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Alastair MacFadyen was born in 1936 in Cumberland. He was educated in Carlisle before studying History and Spanish at Liverpool University where he graduated with a Phd. He spent some years working in the diplomatic archives at Simancas near Valladolid in Spain. After that he moved to Leicester to teach at a boys grammar school. In 1966 he took a teaching post at Jordanhill Collage of Education, Glasgow where he remained working until his retirement in 1990.
As a child MacFadyen attend the children’s country dance class of the Carlisle and Borders Branch of An Comunn Gàidhealach. In the early 1950s he joined the Carlisle and Boarders branch of the RSCDS. He briefly gave up Scottish country dancing while attending university in Liverpool and living in Spain, however he continued to attend Summer School during this period. On his arrival in Glasgow he joined the RSCDS branch there. He was an active member, serving on the organising committee and later became branch Chairman. MacFadyen began teaching in the early 1960s and got his preliminary certificate in 1968. He taught at Glasgow branch for over 30 years as well as taking classes at weekend schools and Summer School from the 1970s. He later served as an examiner and this work took him all over the world on behalf of the RSCDS, including a 6 week tour in 1983 of Asia, Australia and New Zealand. MacFadyen also represented the Society as an adjudicator at festivals across the UK.
In 1975 MacFadyen was elected to the RSCDS Executive Council and was asked to serve on the Research and Publications Committee. In 1978 he was asked to set up the RSCDS Archive. He served as Honorary Archivist until 1986. He was elected Chairman of the Society in 1985-1988. He also chaired of the working party set up to revise The Scottish Country Dance Manual in 1988 and again in 1992. In 2007 he was appointed Honorary President of the Society, a post he held until 2013
MacFadyen is a prolific researcher of Scottish country dances, contributing many ‘lost’ dances to RSCDS publications, most notably ‘Book 34’. He has written articles on the subject for numerous publications and has published two books on the RSCDS itself, ‘Dance With Your Soul’, 1983 co-written with Florence Adams and ‘An Album for Mrs Stewart’ in 1988. He also wrote and presented the DVD ‘Scotland Dancing Again.