St. John the EvangelistÂ Church, Cumnock, whereÂ MacMillan began playing the organ under hisÂ grandfather's influenceÂ
IÂ am not actually a child of the Sixties, although I almost was. Born in July 1959, I had a fairly contented, provincial Scottish boyhood when all the strange social convulsions were going on elsewhere. You needed to be a fully-fledged urban teenager or twenty-something brat in that decade to be fully touched and muddled by all its shenanigans. I reached my own personal brat-hood round about 1976 and I stayed that way till my first child arrived in 1990.
It is interesting to reflect now on what was held up as appropriate thinking and behaviour for an artist during that phase; and I can see the same orthodoxies at work in the "artistic community" even now. The cherished values of generations through our shared history, the deep-rootedness of paradigmatic, civilised structures and human relationships have been under siege from some determined enemies. The traditional family, education, sexual morality, artistic aspirations, religious belief â€” these are all now sold to us as mere strategies of the powerful and the coercive "reactionary", designed to enforce conformity and slavish obedience to outmoded fashions. The most eager proponents of this revolutionary radicalism from the Romantics onwards were artists, of course. For the Romantic of the 19th, 20th and now 21st centuries, the attraction of revolution, (and any old revolution would do) has been a constant leitmotif. Revolution, which preferably overturned manners and lifestyles as well as aesthetics and politics, has been the slogan and banner for generations of certain types of creative idealists.
But what have these fashionable revolutions to do with a love of life, or even of a love of the poor or the outsider? They seem more concerned with a love of transgression; a fetish for flouting the traditions, values and morality of established communities and peoples which the hero/rebel/artist wants to be seen rejecting. Their war against their own roots has been bloody and relentless. They seem punch-drunk with their onslaught and clobbering. It is clearly addictive and in the past has led artists as much to the extreme Right as to the far Left. It is not the upholders of tradition that have strategy as claimed. If anyone has a strategy, it is our new cultural elite, and their aim is to attack the institutions and principles of our shared common life. What began as a light-headed teenage rebellion has become a cultural regime which judges artists and their work on the basis of how they contribute to the remodelling, or indeed the overthrow of society's core institutions and ethics.
In the light of this I can now see, in retrospect, that my first defiant counter-revolutionary activities were marrying Lynne in 1983 (according to the rites of Holy Mother Church, of course) and having three kids with her in the early 1990s. Many artists I know have abstained from the responsibility of lifelong commitment to a significant other, and bringing children into the world, as it would interfere with their vocations as cultural figures, preferring to see their own opus, in music, words or pictures as "their real children" which they set loose on an unsuspecting world. Marriage and fatherhood â€” it's not exactly rock'n'roll, is it? And yet, it was the influence of two men, both married fathers, that had a seminal influence on me.
I think I inherited my love of music from my maternal grandfather, George Loy, who was a coalminer in Ayrshire all his life. He had played the euphonium in colliery bands in the 1920s and '30s, and he was devoted to singing in the church choir for mass at St John the Evangelist, Cumnock. This church, built by the Marquis of Bute in 1882, was originally intended as a place where music would be specially nurtured.