Take the High Road actress Mary Riggans dies

TRIBUTES have been flowing for Scots actress Mary Riggans, best known as much-loved gossip Effie in the long-running soap Take the High Road and as Susie Sweet in the popular kids show Balamory.

Mary Riggans has passed away. Picture: TSPL

The 78-year-old died peacefully in her sleep on Monday afternoon holding her daughter Samantha’s hand.

Ms Riggans had suffered a stroke in April last year, which had left her with poor speech and movement.

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She is most recognised for her role as the lovable Effie Macinnes, later McDonald, in the Scottish Television soap opera Take the High Road, set in the fictional village of Glendarroch, which ran from the early 80s until the last episode in 2003.

She also became a favourite to children throughout the country, playing Susie Sweet in Balamory, the children’s television programme broadcast by CBeebies from 2002-2005.

Regular pantomime appearances also made her a well known face to children and adults alike.

‘Very sad loss’

Good friend and childhood pal Eileen McCallum, who appeared alongside Ms Riggans in High Road as Isabel Blair, led the tributes for the Glasgow-born actress.

Mrs McCallum, who currently appears in BBC’s River City, said: “It is a very sad loss. Mary was a lovely woman who I’ve known all my life.

“She was such a versatile actress, working in soap, drama, comedy and children’s programmes.

“We both grew up in Glasgow and started doing radio before TV, on programmes such as Children’s Hour.

“Then when television started we had to do shows live, which we both loved. Mary had such a range vocally, due to her radio training.

“We both loved filming High Road and were sad when it came to an end. She was so good with children and that showed in Balamory.”

She added: “She suffered a stroke last year and didn’t recover fully. When I last saw her I told her to ‘sleep well darling’ and she died the next day, my 77th birthday, with her daughter there.”

Bobby Hain, director of channels at STV, said: “We are very sorry to hear of the passing of Mary Riggans who was a much loved actress and a popular cast member of Take the High Road.

“Take the High Road remains one of the longest running drama series in the UK and Mary played a key part in its success.”

‘Loved by CBeebies audience’

BBC Scotland executive Yvonne Jennings, who worked as a producer on Balamory, said: “As Suzie Sweet in Balamory, Mary was well respected by those who worked with her and much loved by the CBeebies audience.

“Like Suzie, Mary was a kind and giving woman who took on the role of nurturing young talent.

“She was an extremely professional actress with impeccable comedy timing. She’ll be sadly missed by many.”

And BBC Scotland executive Julie Wilson Nimmo added: “Shocked and saddened to hear about Mary’s passing. We worked together for years, she was a brilliant actress and will be remembered fondly by the Balamory family.”

Taggart actor Colin McCredie tweeted: “Mary used to call her admirers “herooties!!!! as in “there’s her oot ae Take The High Road.”

Also on Twitter, Eva Murray said: “RIP Mary Riggans unlike today’s children who will remember you as another character. I remember watching you as Effie in Take The High Road!”

Gibbzer added: “So so sorry to hear that actress Mary Riggans has died. She was wonderful in Dear Frankie and was the Nell that was always in my head. RIPx.”

Fiona Kitching said: “Poor soul was the life and soul of many a panto.”


Ms Riggans first acting role was in 1946, a radio voice over at the tender age of 10, and had to stand on an orange crate to reach the microphone.

After that, she never looked back and acting became her sole ambition.

Her first television role was in 1954, A Nest of Singing Birds, which was a TV movie.

She then went on to feature inin many TV, radio and theatre productions, working tirelessly whenever possible and teaching English as a supply teacher when parts were not forthcoming.

Other roles saw her playing Isa’s friend Sadie in BBC’s Still Game between 2003-04. She also made appearances in Rab C Nesbitt, playing a charity woman, a nurse and a prim lady.

The actress also appeared twice on Taggart, in 1983 and 1992, and played a number of characters in Dr Finlay’s Casebook, which was screened between 1964 and 1970..

She also played Nell in a 2004 adaptation of Dear Frankie.

She graduated in June 1959 from Glasgow University, obtaining what she always insisted on calling a “very ordinary” Master of Arts degree.

In 1983 she won the Sony Award – Radio Actress of the Year for her performance as Jean Armour in “Till A’ the Seas Run Dry” by Donald Campbell.

In 1996 Ms Riggans was invited to the Reception for the presentation of Gold Awards in the presence of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.

She suffered a stroke in April 2012. Her recovery was poor, and her speech and movement were difficult from then on.

She found it difficult to say yes and no, but she was still able to say reasonably complex words. Her stock answer to most questions being: “Apparently so”.

The actress is survived by daughter Samantha and her four-year-old grandson.