Mary Mackenzie loved the arts but challenged big business

Mary Mackenzie out walking her dog, Dileas
Mary Mackenzie out walking her dog, Dileas
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A TEACHER who led a one-woman campaign for fairness and justice against big business and public bodies has died aged 87.

Mary Mackenzie, regarded by many as “Scotland’s most demanding shareholder”, was renowned for taking on company executives and campaigning for what she deemed was right.

Born at home in Bruntsfield Place in 1925, she was an only child, the daughter of a banker and a teacher.

She attended George Watson’s Ladies College and Edinburgh University, where she graduated with an MA.

She worked at a munitions factory and became a temporary member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union during the Second World War before teaching at Forrester Park High School and Boroughmuir Academy.

Her specialism was modern studies, but she was also a guidance teacher and provided remedial teaching.

After her retirement, Mary moved from Marchmont to Peebles in 1990, but regularly made the journey into the city centre to follow her passion for the arts, something she inherited from her parents, and she endowed a scholarship in memory of Ian Whyte, the founder of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

And as an avid backer of Scottish Opera, she built a firm friendship with its founder, Sir Alexander Gibson.

Other cultural organisations to enjoy Mary’s support included Scottish Ballet, while she was a member of both the National Museum and National Library of Scotland, at which she was one of the earliest patrons of the John Murray Archive.

In 2009, she co-founded campaign group In Trust for Scotland in the wake of the National Trust for Scotland’s announcement that it was to close properties to help reverse a funding crisis.

Holding shares in various companies gave her the opportunity to probe senior executives, and she would thrive on asking awkward questions to those in power.

During a Royal Bank of Scotland gathering, as a row flared over bonuses, Mary said she could not admire people who “require so many inducements and bonuses to do an honest day’s work”.

And at a Scottish and Newcastle meeting in 1992, involving the newly knighted chairman Sir Alick Rankin, she took exception to what she claimed was an increase in its contribution to the Conservative Party.

She was well-known by officials at local authorities, MPs and MSPs and would undertake lengthy correspondence with them regarding her campaigns and battles.

A private individual, Mary once told a journalist enquiring about her Christian name it was “no business of the press”, but for all her reservations, she was a kind-hearted woman who always considered those in need.

Mary died on October 17.