Born 1955, west coast of Scotland. Early life spent on Isle of Arran where I developed a love of the mountains and the sea – my two playgrounds. Father’s job involved several relocations on the mainland of Scotland, very disruptive, missed Arran and closeness to Nature. Gaelic not officially taught in school but a music teacher taught us Gaelic songs along with their translation to English, how the grammar worked etc. This introduced me to the world of traditional Celtic/Gaelic music and language – a passion I still retain. Finished formal education at age fifteen with no academic qualifications.
Spent many years working for the Department of Health and Social Security as a fraud investigator. This experience honed my inquisitive mind and taught me how to rely on hunches and spot things that were ‘not quite right’ and worthy of investigation. This helped tremendously when I started to write books – I realized I could ‘read between the lines’ as it were and tease out deeper and different meanings to words and concepts that other authors had overlooked or simply not been aware of.
It was a risky and sometimes dangerous job and after my third close encounter with the IRA, and the murder of two Special Branch officers, I decided it was time to quit and head back to Arran. Myself and several friends started a traditional music and arts festival there which is still going strong 30 years later. I had the great pleasure of meeting and working with many of the musicians I had admired since early teens.
In 1992 my first book, “The Irish Celtic Magical Tradition,” was published and remained in print for over twenty years. In 1993 I was invited to represent the Celtic peoples at the “Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions” in Chicago – a prestigious event with over 4,000 attendees and well in excess of 130 religions represented. Five more books followed over the next two decades.
I moved to the USA in 1995, to Northern California, where I co-founded another large traditional music and arts festival in Sebastopol, California. I also had an FM radio show featuring Celtic music. After a few years in CA I moved to Alaska which I loved. I had found the inner, spiritual contact with the land in California was very difficult. I could feel it was there but somehow it was shutting me out. However, in Alaska, my contact with the Green World came flooding back in a torrent, just as it had in Arran.
While in Alaska, I was offered a job as a historian on a Russian expedition cruise ship, run by a Canadian company, which was making a full circumnavigation of the British Isles, then on to Faroes, Iceland and Greenland. I fell in love with this peculiar way of life and have been doing it ever since, more than twenty-five years, now mainly with National Geographic. I’ve visited some 70+ countries and been to Antarctica 40+ times to lead groups.
While working on a Nat Geo ship, I met Jennifer who was also a staff member. We got married in 2011 and I moved to Beacon, New York, where she had been based for many years. We started our own travel business called “The Wee Tour Company” taking small private groups to Scotland. It is our intention to return to Scotland permanently once the COVID-19 situation stabilizes.