'Captain of Tap' dies at 97

Alistair MacDonald performing in Cornmarket Street, Oxford, in 2003

Alistair MacDonald performing in Cornmarket Street, Oxford, in 2003

First published in News Oxford Mail: Static HTML image by

An iconic Oxford tap-dancing busker who was still entertaining shoppers well into his 90s has died.

Alistair MacDonald, who was also known as Captain Tap or Colonel Mustard, spent a quarter of a century tap-dancing in the city, although he had scaled back his performing over the past two years.

Mr MacDonald, who was 97, died from pneumonia earlier this month. His funeral will be held at Oxford Crematorium on Wednesday, at 2.30pm.

Joyce Pottinger, who became Mr MacDonald's 'next-of-kin' after caring for him when they both lived at warden-controlled flats in George Moore Close, Oxford, said: "Alistair was a landmark on the Oxford scene for about 25 years.

"We were all looking forward to celebrating his 100th birthday - it's such a shame that we won't be able to do that.

"People will remember him for tap dancing to his rock music outside Marks & Spencer in Queen Street or outside the Midland Bank in Cornmarket."

Mrs Pottinger, 70, of Owens Way, Cowley, said Mr MacDonald moved to Longlands care home, in Balfour Road, Blackbird Leys, about a year ago.

Sharon Fenn, manager of the care home, said: "Mac was such a cheerful person and he had a great 12 months with us."

Yesterday, another of Oxford's well-known buskers, bagpiper Heath Richardson, said: "It's a sad day, because it's people like him that made busking a live and ongoing tradition."

In 2005, Mr MacDonald went missing for a week and sparked a police hunt after he went walkabout in London.

He strolled out of his warden-controlled flat wearing a blazer, top hat and bow tie - and with just £40 in his pocket.

A week later, he was returned home by staff from St Thomas's Hospital in London, after a week sleeping on a roof and on the banks of the River Thames.

Mr MacDonald said he was mystified by the fuss but pleased he had been missed.

Born in Glasgow in 1911, under the name of George Pirie, he took the name of MacDonald as his stage name. He said he had spent his life travelling the country as an entertainer, and had worked with Norman Wisdom.

In 2003, he was featured in the Cheeky Book of Oxford.

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