasdair Milne's time as controller at BBC Scotland, Fred had explored

and expanded the needs and range of Gaelic programming, encouraging young production talent into his camp, producing light entertainment television programmes such as Se Ur Beatha which bemused the Beeb hierarchy by attracting eight times as many viewers as their were Gaelic speakers, and opening strands of current affairs programming.

But by these same mid- 1970s, BBC Scotland wanted to move Gaelic affairs out of Glasgow. Fred disagreed and, despite some rather nasty attempts to move him from his post, showed all the charactaristics of a Hebridean limpet clinging to its rock till the storm was over. When it had passed Fred took his command of Gaelic programming to Inverness as manager of the bilingual Radio Highland station until his retirement in 1984.

Retirement is probably a word he didn't quite understand. During his years of service to the BBC he still found time to produce a book of Domhnall Ruadh Choruna's poems, Donald Macdonald, a bard of his native Uist; various Gaelic publications carry his own poems under the name Eoghan Gilios, his own middle names in his own language. In his latter years his energies were channelled through various avenues, particularly the Gaelic Society of Inverness.

Fred enjoyed good company and a decent modicum of good whisky or red wine. Long silences he abhorred and usually broke them by throwing a verbal firework and sitting with an innocent, genial smile while everyone livened up. At home, he and Sybil were generous hosts. They have a son, two daughters, and three grandchildren.

Fred Macaulay, broadcaster; born January 1, 1925, died February 15, 2003.