Page last updated at 09:28 GMT, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Clan chief who taught Barack Obama dies

Barack Obama
Barack Obama was taught a course in contract law by Mr MacNeil

A clan chief who taught a young Barack Obama has died.

Iain MacNeil, 80, was chief of Clan MacNeil of Barra. He was a popular figure on the island and put the family estate there into public ownership.

He taught the future US president a course on contract law while a visiting professor at Harvard Law School.

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has paid tribute to Mr MacNeil, who lived in Edinburgh. He said the chief had been an immensely kind and learned man.

Mr MacNeil was teaching at Northwestern University in Chicago when he secured a visiting one-year professorship at Harvard in 1988.

'Very sorry'

He is reported to have recognised the young Obama's potential and told his wife Nancy that he believed he could become America's first black president.

Mr Allan said Mr MacNeil had been a remarkable person and led one of Scotland's oldest clans.

"Iain had a notable career as a professor of law in the States, a knowledge which he put to formidable use in defending the interests of Barra," he said.

"That could take many forms, whether it was in arguing for the interests of the island's fishermen or its crofters. Indeed, to Iain's immense credit he secured public ownership of the island itself."

The MSP added: "People in Barra, I know, are very sorry to hear of his passing."

Mr MacNeil is survived by his wife and their children Rory - who now becomes clan chief - Jenny and Sandy.

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