Published: 12/09/2012 11:00 - Updated: 12/09/2012 11:37

Dancing coach presented with Queen's rare award

Thurso Highland dancing stalwart Mina Mackay receives her British Empire Medal from Caithness Lord Lieutenant Anne Dunnett.
Thurso Highland dancing stalwart Mina Mackay receives her British Empire Medal from Caithness Lord Lieutenant Anne Dunnett.

OVER the past 55 years, she has taught thousands of Highland dancers from across Caithness who have gone on to win countless awards in major competitions.

But on Saturday, everybody was dancing for instructor Mina Mackay when a special celebration was held in honour of her receiving the British Empire Medal.

Thurso Highland Dancing Committee organised the party at Thurso’s Royal British Legion clubrooms to honour their chairwoman who received the accolade in the Queen’s birthday honours list.

A special sash was made for the guest of honour to wear, which had the BEM acronym adapted to ‘Best Ever Mina’.

On behalf of the Queen, Caithness Lord Lieutenant Anne Dunnett presented the medal to Mrs Mackay, saying that it was well deserved for her being an inspiration to so many young people.

"The British Empire Medal was reintroduced this year to celebrate the 60th jubilee and with 30,000 nominations at any one time, they are very hard to come by," said Miss Dunnett.

"It is a very special award and I am glad that she has been recognised at last."

Mrs Mackay, from Hill of Forss, started her dance school in 1957 and has run it continuously ever since, even teaching the grandchildren of some of her original pupils.

Devoted to her all-consuming passion, she is described as an energetic inspiration to her pupils while other women her age are enjoying their retirement.

She has already received recognition for work when she received the Scottish Association of Local Sports Councils’ service-to-sport award and a premier award from the United Kingdom Dancing Association.

She has never turned down a request from a charity to assist with a Highland dancing display, aiming to instil into her pupils a sense of duty to the community.

Over the years, she has provided her dancers free of charge at care homes, concerts, coffee mornings and gala night displays as well as working closely with the Thurso Pipe Band.

Speaking to the Caithness Courier in June, Mrs Mackay said that she had no intention of stepping down and looked forward to teaching new students for years to come.

"Teaching children is one of my passions in life and my students are always so enthusiastic to learn," said Mrs Mackay, who keeps her age a tightly-guarded secret.

She added: "It is a way of keeping them off the streets and learning new skills to stay fit and healthy and I always try to teach the fun element as well as the competitiveness of the sport."

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