Obituary: Sally Collins, illustrator, 62

Sally Collins. Picture: comp
Sally Collins. Picture: comp
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SALLY Collins, who created the much-loved images of Hamish McHaggis in the popular series of children’s books, has died at St Columba’s Hospice in Edinburgh at the age of 62.

Born in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, Mrs Collins trained at Bath Art School, Trowbridge College and Manchester Polytechnic before moving to Scotland with husband Pete in 1976. They moved to East Lothian in 1988 and settled in Longniddry in 1989.

Her early commercial clients included the whisky distillers Chivas and Glenlivet, but she soon started to receive commissions for family and pet portraits, along with exhibitions at East Lothian and Edinburgh galleries. Mrs Collins also supported community arts projects and taught art to children at Haddington’s Poldrate Centre, held banner-making sessions in Gullane celebrating the local culture, and taught adults in East Lothian.

Her final major community project was providing the illustrations for information boards along the Pentcaitland Railway Walk. She was one of the first supporters of the 3 Harbours Arts Festival, which celebrates the illustrated heritage of Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Port Seton annually.

In 1997, Mrs Collins began collaborating with the storyteller Judy Paterson and together they brought to a wider public a series of Scottish folk tales including Thomas the Rhymer and The Witch of Fife. This partnership led to the ambitious History of Scotland for Children, with over 400 illustrations, portraits and photographs, launched to mark the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

But it was another partnership, with her great friend the East Lothian writer Linda Strachan, which created Sally’s most successful project, the best-selling Hamish McHaggis series of books for youngsters. Launched in 2002, the first four titles introduce Hamish, Jeannie the osprey, Angus the pine marten and English hedgehog Rupert as they tour the Edinburgh Festival, visit Skye, and meet ghosts at Glamis and Nessie at Loch Ness. Very popular with children here and overseas, later instalments took the characters to Stirling Castle, the Falkirk Wheel and Balmoral, and even took in a clan gathering for the Year of Homecoming.

The success of the series brought popular and critical acclaim for the two women, and they performed Hamish events at schools and festivals around the nation.

Mrs Collins also adored nature – in particular the landscape and wildlife of East Lothian. She also liked living so close to the Forth, often exploring the estuary coastline. Mrs Collins made Scotland her home and left a permanent and highly regarded legacy of work and creativity on its arts and heritage. She also brought lots of fun and happiness to countless youngsters and their parents in her beautiful illustrations.

Sally is survived by husband Pete, daughter Tessa and son Chris.