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Imagining an Island: The Making of a Katie Morag Book

An exhibition of illustrations by Mairi Hedderwick from her popular Katie Morag children’s books is now on show at the North Coast Visitor Centre.

Running until March 19, the exhibition contains original jacket covers, storyboards, a family tree, character profiles from the TV series and a map of the Isle of Struay, among other original work.

Mairi was born in Gourock in 1939 and at the age of 17 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.

The first of the Katie Morag books, Katie Morag Delivers the Mail, was published in 1984 and has since been followed up with 13 more adventures. It was also turned into a television series by the BBC, filmed on the Isle of Lewis.

The content for most of the Katie Morag books is loosely based on Mairi’s own experience and were taken as an example of non-sexist children’s fiction, mainly because of the tractor-fixing, dungaree-wearing Grannie.

Mairi said: “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.”

Grannie quickly became a central character of the books, and the inspiration for her second book, Katie Morag and the Two Grandmothers.

The North Coast Visitor Centre in High Street, Thurso reopened in November and is operated by High Life Highland.

It is open Tuesday to Thursday: noon until 3.30pm, and Friday and Saturday: 11am to 3.30pm.