Mary Riggans: Actress

Effie Macinnes, the village gossip in ‘Take the High Road’, who went on to play Suzie Sweet in ‘Balamory’

The cheery-faced Mary Riggans joined Take the High Road, ITV’s Scottish soap opera, in 1983 as Effie Macinnes, the village gossip and busybody forever looking for an eligible man – but usually losing interest on finding one. In her head, Effie was still 19, filled with romantic notions and likely to be caught reading a Mills & Boon novel. The character seemed destined to be the fictional Glendarroch’s eternal spinster but eventually found happiness with Jockie McDonald, following the death of his wife. Effie married him in 1995. Over the years, she worked as housekeeper at Glendarroch House, then in the kitchen at the Ardnacraig Hotel.

Describing Effie as “young at heart”, Riggans once said: “When first asked to consider the part, I loved the idea of a woman being allowed to fancy guys of all ages – the comedy and tragedy that that entails.”

She was cast as Effie three years after Take the High Road began as a daytime soap on the ITV network, although it was shown at peak time in Scotland. It was retitled High Road in 1994 and, although the channel had officially dropped it nationally a year earlier, producer Scottish Television continued to make episodes, which many other regional companies showed. Riggans stayed with the serial until it was finally axed in 2003.

By then, she was reaching another generation of viewers with the role of Suzie Sweet, Penny Pocket’s business partner at the village shop and café, in the CBeebies series Balamory (2002-05). The programme, aimed at children aged six and under and filmed mostly in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, featured a seaside community of extrovert and colourful characters. Suzie, the flipside to Penny’s businesslike character, told stories about various items sold in the shop, Pocket and Sweet, and displayed culinary skills in the kitchen. Both would occasionally burst into song.

Riggans’s acting skills had been on display from a young age. Born in West Dunbartonshire she was 10 when she first acted on radio, in the Scottish edition of Children’s Hour, and the medium remained her favourite throughout her long screen and stage career. She would go on to act in dozens of Saturday Night Theatre productions and read Morning Story. Joyce Grenfell once wrote to her: “If I could write in Scots and make up a good story, I’d get you to read it.”

After leaving North Kelvinside Academy, Glasgow, Riggans gained an MA in philosophy from Glasgow University, where she performed with its drama society. Throughout her education she also continued to act professionally. At the age of 16 she made her television début as Kirsty Kellas in the Robert Kemp play A Nest of Singing Birds (1954).

After university, Riggans gained repertory theatre experience in Perth, performed with a puppet company and worked as an English supply teacher between jobs. From the mid-1960s she was cast in character roles on television. There were parts in plays and one-off appearances in series such as Sutherland’s Law (1973) and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1978). Emphasising her versatility, there were also five different roles in Dr Finlay’s Casebook between 1964 and 1970, two in Taggart (1983, 1992) and three in the sitcom Rab C Nesbitt (1988, 1990, 1992).

In the film Dear Frankie (2003), Riggans played Nell, grandmother of the deaf boy whose mother took him on the run to get away from his abusive father. She won the Sony Radio Award as Best Actress in 1983 for her performance as Jean Armour, Robert Burns’s wife, in Donald Campbell’s play Till A’ the Seas Gang Dry. Her television popularity led to many pantomime appearances across Scotland over the years. She was also in plays at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, where her roles included the forgiving wife Beatrice in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge and the matchmaker Ustinya in Alexander Ostrovsky’s A Family Affair, as well as touring Scotland in productions.

Off set, Riggans was known for knitting socks for members of the High Road cast. She also enjoyed watching rugby and tennis. Last year, she suffered a stroke that left her with restricted speech and movement.  

Mary Patton Riggans, actress: born Old Kilpatrick, West Dunbartonshire 19 July 1935; married 1962 Malcolm Taylor (divorced; one daughter); died Edinburgh 2 December 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick