KATIE MORAG & Mairi Hedderwick

Katie Morag is an exhibition of illustrations by Mairi Hedderwick for her popular series of children’s books dating from 1984 to 2005.  The exhibition contains original jacket covers, storyboard examples of how illustration and text were put together, Katie Morag’s family tree, character profiles for the TV drama series and a map of the Isle of Struay among other original work.

The exhibition has been provided compliments of the Scottish Books Trust and is part of Faclan: the first Hebridean Book Festival which is on at An Lanntair from Wednesday the 30th of August through to Saturday the 2nd of September.   Mairi Hedderwick will be attending the book festival giving a talk called ‘An Eye on the Hebrides and other travels’ (30th August 4-5pm, tickets available from An Lanntair).

Mairi Hedderwick, illustrator and captivating storyteller, is best known for her Katie Morag children’s stories. The first of the Katie Morag books, Katie Morag Delivers the Mail was published in 1984 and, to Mairi’s surprise, was taken up as an excellent example of non-sexist children’s fiction, mainly because of the tractor-fixing, dungaree-wearing Grannie. ‘I wasn’t thinking of that at all. I’m used to women driving tractors; I did it regularly myself whilst living on the island’. But Grannie became a central character of the books, and the inspiration for her second book, Katie Morag and the Two Grandmothers.

The content for most of the Katie Morag books is loosely based on Mairi’s own experiences: Katie’s toys are those of her own children, Granny Island’s Rayburn stove was Mairi’s own, and the episode where Katie Morag throws her teddy into the sea is something Mairi admits doing herself – twice! As an adult.

Mairi was born in Gourock, Scotland in 1939. At the age of 17 she took a job as a mother’s help on the island of Coll in the Hebrides. There began a life-long love affair with islands and small communities bounded by the sea.

She studied at Edinburgh College of Art and then taught for a few years before moving to the Isle of Coll in the early ‘60s with her husband and young family.  There, in a house with no electricity, water only available from a well, and a two mile walk to the nearest neighbour, she began illustrating for other authors.  As writer and illustrator, the Katie Morag books are based on her life there at that time.

As well as writing and illustrating children’s books Mairi writes and illustrates travel books for adults. She spends a lot of time visiting schools and is always accompanied by Katie Morag’s teddy who travels with her in a black bag.