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2017 Mary Mackay

The Durness Highland Gathering committee are delighted Mary Mackay has accepted their invitation to be the 2017 chieftain. Secretary Mark Manning said “For all the years of dedicated commitment to the Durness Games Mary is a well deserving person to receive the local honour. Until last year when Mary retired she played a leading role in every aspect of the games and has ensured a continuity over the years.”


Mary was born and raised in Skerray, attended Skerray Primary School, Farr Secondary, and Sutherland Technical School, Golspie.  In 1967 she moved to Sarsgrum, Durness, where husband Martin, a native of Durness, was employed as a shepherd with Messrs Elliot, Balnakeil.


Throughout her career Mary has worked as a hotel receptionist, tourist information attendant, bookkeeper, training co-ordinator, development officer, and laterally before retiring an advocacy co-ordinator for Advocacy Highland the main vehicle for providing independent advocacy under the terms of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003. Mary was Caithness & Sutherland Area Co-ordinator responsible for the recruitment, training, support and supervision of paid and volunteer advocates. Mary had trained and worked for the courts as a Sutherland JP and her respected counsel is often sought on a diverse range of matters.


Always concerned about Durness village and therefore playing an active local community role Mary has served on various committees and a founder active member of several groups that established Durness with an active infrastructure. Durness Local Studies Group, Durness Development Group, and Durness Community Council have all benefited from Marys participation and organisation ability. She retired from the Highland Gathering Committee in 2016 after 45 years of involvement in various roles on committee and as an active volunteer. Mary continues to be a dynamic volunteer in several groups, the village hall, Durness Sheepdog Trials, Cape Wrath Challenge, Mackay Country Community Trust, and CVS North. Mary has a rare talent of being able to enthuse and involve others in community based activities and is supportive of others with ideas and aspirations.

Since the early 1970s she run a popular B&B with her husband Martin.  They had two Sons – Marty and Darren, sadly Marty passed away in 2010, a devastating blow to the family and community of Durness. In Marty’s honour a Memorial Cycle and Walk, held each year in his memory, has raised over £100K for Cancer Charities in the North.  Mary and Martin have seven grandchildren. Not one to ever be inactive Mary finds time for a rage of hobbies  including reading, writing short stories and poems, local history, and listening to music, spectating and helping at Sheepdog Trials. Mary has been involved in organising local, national and international Trials.


This year’s Highland Gathering is Friday 28th July and Mary is wished a most enjoyable day as a local reward for all her years of commitment to Durness.

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