RON MACKAY: 14 October 1923 – 18 May 2017

Richie Venton remembers lifelong peace activist, teacher and much-loved socialist Ron Mackay

It is with profound sadness and sense of loss we have to announce the death of SSP member and good friend to many of us, Ron Mackay.

Ron, aged 93, was a lifelong socialist and peace activist, and above all an inspiration to several generations who wanted to cleanse the world of war and hunger, and of their roots in the capitalism he detested with every fibre of his body.

Ron – fighting on in 2015 (photo: Craig Maclean)

Ron was a dedicated activist for his beliefs. He faced arrest several times during anti-nuclear weapons protests spanning over 50 years. And to illustrate that his activism never waned, he climbed up lampposts in his 80s to mount SSP election placards!

But he was also a man of immense knowledge, broad reading and profound wisdom.

Ron was a Physics teacher, whose career prospects were stymied after being arrested for protesting at the Holy Loch American nuclear base near Dunoon in 1962, on a day when – as Ron told the Faslane Peace Camp rally a full 51 years later – the jails were full of fellow anti-war protesters in Argyll, Ayrshire and Renfrewshire.

Ron was a living link for those dedicated to socialism and peace for most of the 20th century and this new millennium.

His father and grandfather were conscientious objectors in the First World War, his 18-year-old father citing his socialist and Christian beliefs as grounds for refusing to go to the imperialist slaughter.

Ron was born in October 1923.

His parents both joined the Communist Party during the 1926 general strike, when the workers of the UK were within touching distance of taking power and constructing a socialist future.

Music, and a fanatical love of bridge, were his other great passions, alongside his politics.
As a young man Ron followed them into the party, and in later life was inspired to be an active, dedicated, generous member of the SSP, which he saw as the hope for building a viable vehicle of socialist change in Scotland.

He remained a loyal, active SSP member to the very end of his life, appearing at many a demo and street stall to liven things up with the saxophone he learnt to play so skillfully after his retirement from teaching. Music, and a fanatical love of bridge, were his other great passions, alongside his politics.

Even in the last couple of years, when age began to reduce his ability to charge round doors leafleting like people a quarter his age, Ron contributed to spreading the SSP’s anti-war and socialist message through his prolific letter writing, to the likes of the Herald.

A living link for those dedicated to socialism and peace for most of the 20th century and this new millennium.
Every contribution he made, whether spoken or written, displayed his immense intelligence and vast experience. Yet it was conveyed with quiet modesty, another hallmark of this lovely, warm man.

Ron regaling everyone at Faslane Peace Camp.

Warm, friendly and immensely generous, Ron was also a strong-willed, determined fighter, whose strength not only sustained his own struggles for peace and socialism over his long lifetime, but inspired and sustained that of others of lesser willpower.

Ron was a red thread to past generations of socialists, and we will dedicate ourselves to making sure that thread remains unbroken.
In doing so, we offer our warmest condolences to his four children – John, Jean, Morag and Jim – his seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, all of whom he was immensely proud and often spoke of fondly to us. They are lucky to have had such a man in their midst, as are the entire socialist and anti-war movement.

Goodbye Ron, we will miss you sorely, but pledge to continue the fight you devoted decades to.


Sandra Webster remembers a dear friend and comrade – whom she stood shoulder to shoulder in pursuit of a better nuclear-free world.

The Well Red Bookclub

I first met Ron at the gates of Faslane at a protest. I loved to hear him talk about his Polaris campaigning and being arrested for peace. A strange coincidence but my daughter told me this morning she had dreamed of Ron playing the Sax at the North Gate at Faslane.

He loved his saxophone and lead us in the rendition of The Internationale. He also played in the Haggis at our Burns Supper as well as performing the immortal memory. I remember on the Royal Wedding Day as well as bringing his sax he brought a deckchair and his panama hat. It was a beautiful day where we as socialists enjoyed each others company in Brodie Park where the worker’s sma shot march begins every day. His friends in Campsie also organised a 90th Birthday party for him where so many people came together to wish him well. He was so humble but loved and respected by so many. Lives would be touched and enriched by him.

Ron and Sandra, at the ballet!

I will always remember that Ron took me to my first and only ballet, Coppelia in Edinburgh. He was so proud of his grandsons who are both ballet dancers and I got the opportunity to meet his grandson as well as a great day with Ron.

Ron really meant so much to everyone and I hope we will always remember a very special man who meant so much to us all. The world has been changed by him and we will all miss him but my wish is we carry his beliefs and fidelity onwards and most of all his kindness.

Wishing much love to everyone who knew him especially his family and many friends. I know that he was visited almost daily. I was lucky enough to see him last week when he was frail but still was Ron. Thanks to his comrades who visited him through his last months.

He was a special man who meant so much to everyone whose life he touched. A philanthropist who helped many causes and a very special man who will be sorely missed not just for what he did but who he was and always will be. I will carry on your legacy, Ron. I think we all will and strive to be like you.

Comments 1

  1. Wonderful tributes for a wonderful, inspirational man who did so much for the young people he taught, for the political groups he was part of and the individuals who counted him as a friend and comrade. Ron will always be remembered by those who got to know him through the SSP, CND and Campsie branch (which sometimes met in his house-and a lot in the village hall he helped save for the Milton of Campsie community).

    Ron’s huge energy for helping in the fight for a fairer world was still outstripping us only a matter of months ago. And a visit to his house, even in the past few months, was one in which he was writing letters and suggesting solutions to some of the awful machinations of the right.

    Ron, at Campsie branch SSP, used to sit patiently and listen to our debates and discussions – the same sort of debates and discussions I am very sure he had heard a thousand times during his life as a Communist Party member. And then, sagely, he would bring us all together with his wider view of the problems of war and poverty and how we could -and should- be fighting together as socialists to end both of these capitalist scourges.

    Ron was an incredibly kind man – the good will not be interred with him. He has inspired many, many people.

    Neil Scott; ex-Campsie Branch comrade, and friend of Ron Mackay.

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