For more than 20 years Malcolm May worked with Dundee’s greatest asset… its people.
As former chief officer of Dundee Volunteer and Voluntary Action he helped establish a hub for the charity, as well as pioneering new ways for people to contribute to their city.
This week his family gather to celebrate his life, after the minister and Iona Community member passed away a week before his 81st birthday.
Malcolm Stuart May was born on September 9, 1940 on the Isle of Shapinsay, Orkney.
His father John was a minister – first for the Congregational Church and later the Church of Scotland.
And his mother Grace looked after Malcolm and his five brothers.
Malcom’s father served a number of congregations during his ministry meaning Malcolm attended multiple primary and secondary schools.
Kilmarnock Academy, Huntly Gordon Schools in Aberdeenshire, and then Hamilton Academy prepared him for university.
An arts degree from Belfast’s Queen’s University was followed by a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Glasgow.
His second degree included a semester in Tübingen, Germany.
And another year of study would take place at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Faith, love and ministry
Faith was clearly an important part of Malcolm’s life.
So much so that he even met his future wife, Alison Wood, at a gathering of young Christians at the university.
Alison said: “I met Malcom before he went to New York at the Student Christian Movement. I remember thinking he was lovely; tall, dark and handsome.
“We met in 1963, but by the time he had finished his studies and I had finished my modern languages degree we didn’t get married until five years later. We had to do a lot of letter writing in between times.”
Alongside everything else Malcolm was undertaking a social work qualification and from 1966-68 was the assistant minister of the Old Kirk in West Pilton, Edinburgh.
Alison and Malcolm married in Jordanhill Church, Glasgow, on July 24, 1968.
Their first home was a flat in the Iona Community House in Glasgow where Malcolm had secured a job as deputy warden, then warden.
The dispersed ecumenical community which works for peace and justice would be a lifelong passion of Malcolm’s.
He remained a member until his death.
Malcolm and Alison’s children, Jennifer and Andrew were both born in Glasgow and between 1972-73 Malcolm finished his social work training.
But next would be a step for his career journey that would prepare him for more than two decades of working in Dundee to come.
As training officer for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, in Edinburgh, he’d spend five years getting to know Scotland’s emerging voluntary and social sector.
He would also travel around Scotland to promote setting up newly instituted community councils.
In 1979 the family moved to Dundee when Malcolm accepted a job with Dundee Association of Social Services.
Appointed chief officer, he had to transition what had been a small adoption agency through to the Council of Social Service which it became under the banner of Dundee Volunteer and Voluntary Association.
In the late 1990s as well as leading his team through significant growth and change, Malcolm was instrumental in the purchase of the old Dundee YMCA building on Constitution Road.
The space was already converted to offices but left empty when Ernst and Young moved out of Dundee.
Malcolm managed to secure lottery funding to create a Voluntary Organisations and volunteering hub which remains today.
While working in Dundee the May family made Broughty Ferry their home.
And Malcolm enjoyed being part of Dundee’s Choral Union for almost 20 years.
Retiring in 2002 age 62, he would continue his involvement with the Iona Community becoming part-time fundraiser.
At 65 he eventually – properly – retired and he and Alison moved to Milngavie to be near family.
The couple enjoyed travelling – visiting the South of France, Chile and Vancouver Island for family weddings.
In his spare time Malcolm loved to go hill walking and to read.
He was also on the board of various charities including Includem, Scottish Churches Housing Action and Fresh Start.
A service celebrating his life took place at Cairns Church, Milngavie, where the couple worshipped.
A zoom recording of the service will be available at www.cairnschurch.org.uk until September 24.