The team at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery are delighted to be welcoming a new exhibition of illustrations by Mairi Hedderwick for her popular series of children’s books.

The exhibition will run from 7th January until 18th February 2023 and is called ‘Imagining an Island’. The exhibition at the city centre venue will present original jacket covers, storyboard examples from Katie Morag and the Tiresome Ted showing how illustration and text were put together and other original work.

Speaking about the exhibition, High Life Highland’s Exhibitions Manager, Cathy Shankland explains, “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.

“As Mairi says in her own words, ‘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.

Cathy continued, “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.  The writing and illustration of 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.

Cathy Shankland concluded, “Our exhibition will be on show at Inverness Museum & Art Gallery from 7th January – 18th February 2023. As with all our exhibitions, everybody is welcome, and we hope it will particularly attract those who have an affinity to the famous Katie Morag books, whether for personal reading or reading them to their children, grand-children or even great-grand-children.”