Royal plaudits for mum and daughter

A MOTHER and daughter duo have had extra reason to celebrate this New Year – with each of them receiving a royal honour.
Mary OKeefe and mother Catriona Mackinnan Macaskill. Picture: Greg MacveanMary OKeefe and mother Catriona Mackinnan Macaskill. Picture: Greg Macvean
Mary OKeefe and mother Catriona Mackinnan Macaskill. Picture: Greg Macvean

Mairi O’Keefe, chief executive of North Berwick’s Leuchie House, was made an MBE for services to people with disabilities in the New Year Honours list.

Her mother, 93-year-old Catriona MacKinnon, was also honoured with a BEM for her lifelong services to the Gaelic language and culture.

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The pair toasted their honours by having drinks with family at Mrs O’Keefe’s North Berwick home on New Year’s Day.

Mrs O’Keefe, 59, said sharing the celebrations with her mother made them “all the more special”.

She added: “She has really done her bit to keep Gaelic alive.”

Mrs Mackinnon – a former teacher at St John Vianney’s RC School in Gilmerton – splits her time between Edinburgh and Eriskay, in the Outer Hebrides. The grandmother-of-seven has taught Gaelic to hundreds in the Lothians over the years since first holding night classes in Penicuik in the 1970s.

She still teaches Gaelic lessons at Nelson Hall Community Centre in the Southside, insisting on walking there and back from her Comely Bank home.

The sprightly nonogenerian is also a member of Bannatyne’s gym on Queen Street – using the spa rather than the treadmill – and attends daily mass at St Andrew’s church at Ravelston.

Mrs Mackinnon said she didn’t like to be in the limelight, but finding out that her daughter was also on the honours list “cheered her up”.

“I think it’s been a good boost for Gaelic,” she said. “I have been teaching it for many years and trying to get people to take an interest and even learn it. It’s not easy, but some do manage to learn.” Her daughter’s MBE is the latest award for her work at Leuchie House, which provides respite breaks for victims of long-term degenerative conditions and their families.

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Last year, Mrs O’Keefe was named Community Champion of the Year in Scotland’s Real Heroes Awards.

She led the fight to save Leuchie in 2011 and just days before it was due to shut, secured enough funding to set the home up as an independent charity.

A former nurse at the Western General, Mrs O’Keefe had a varied career working in various roles at Edinburgh Airport and spent a period as a consultant in London before taking up the role of manager at Leuchie House, which was then run by the Multiple Sclerosis Society, in 2003.

She said she and her mum were both humbled by the award, putting the honours down to their “commitment” to their vocations.

Mrs O’Keefe, who brought in the 2015 year with guests at Leuchie House, added: “I wouldn’t consider being anywhere else for Hogmanay. It’s because of them [the guests] that I do what I do.”