Issue 221
May/June 2022

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Aug 15, 2022

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Malin Workshop co-founder dies

PERHAPS it's significant that Ronnie Hedderwick made his exit in the middle of the recent Jubilee celebrations, as he was, throughout his life, a hugely affable, joyful person.

Ronnie Hedderwick in Spain

From Kilmacolm, outside Glasgow, Ronnie was sent to prep school in Perthshire and public school at Rugby. National Service in the navy followed, then eight years working in his father's Glasgow business. At this time, he met Mairi Crawford Lindsay, a student at Edinburgh College of Art who, during the summer holidays, worked on the island of Coll as a mother's help. They married on June 24, 1962, which was Ronnie's 28th birthday.

They both loved the idea of a free life away from their early bourgeois upbringings, so life in the West Highlands beckoned. They took a job, Ronnie as cattleman and Mairi, a dairy-maid on a large farm at Applecross. By 1965, three months after the birth of Mark, their first child, they moved to Coll, to Crossapol, a remote farm-house by a sandy beach on the south end of the island. It had a well but no running water, gas lamps instead of electricity and no proper access.

Living there for 10 years, during which time Tammy, their daughter, was born, they tried subsistence farming and lobster fishing. The Hedderwicks increasingly relied on Mairi's artistic skills to earn a living and in 1969 they established Malin Workshop, selling postcards, illustrated note-paper and calendars.

By this time, the Highlands and Islands Development Board was growing the local economy in remote Scottish regions by supporting art and craft enterprises and Malin Workshop was at the centre of this action, regarded now as ‘the golden age' of the craft movement in the Highlands.

In 1971, the first Highland Trade Fair took place in the floored-over ice rink of the Aviemore Centre. It was a success and became an annual event where Ronnie and Mairi's stand was always a central attraction.

As there was no secondary school on Coll, and in order to stay together, the family moved in 1973 to Fort William. While Mairi began to illustrate books for a publisher, which led to her successful series of Katie Morag books inspired by life on Coll, Ronnie took a job as a printer's representative and they settled near Inverness.

It was during this period when Margaret Thatcher paid a visit to Inverness, that Ronnie, always politically active for the Left, planned to handcuff the prime minister and kidnap her. Unfortunately, the attempt failed!

By the mid-80s the Hedderwicks' marriage folded. Ronnie went to Aberdeen to study music but fell out with his lecturers who tried to popularise Chopin and Beethoven. For a brief time, he ran a gallery in Leith where he sold pianos. In 1988 he married Janet Gladstone and they moved to the Borders, where Zoe was born in 1992.

After Tammy visited Portugal and recommended it, Ronnie and Janet took a look, with the intention of setting up an English language school. When they drove down to that area in 1994, they tossed a coin: heads, Spain, tails, Portugal.

Spain won and they bought a big, old house in a picturesque village near Girona in Catalunya and learned to speak Catalan. In nearby Bisbal, they ran a school teaching English for over 20 years.

By December 2019, Ronnie was suffering from Alzheimer's, so they returned to Scotland where they found a home, first in Whithorn and later in Wigtown.

Ronnie Hedderwick was much liked during his long life. He was kind, even-tempered and above all, fair in his dealings with others. He took great pains in all that he did, from running Malin Workshop, organising political and environmental protests to teaching students of all ages in his school.

After a fall and an operation on his hip, Ronnie failed to recover and died in Mid Park hospital in Dumfries.

Ronald Nelson Hedderwick: b. June 24, 1934; d. June 4, 2022


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