Sydney MacEwan

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Canon Sydney Alfred MacEwan (19 October 1908 – 25 September 1991)[1] was a Scottish tenor, who sang traditional Scottish and Irish songs.[2]

He was born and brought up in the Springburn area of Glasgow by his mother alone, after his father left the family. Sydney was the younger of two brothers. His mother was Irish, from the Portadown area, and his father was born in Partick. The family were poor but Sydney's mother managed to pay for music lessons for both her sons and both won bursaries to good schools. Sydney attended St Aloysius' College in Garnethill from 1919–24, before transferring to Hillhead Academy. Aged 12, his brother entered him into an end-of-the-pier talent show in Dunoon. Come the Grand Final of the contest at the end of the summer, Sydney was the clear winner, receiving a prize of five shillings and half a crown.[citation needed]

At the age of 18, Sydney MacEwan entered training to become a Jesuit priest at Manresa House in Roehampton, London, but left after a deeply unsatisfactory first term. He chose to study at Glasgow University instead. While at university, his vocal talents were noticed and he began a singing career on the advice of Sir Compton Mackenzie and John McCormack. He began recording for Parlophone in 1934 while still attending the Royal Academy of Music in London. He toured in 1936, playing to audiences in Canada, the United States and Australia, and the tour was repeated in 1938. However, throughout his life MacEwan had retained a deep love of the Catholic Church and, despite his earlier experience with the Jesuits, chose to abandon his fame and success to enter the Pontifical Scots College in Rome, to follow his vocation to become a priest. He was ordained in St Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow in 1944 and celebrated his first Mass at St Aloysius' Church.

He nonetheless continued to record and tour. Further trips to North America and Australia took place until as late as 1956; those concerts helping to provide funding for the building of St Columba's Cathedral in Oban. He helped with funds to renovate the Church of St Margaret's in Lochgilphead, in Argyll, where he was parish priest for 17 years before moving to St Andrew's Church in Rothesay. A stained glass window in the church in Lochgilphead is dedicated to the MacEwan family. He was featured on the BBC's This Is Your Life programme in October 1962 and his autobiography, On the High C's, was published in 1973. In 1977 he was narrowly defeated in the election for Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow. He spent his later years as retired priest, assisting when necessary at Our Lady and St Mun's church in Dunoon.[citation needed]


Sydney MacEwan died in September 1991, aged 82. His funeral was held in St Andrew's Cathedral, the church where he was ordained. He was survived by a brother.


  • Profile, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; accessed 10 August 2014.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Herald Scotland, 26 September 1991
  2. ^ "Foot Stompin' Celtic Music",; accessed 10 August 2014.