Alison Hearn Atkins: 1930-2021

Hays across the world were sad to hear of the death in October of Alison Hearn Atkins.  Alison was the wife of Kent Hay Atkins, Fear an Tigh in the USA to the Earl of Erroll, Chief of Clan Hay.  She and Kent have been stalwarts of Clan Hay for 50 years, for decades leading the development of Clan Hay in the Untied States, but equally known here in Scotland where they were regular visitors.

Alison was born on 30 April 1930 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  She grew up in Greenville, NC, where she was a successful student and graduated at the top of her high school class.  She graduated in music from Greenville’s East Carolina University and it is as a musician that she will be principally remembered.  She was an accomplished pianist, but it is as a singer she was best known.  She performed in many operatic roles, but in Clan Hay we remember her as a terrific performer of traditional Scots songs, in which she became a noted authority and she entertained many a clan gathering both in America and in Scotland with her fine renditions of some of our oldest and best known ballads.

After graduation, she taught music in schools in North Carolina before moving to Hays where she taught music, specialising in voice, at Fort Hays State University.  It was during this time that she met Kent, who was Director of Pharmacy at a local hospital, and they were married in 196in Kent’s home town of Fort Scott, Kansas.

Alison was very active in various professional organisations, including the National Association of Teachers of Singing, the Sigma Alpha Iota sorority for women in music, and in PEO, an organsiation dedicated to promoting the education of women through scholarship.

It was Alison who introduced Kent to his Scottish heritage by taking him to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, where she had been performing for several years before they met.  Alison was awarded the Agnes MacCrae Award by Grandfather Mountain for her contribution to the games, and later received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honour, for her work in supporting Scottish culture throughout the state.

She is survived by her husband Kent, son Reynolds, daughter Alison, by five grandchildren and a great granddaughter, who have our heartfelt sympathy.  She will be sadly missed, on both sides of the Atlantic.