Queen honours pub landlady Mary Moriarty

Mary Moriarty celebrates receiving the honour. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Mary Moriarty celebrates receiving the honour. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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EDINBURGH’S best-known publican, Mary Moriarty, is set to meet Her Majesty the Queen after being awarded a British Empire Medal for services to her 
community.

Instantly recognisable, Mary’s colourful and salt-of-the-earth character has made her a Leith institution, drawing comparisons with Corrie legend Bet Lynch. The 75-year-old ran the Port O’Leith bar, one of Edinburgh’s most famous watering holes, for a quarter of century,

But it is for her work for the Leith Festival that the community stalwart has received the Royal seal of approval.

Mary, of Wellington Place, said: “I have the greatest admiration for the Queen. She’s a hard-working woman. Long may she continue. I’ll kiss her hand and curtsy if my knees will let me do it. But I haven’t got a clue what I will say to her, probably ‘thank you very much’. It’s a wee bit nerve-wracking.”

Mary became a driving force in the Leith Festival about a decade ago and still helps run the Gala Day which launches today.

The legendary former publican said: “I’m still in shock. When I found out about six weeks ago it absolutely floored me. I know I don’t really deserve it because a group of people are responsible for the Leith Festival. I’ve discussed it with my family and they said it really should go to the Leith Festival as a group. I phoned my sister in America and she is very proud,.”

With a dream of jetting off to the United States to work as an antiques dealer, Mary only planned to spend a couple of years working in a Capital pub but ended up staying for 25 years. Born in Corstorphine, Mary was the landlady of the Gardeners Arms in Haddington before taking over the Port O’Leith in 1984. Her famous clientele have included Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, playwright David Mamet and actor Steven Berkoff.

She was married to the late James Moriarty, a well-known mountaineer and has a son Niall, and daughter, Eilidh.