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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital