Meet Walter McMitty; Gaelic-Speaking, Shinty-Playing Hero of the Western Isles, an Ideal Head of the Prestigious Saltire Society. Now He's Quit, Because His Background Is Not All He Claimed It to Be

By Madeley, Gavin | Daily Mail (London), November 23, 2001 | Go to article overview

Meet Walter McMitty; Gaelic-Speaking, Shinty-Playing Hero of the Western Isles, an Ideal Head of the Prestigious Saltire Society. Now He's Quit, Because His Background Is Not All He Claimed It to Be


Madeley, Gavin, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: GAVIN MADELEY

AS a Gaelic- speaking native of the Western Isles and a highly qualified public school teacher, he seemed ideal to be the authentic voice of Scottish culture.

Appointed the youngest-ever director of the prestigious Saltire Society in June, Scott Peake made great play of his Hebridean childhood, his international sporting achievements and his love of the Gaelic language.

But less than six months into his [pound]15,000a-year, part-time appointment, Dr Peake has suddenly resigned, amid allegations that much of his Celtic background was a figment of his imagination.

Questions now surround his sporting record, his Gaelic upbringing and even his claim to have been born in Scotland.

His abrupt departure is a huge embarrassment to the society, which for 70 years has jealously guarded the integrity of Scotland's cultural heritage.

The colourful, tartan-wearing head of classics at the exclusive Dollar Academy, Clackmannanshire, yesterday refused to comment on his reasons for quitting, leaving the society to face questions.

Dr Peake, who claims to be 33, has said he was born and bred on the island of Raasay, attending Raasay Primary and Portree High on the neighbouring island of Skye. He said he was taught Gaelic and Latin before learning English and boasted of being a double Scottish internationalist, having played both shinty and cricket for his country.

He also implied he turned out regularly for Perth-based shinty side Tayforth. Revelling in the game's tough reputation, he told one interviewer: 'I'm about to have a bolt put in my toe, the old cheek is playing up and my hands are getting weary. I have four pieces of metal in me.' The only problem is that there are no official records to back up many of his claims.

Residents of Raasay and Skye became suspicious of Dr Peake after a newspaper published an interview with him during the summer.

Andrew Gillies, whose wife is a member of the local community association, said none of Raasay's 200 inhabitants had heard of him. Mr Gillies wrote to Dr Peake, saying: 'I have lived on Raasay nearly all my life but I cannot recall ever having heard of you.

'Could you please let me know when you lived on Raasay and which house you lived in?' Dr Peake replied that he 'was indeed born of Raasay stock' but had been adopted and brought up 'elsewhere in the Hebrides'.

He added that his early life was a painful matter which he preferred not to discuss.

Another Raasay resident said: ' I f he claims to have been brought up speaking Gaelic and Latin before English, then he must be at least 200 years old.' Doubts were also cast on Dr Peake's claims to sporting fame. …

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Meet Walter McMitty; Gaelic-Speaking, Shinty-Playing Hero of the Western Isles, an Ideal Head of the Prestigious Saltire Society. Now He's Quit, Because His Background Is Not All He Claimed It to Be
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