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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent