On a recent visit, Duncan MacDonald, age 102, was at the door ready to greet, elegant and alert. This was an interview, but at first she was the one asking all the questions. “Where do you live on the Island? Where did you grow up? How did you get involved in this work?” she wanted to know.

A quiet powerhouse who has had a vibrant, varied life and career, it is not surprising to learn that she ran a radio show for the New York Times.

“I have done 5,000 interviews, which is a large number. I was with The New York Times on WQXR,” she said. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays I interviewed New York Times personnel. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I interviewed other people: celebrities, people of accomplishment. But I would always try to help the nonprofits. If the Boy Scouts came in, I never said no. Because I felt this was another world for them, and they needed the publicity.”

She also worked for House Beautiful, Yankee Magazine and numerous television and radio networks conducting interviews. “I loved it,” she said. “Because I am very interested, naturally, in people. And it’s nice to give them a light, and mention how important they are. To touch on the things that are often overlooked.”

She was born Nov. 4, 1915, in Beaumont, Tex. How she came by her name is a story all its own. “We were sitting at the breakfast table. My sister, my mother and my father,” she recalled. “And my mother, said, oh, I understand there’s a little girl across town who is also named Dorothy MacDonald, just like you. I said what? What is this? I was just absolutely horrified. I said, Mother, what was my grandfather’s name? And she said his name was Duncan. I said, okay from now on I’m Duncan MacDonald.”

She continued: “We were too poor to go to college. And so I went to work. I’ve been working since I was 15 or 16. I have not been without a paycheck for almost 90 years, which is very useful. When Roosevelt first put in the deductions from your salary for your old age, everybody was furious. And of course, now that I’m sitting here with my paycheck coming in, I’m glad he did.”

After a friend invited her to New York when she was 18 or 19, she fell in love with the city and never looked back, adopting New York and Boston as her new homes. “My poor family, I don’t know what they thought about this wild daughter of theirs,” she said. “I started in television, when television was still fairly new. Then I went to radio. Then I went to journalism, writing for magazines and newspapers.

“When Dumont Channel 5 — one of the first television networks — became a reality I became the manager of women’s and religious programs. And being a woman in this brand-new industry gave me an edge, really, over a lot of other people.

“I directed the first soap opera, A Woman to Remember. And the first shopping program. I produced a morning breakfast show on religious topics for Norman Vincent Peale. There were other projects on other subjects. And of course all these things, each one opens up another channel.”

Her journey to the Vineyard began when she met the late Helen Maley, a New York neighbor and early childhood expert who had long lived in West Tisbury. And there were others.

“Peggy Freydberg [a Chilmark poet] was my sister’s best friend. And Rose Treat [an Island artist and botanist]. She was also a neighbor of ours. They would say, why don’t you come up to the Vineyard some time? Well, I was so busy I didn’t have time to go to the Vineyard, for heaven sakes!

“ . . . Finally I did go and visit them and was amazed by the beauty of the Vineyard. I was still in New York working in broadcasting, but I bought Mrs. Attaquin’s house in Gay Head within a block or two of the lighthouse. I was making money and felt I should use it productively. And of course Texans are known for liking land.” She continued:

“It was a lovely house. I served on the finance committee in Gay Head and did some work in the community with the Vineyard Conservation Society, Sail MV and others. Then later on I bought this house in Vineyard Haven as a practical matter, because I was working at the courthouse, and commuting from Gay Head to Edgartown every day. And in bad weather and snow and driving alone at night in the winter. I said I might as well be back in New York, standing on the station platform. And here I am. So I was much happier.”

Like most things in her life, her passion for and involvement in Scottish affairs grew out of her work.

“When I was doing my show on WQXR in New York, the PR people would call and say, I have an interesting guest for you,” she recalled. “They put me in touch with a Bill MacDonald. No relation. He said, I’d like to tell you about the American Machine and Foundry and our work. Let’s have lunch at Sardi’s. So we went to lunch. And he spent five minutes telling me about his boss, and then he launched into Scottish things.

“I probably was 45 or 50 by that time. I had no interest in any of this, Scottish things. But he put me in touch with a woman in New York called The Lady Malcolm Douglas Hamilton — part of a great Scottish family, the Hamilton family. And Lady Hamilton’s husband had died and so she took over this organization called The American Scottish Foundation. She needed help and so I volunteered. And that was the beginning.

“Bill MacDonald also suggested I go to the Scottish games in North Carolina, organized by the Caledonian Foundation. And I was enthralled. It’s fabulous, they have games, singers, dancing — all at a very high level. Then it just went from there to other things, more involvement. I worked for 40 years as a volunteer with the Calendonian Foundation. Our mission is to spread the word about Scottish achievements throughout the country, so that people understand what the Scots have contributed.

“At a Caledonian meeting I said, you know, we should follow the Canadian example and have Tartan Day in the United States. I guess I was executive vice-president at the time — I invited a very prominent Canadian to come down to that conference to tell us how Tartan Day was set up, so that we could follow their example. We all agreed it was a wonderful idea. So it started all over the country.

“So now in April on the Vineyard we have Tartan Day and in January we have the Burns Night Supper. We all wear our family kilts and celebrate. It’s like St. Patrick’s Day. It’s to draw attention to the accomplishments of the Scots in America. And we hope it’s an inspiration to other organizations to do something about their heritage. As here on the Island, the Portuguese do a wonderful job with the Holy Ghost Feast. I just love this phrase: Standing on the shoulders of those who came before.”

Ms. MacDonald was also responsible for founding the Scottish Society on the Vineyard.

“I was working at the courthouse managing the county commissioners’ office, so I was in the courthouse all day,” she said. “And Don MacRae — one of the people that got me to come to the Island — and I and Harvey Ewing — Harvey was head of the Cape Cod Times office here — would often walk down the front steps after the court session was over and talk about what had just happened in the court. And then we always said, well, now, what’s happening in Scotland today? It was a little joke between us.

“And so one day I said, listen. Why don’t we set up a formal organization? We have a lot to talk about. Harvey said, oh, that’s fun. We can meet in my office, right across the street.

“So that’s how it was formed. And then we began meeting at Harvey and JoAnn Ewing’s house, and it grew from that. We invited other people to join. There was no Scottish thing here on the Island, so everybody was delighted. It all goes back to the people who cared about it.”

Last year at the annual Burns night supper, Ms. MacDonald was recognized for her contributions and as the last founding member of the Scottish Society of Martha’s Vineyard.

“The Scottish society has been wonderful. It has engendered so many friendships,” Ms. MacDonald said.

“In some ways, it’s not so much what a person does; it’s knowing that if you needed them, they’re there. That concept of brotherhood and helping out and all that.

“That is very heartwarming. And it’s also a nice commentary on the Vineyard, that people care about each other and want to be helpful. That’s one of the things that makes the Vineyard so pleasant, are these little personal relationships that just are not possible in most other places.”

Linsey Lee is the oral history curator for the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. This interview is excerpted from two interviews she conducted with Ms. MacDonald.