Strathspey-Herald article

Strathspey-Herald article

June 20th 2024

ANYONE can see Kingussie’s Festival of Words, which returns today (Thursday) is the real Mc- Coy - but now they can learn just why.

Visiting this week is the author of a book which explains just how the expression came into the w orld.

Formerly of Kingussie - indeed, one of the original ‘Town of Little Festivals’ pioneers - Helen Gra- ham is bringing her brand new book with her.

The Real MacKay, her debut novel, is a real eye-opener.

She explained: “‘I began re- searching my ancestors about 12 years ago, shortly before I moved to Edinburgh, and discovered the story of Charles Mackay, Sir Wal- ter Scott’s favourite comedian, which had been passed down the family as a tantalising soundbite
for generations.
“Before long I was hooked and

decided to write a book.
“It’s been an incredible journey,

gathering everything I could find about my five times great uncle from all manner of documents, books and letters over covering about seven years and weaving it all into a story.’
HELEN GRAHAM : debut novel is the real McCoy at explaining the origin of the term.

“The adoption of the phrase ‘The Real Mackay’ by Scottish whisky company ‘Mackay and Co’ didn’t happen until 1870, 13 years after Mackay had died and the phrasing had been long been popularised.

“It soon found its way to Amer- ica, along with the whisky, where it had been transformed into The Real McCoy by the prohibition era of the 1920s.”

Her beautifully-conceived novel was published by Troubador on May 28 and is out across the world on Amazon and other platforms, but also available in bookshops across Scotland.

It ’s a s eamless new ‘ar m’ of w ork
for a remarkable writer, who has nailed a memoir, a poetry antho- logy and several volumes of family history books, directed several award-winning short films, com- posed and recorded numerous songs and co-founded a film festiv- al.

She has also worked as a knit- wear designer, renovated historic buildings and raised a family.

She has three children and five grandchildren and lives in Edin- burgh.

The versatile author will be at the Caberfeidh first class second hand book shop on the High Street to- morrow (Friday) from 3pm.