Top writers presented with honorary degrees

An award-winning crime writer and a well-known historian have received honorary doctorates from the University of the Highlands and Islands. Peter May and John Keay were presented with their awards by the university Chancellor, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, at the Perth College UHI graduation ceremony today (Thursday 3 October).

Born and brought up in Glasgow, Peter May started his career as a journalist before embarking on a fifteen-year stint in the television industry. He created and wrote many prime-time drama serials, including Take the High Road and Machair, before becoming a full-time novelist. May has now published over 20 books, including standalone novels such as Entry Island and Coffin Road, and the internationally best-selling Lewis Trilogy, a crime series set in the Outer Hebrides.

John Keay is a historian who specialises in India, Southeast Asia and China and also writes on Scotland. He discovered a love of India during a fishing trip in 1965 and returned often in his role as a political correspondent for The Economist. Keay gave up his correspondent role to write his first book, Into India, which was published in 1973. His other works include China: A History, The Tartan Turban and India Discovered. He also edited the first two editions of the Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland with his late first wife, Julia. Keay moved into radio in the 1980s, writing and presenting several documentary series for the BBC. Born and educated in England, Keay has now lived in the West Highlands for nearly 50 years.

Professor Crichton Lang, Interim Principal and Vice-Chancellor at the University of the Highlands and Islands, said: “Our honorary awards recognise individuals who have made outstanding achievements in their field or who have made important contributions to our university, the Highlands and Islands or to society at large. Both Peter May and John Keay are fitting recipients of our honorary doctorate awards. They have achieved much in their respective fields and have made significant contributions to the culture of the Highlands and Islands, Scotland and beyond.”

Speaking about his honorary award, May said: “It is an absolute privilege and an honour to receive this doctorate, particularly from a university which has done so much to revolutionise tertiary education in the Highlands and Islands - a part of Scotland in which my heart has resided now for many years.”
Keay said: “An honorary award is of course a great honour. especially when made by such an innovative and august body as the University of the Highlands and Islands. It is also a great encouragement. Writing, be it fiction or non-fiction, can be a lonely trade. Recognition, if any, may have been long sought and be somewhat predictable. But something as unexpected as an honorary doctorate is in a class of its own. I am so proud to receive it and immensely grateful.”

Keay and May attended Perth College UHI’s ceremony alongside over 320 graduating students. Writer, television presenter and mountaineer, Cameron McNeish, was the guest speaker at the event which was held at Perth Concert Hall.