Am Bratach No. 218
December 2009


Catherine Mackay
An appreciation

The communities of Skerray, Tongue, Strathnaver and Bettyhill were saddened to hear of the sudden unexpected death of Catherine (“Lal”) Mackay in the early hours of Tuesday, November 17, 2009.

The second eldest daughter of George Mackinlay Mackay and Elizabeth Guthrie, she was predeceased by her brother, George (“Dode”) (1929-2006) and Willie (“Willie The Post Office”) (1927-1985), who were both born where their parents commenced married life in South Africa. Her sisters, Mary, also born in South Africa, and Elizabeth and Annie survive her. She will be remembered for her work in her father’s business, which brought her into public contact for so much of her life.

Her life reflected the seasons of the year, born at the tailend of winter on March 10 1932, in her grandparent’s home in Aird Torrisdale, Spring saw her blossom into an accomplished pupil at school — she proved to be very creative in the arts, and was well able to pursue her interest in becoming a teacher. However in deference to her parents’ wishes, she joined the family business at fourteen years of age, cycling to The Store to join her aunt, Angusina, behind the counter of the shop, which was then the centre of community activity after the war. Her summers saw her learning to drive lorries and the mobile shop and meeting the public on the van rounds. Eventually, although by nature reserved and shy, she ventured out on her own driving and serving in the van.

When that business ceased trading, she joined her sister Elizabeth in the Post Office. George Senior and Elizabeth on returning from South Africa took over the running of the Post Office when Mrs Annabella Macintosh gave it up, and the shop at 26 Achtoty formerly run by Annie Brown. She shared this home with her parents during their lifetime and with Annie.

Lal had a lifelong interest in animals — we all remember the noise of the geese protecting the house and being chased by the billy-goat as we queued for the arrival of Burr’s bus with the mail and bread. Despite an early onset of acute arthritis she took a great interest in the family’s sheep and cows and accurately recorded their dates of birth. She greatly enjoyed foreign holidays with her sisters, Elizabeth and Annie, and only recently returned from Tenerife.

As her mother was often wont to say, it is a long road without a bend. These bends arrived throughout the winter of her life. Her nephew, Hugh — twin brother of Christy — died on March 27 1981, aged ten. She was equally distraught on the sudden death of her nephew, Brian Henderson, aged 50 years, in December last year.

The family were supported in their bereavement by a very comforting service held in Skerray Free Church led by the Rev Andrew Fraser and the interim-moderator, Rev Kenneth Macleod. A collection was taken in favour of the Skerray Free Church.
Christy Mackay and Kenneth Mackay led the mourners at the graveside. Despite a very bitter winter’s day a large turnout of relatives and friends attended as Lal was laid to rest in her final earthly resting place.

The measure of affection with which Lal was held in by the local population was expressed in a very beautiful and bountiful array of food and refreshments provided by the community, as happy memories were revisited and exchanged, amongst groups of all ages. — IHF

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