Margaret (Maggie) Macrae was brought up with a strong vein of traditional music running through her household. With strong links to singing traditions from her parents and on both sides of her extended family, her love for song came easily and has lasted her whole life. Maggie took formal piano lessons as a child and continued playing in her adult life. Maggie spoke Scots fluently around her house and to this day still speaks to her sister in Scots.
Maggie went to Edinburgh University in the 1960s to do an MA in General Arts (consisting of French, German, History and Philosophy), and then went to complete a diploma in education from Queens University. It was on her return to Ayrshire that she became a teacher in schools, which coincided with her discovering the Traditional Music and Song Association (TMSA), which she describes as a life changing experience. Upon being involved with the TMSA, Maggie discovered numerous folk festivals that she has attended ever since, which have become pillars of her social calendar.
Maggie has found herself stepping in to run Kilmarnock Folk Club when it was likely to cease to exist because due to changing circumstances making it impossible for organisers to continue. This was the case in 1985, when although working full time as a History and Modern Studies teacher, she became the organiser of Kilmarnock Folk Club which continued for many years to present the best of traditional folk music and song. She describes one of her greatest loves is to step in when something is falling apart and fixing it up, which is exactly what she did with the folk club. It was also the case when she went on to be Artistic director of Girvan Traditional Folk Festival, which she ran between 1997-2018, making sure that the festival had an equal bill of large folk bands (eg, Lunasa) and more traditional acts like unaccompanied singers such as Irish traveller Thomas Carthy. Maggie also founded and ran East Ayrshire Festival for Dance for 10 years, which was designed to teach children Scottish country dances and provide them with a space to practice them in their community.
Maggie also wrote and published 3 books on Scots song and country dances that were distributed in schools across Ayrshire, making teaching of the tradition easy and accessible for students and teachers. Upon retirement Maggie toured some schools in East and South Ayrshire, teaching young people about their musical tradition and providing means to incorporate the material into the curriculum.
Extending her teaching from children to adult learners, Maggie has also been involved in teaching evening classes, specialising in ceilidh band workshops.
As well as her organising and teaching legacy, Maggie is an accomplished Scots singer. Inspired by legendary female source singers such as Lizzie Higgins, Jeanie Robertson, Sheila Stewart and Elizabeth Stewart, her vocals are matched by her knowledge of the repertoire. Her appreciation and deep knowledge of the singing tradition has seen her be an external examiner for the BMus Scots Song degree held at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
With an extensive career in education, events organising and performing amongst many other things, Maggie has put Ayrshire on Scotland’s cultural map. Her work with young people and facilitating their involvement with traditional music, alongside her tireless work running multiple festivals and a folk club has achieved exactly what she set out to do; leave Scottish traditional music for future the future generation.