Biography of Reverend Professor Murdo Ewen Macdonald
Reverend Professor Murdo Ewen Macdonald
Reverend Professor Murdo Ewen Macdonald (Padre Mac), considered by many as one of Scotland’s greatest preachers, joined Trinity College, University of Glasgow, as Professor of Practical Theology in 1966. He came from a successful ministry in St George’s West, Edinburgh, where he had established the highest reputation as a preacher and a pastor. He used his skills to teach students in the Faculty about enter the ministry and was also a guest lecturer and preacher during visits to the USA.
Murdo Ewen was born on 28th August 1914 on Harris and was a Gaelic speaker. He was educated at Drinishadder School in the Bays of Harris before winning bursaries to Tarbert and then Kingussie Secondary schools. He then progressed to St Andrew’s University in 1933 to study arts and divinity. During his studies, he became the Scottish Universities middle-weight boxing champion. Macdonald’s calling was to the parish ministry of the Church of Scotland and he was inducted in June 1939, and accepted a call to Portree. His ministry in Portree was interrupted, however, by the call to arms.
In April 1940 he was commissioned as chaplain to the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. He met his future wife, Betty Russell, during his first overseas mission to Aruba in the Caribbean. In 1942 Murdo Ewen joined the First Parachute Brigade and during a mission to capture an airfield in North Africa in November 1942, he was wounded and taken prisoner. He ended up in Stalag Luft III and became involved with the escape attempt that would inspire the film ‘The Great Escape’. His job was to dispose of sand dug from the tunnel. During his time in the Stalag Luft III, Murdo Ewen became chaplain to the American forces held there and this became one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. He was awarded the American Bronze Star medal for his leadership and counselling of the American soldiers.
After the war Murdo Ewen accepted a call to Old Partick where he became an industrial chaplain to the shipyards from 1947-49. His reputation led to a call from St George’s West in Edinburgh and he spent 16 years there, while also travelling abroad as a preacher and lecturer. He was then appointed as Professor of Practical Theology at Trinity College, University of Glasgow, in 1966. He was a very popular professor and won many friends among the staff and students of the University.
Murdo never forgot his Highland roots and his love of mountains. He was a skilled climber and climbed all the Munros of Scotland.
Reverend Professor Murdo Ewen Macdonald retired from the University in 1984. He died in Glasgow, aged 89, on 6th June 2004.
The University of Glasgow Archive Services recently acquired a collection of Professor Murdo Ewen Macdonald’s papers (ACCN 3794).