MacIsaac moved to Glasgow from his native Ardrishaig before the first world war. He was active in correspondence chess circles in the 1920's, gaining valuable experience. He joined the Central Chess Club (Glasgow), winning the club championship on a number of occasions. In 1938 he won his tenth championship of the club, and eighth in successive years. He was also a leading member of the club's Richardson Cup team, winning the trophy in 1925 and 1929. MacIsaac was also a member of Glasgow CC (many players joined more than one club), winning the club championship in 1924. This was one of the years when he won the championship of the Central CC, thereby holding the title of champion for the two major clubs in the West of Scotland. He also won the West of Scotland Championship in 1927, 1928 and 1938.
MacIsaac was a member of the Scottish team which played for the first time at an Olympiad, that of Folkestone 1933. This was a very hard event for most of the team members, excepting Fairhurst. MacIsaac lost nine games and scored two draws, against Norcia of Italy, and Rejfir of Czechoslovakia.
MacIsaac took over the editorship of the Glasgow Herald chess column in 1930, after the death of the previous columnist, Carrick Wardhaugh. In the 1930's, the newspaper was generous with the space allowed for chess, and MacIsaac was able to include in each column a chess problem (a subject which he had great knowledge of), as well as extensive local and international news, and games. Often, if particularly important events were taking place, he would be permitted additional space during the week for regular reports on, say, the Scottish championship, or a major international tournament. He edited this column, which initially appeared on Saturdays, but changed to Fridays from July 15, 1938, without missing an issue, until resigning the position in 1959.
In Scottish Chess No. 160, Tom Russell, a player, chess problem enthusiast, and former SCA secretary, wrote a brief article about MacIsaac, which included the following additional information:
'... he established a shop at 186 Eglinton St which gave him a modest living for the next 40 years. Initially it was a second-hand bookshop, but he later became a dealer in foreign stamps.
Mac had, I think, relatively little formal education but he was widely read and exercised his own judgement in all matters. He had a highly developed sense of language and excellent writing skills, something he put to good use by contributing feature articles to a Glasgow newspaper during the 1920s. He was also secretary of the Scottish Chess Association for a number of years, and later its president.'
With regards to the content of the regular column in the Glasgow Herald, Tom pointed out that MacIsaac featured, among others, problems by Scottish composers such as R.G. Thomson, J. Stewart and Robert Gray. He also mentioned that MacIsaac gave encouragement to the young Norman Macleod, who would later be granted by FIDE the title of International Grandmaster of Chess Composition. He goes on to state:
'When MacIsaac died in February 1961 Scotland lost someone who had done a great deal to help promote the game in all its aspects. In his honour, the tournament for club champions was named after him.'
Sources: BCM 1961, p 104; Scottish Chess No. 160, p 27; the late Tom Russell (photo); birth certificate; death notice in the Glasgow Herald of 23 February 1961, p 18.
Historian, Chess Scotland