Stornoway resident Kay MacKay is ‘overwhelmed’ to be awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List for her work with the Cancer Research UK Isle of Lewis Committee, which she chairs.
Unsure what to make of the envelope marked ‘Cabinet Office – Urgent’ that dropped through her front door mid-November last year, Kay admitted that she was in a state of shock upon reading its contents.
Beginning ‘IN CONFIDENCE’ the letter opens: “Dear Madam, The Prime Minister has asked me to inform you, in strict confidence, that having accepted the advice of the Head of the Civil Service and the Main Honours Committee, she proposes to submit your name to the Queen. She is recommending that Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to approve that you be appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the New Year 2018 Honours List.”
Said Kay: “I didn’t know what to make of the letter when it arrived, then I opened it and it was just a huge shock. And keeping it a complete secret has been difficult.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the whole thing. It’s something that I never would have expected, but I do feel it’s a great honour.”
Married to Jackie and mother to twin sons Roger and Gregor, former nurse Kay has dedicated over 35 years to fundraising for Cancer Research UK with the Isle of Lewis Committee.
Established in October 1975, Kay joined the Lewis Committee in 1980 and became a driving force behind one of the most successful fundraising committees for the charity throughout Scotland.
Under her leadership as Chair, the local Committee has progressed from raising an average of £2,000 in the 1980s to an average of £70,000 annually for Cancer Research UK.
And as Committee members celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015, the island branch had contributed over £1million since committed fundraising began on Lewis in 1975.
During her tenure, Kay has also boosted the Committee membership to 35 active and dedicated ladies, equally as passionate about raising funds for Cancer Research UK through a number of events, including the immensely popular annual Ladies Lunch and the Blones Do Ben Nevis hill climb challenge, as well as door-to-door collections and bake sales.
“The Committee has been cock-a-hoop since we were able to tell them about the MBE – they came with flowers and put balloons and bunting along the railings outside the house,” said Kay.
“Receiving the MBE is an honour for me, but it is also for the Committee and the island,” she continued.
“The reason we are so successful is that people are so generous here. We send away around £70,000 to Cancer Research UK each year and for the past three or four years we’ve sent more money than any other Committee in Scotland.”
Indeed, from a remote island community of only around 17,500 residents, £70,000 equates to an average donation of £4 per person – and Kay was honoured by the charity in 2015 when she was awarded the Cancer Research UK Fundraising in the Community Flame of Hope Award.
Introducing her at the 2015 award ceremony, Cancer Research UK chief executive Sir Harpal Kumar said: “Without Kay the Isle of Lewis Committee would not be what it is today.
“The success of the Committee is down to her outstanding drive, determination and commitment. She is constantly encouraging others in her own community to get involved with the Committee and is always ready to get involved with fundraising events herself.
“Her unfaltering dedication and passion for the work of Cancer Research UK means that she is an amazing ambassador for the charity.”
A decade on and Kay’s dedication and hard work is again being honoured as she now awaits word of when and where she’ll awarded her MBE by Her Majesty The Queen later this year.
“I’m very nervous,” she said of the upcoming Investiture,” I’d better start practising my curtseys.”
“It’s exciting though and I’d like to say a thank you to the Committee for their valued support through the years; and to Jackie, who does a lot to help as well.
“I said I’d retire at 70 but they wouldn’t let me and although I’ve taking a wee step back, I’ll keep going,” said Kay. “If I didn’t I’d just miss it terribly.”