One of the founders of the Skye and Lochalsh Young Carers charity has been recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours with an MBE.
Pat Walsh, who is affectionately known throughout the local community as Mrs Pat has been at the forefront of a variety of social and charitable endeavours across the last 50 years since moving to the island from the Peak District in 1970.
The Skye and Lochalsh Young Carers, Crossroads Care, the Skye and Lochalsh Association for Disability, social work, and the Skye and Lochalsh Housing Association are just some of the organisations in which Pat has played a key role. In turn these projects have positively impacted on the lives of countless members of the local community.
Commenting on the award, Pat told the Free Press: “It was a big surprise — I first heard about it last May, and was sworn to secrecy.
“It’s lovely but I do think there are more that deserve it.”
Pat was nominated by the Skye and Lochalsh Young Carers, a charity which she co-founded after becoming aware of a deficit in provision within the local community.
She recalled: “Twenty years ago, we had a carers day up in Aros and this young boy came in and said that there was nothing for young carers. He was actually speaking to Marjorie Jagger, and she said to me ‘do you think we can do something about it?’”
She added: “I trained as a housing manager and later as a social worker. I was always interested in housing, and people from the government came to encourage people to set up housing associations in the early 1980s — the one here was set up in 1983 and I was on the working party for that.
“The idea was to build little groups of houses in the more remote districts. Then the government policy changed and the council weren’t allowed to build anymore, and the money was given to the housing association so then they started building in Portree, Broadford and Kyle.”
She went on to add: “There were so few things in the 70s and 80s for people, the association for disability started around that time which is responsible for Kyleakin Connections.
“And we also started a centre in Portree on Staffin Road, and then the land in Bayfield became vacant and we tried to buy that but we couldn’t raise the money, so the council stepped in to build the centre, with social work offices incorporated in it.
“But we are responsible for that building in Bayfield — Tigh na Drochaid.
“These things come very much from the community — the council for voluntary services here is one of the oldest in Scotland.”
Pat said that she came from a family tradition of voluntary service and moved to a community where it was also hugely valued.
“I think this award is recognition for the contributions of many people over the years, some of them no longer with us. It is an award for them, as much as it is for me,” she said.
“I don’t know where I’ll go to get the medal, presumably Holyrood one day —unless they do it locally.”