Dictionary spot for laird’s son turned US folk singer

Published on Thursday 5 January 2012 00:25

An OLD Etonian son of a Scottish laird who turned down a place at Cambridge University to take the sound of Scottish folk to the United States has been given a place in Britain’s leading record of contemporary lives.

Folk singer Alexander “Eck” McEwen, who travelled with his brother Rory to America in 1955, performing Scottish ballads and other traditional tunes, was a surprising new entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography yesterday. Other Scottish names added to the roster of influential figures in British life, included former player manager Tommy Burns, who scored 92 goals for Celtic FC. Another was the actress Eileen Herlie, best known for playing Gertrude, the mother of Hamlet, on stage and screen. She, like Mr McEwen and Mr Burns, died in 2008.

The McEwen brothers, who appeared on the famous Ed Sullivan Show in America, returned to major concert and broadcasting careers in Britain and Scotland. Alex McEwen later became an Edinburgh-based personnel director for John Menzies. More than 200 new entries were added to the dictionary yesterday. They included authors Harold Pinter and Sir Arthur C Clarke, Scottish poet and historian Angus Calder, and judges Lords Macfadyen and Elliott.