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The story of Take The High Road’s Gwyneth Guthrie: STV and Pavilion tributes as Mrs Mack actress dies

Tributes have been paid to soap star Gwyneth Guthrie, known to millions as the Take The High Road busybody Mrs Mack who has died at the age of 84.

The Ayrshire-born actress, who admitted that landing the role was a fluke but went on to become one of the best-known stars of the soap for 20 years, passed away peacefully and surrounded by loved ones.

The classic soap, which ran from 1980 to 2003, and Mrs Mack’s antics reached a new audience during the pandemic when the STV Player started showing episodes from the start.

READ MORE: Mrs Mack actress Gwyneth Guthrie dies aged 84

Every Sunday morning during the summer of last year, another five episodes of the drama serial were released, with 1,517 in total.

The soap was set in the fictional community of Glendarroch, but was filmed in Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond.

A statement from her family read: “It is with a heavy heart we announce the passing of our amazing mum, Gwyneth Guthrie.

“She passed peacefully on Tuesday, November 9, at home and surrounded by her loving family.

“She will be playing to her next audience in heaven.”

Married in 1959 to John Borland, who ran his family’s shop business they lived in a farmhouse near Kilmarnock and had three daughters – Karen, Debbie and Olwen. He passed away in 2018.

Bobby Hain, managing director of broadcast at STV, paid tribute to the actress saying: “We at STV are so saddened to hear the news about Gwyneth Guthrie.

“For 20 years, Gwyneth played the iconic character of Mrs Mack in Take The High Road, bringing her own wonderful comic timing and dramatic flair which made her beloved across the UK.

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with her family at this sad time.”

As all 1517 soap episodes were being reshown, STV credited it for boosting its audience numbers, and that it had been beating the BBC For viewers.

Mrs Guthrie said that while she was pleased to see its rescreening again, she had never watched herself on screen and did not plan to start.

READ MORE: TV preview: Bridget Riley: Painting the Line; Scotland’s Best Dog 2021; Kate Humble; Good Life, Green Life

How STV promoted the Take The High Road re-runs.

“I’ve never watched myself because I know myself and I just thought that’s not for me,” she said after the annoucement was made. “It’s an honour that it’s back on. It’s lovely that people enjoy it so much. I’m so pleased, it means it’s got a longer life than I realised and does our country no harm.”

The actress has said that landing the role in 1983 was a fluke after the first audition did not go well because she did not know the character was something of a battle-axe.

“My agent said they need a nice, kind gentle person so I went along and did that. I got really cross when I was then told the person they were looking for Mrs Mack was a difficult busy body.”

But the show had to go on, and she went to a charity shop and bought a coat and hat that she thought would suit the character and went back to ask if she could have another audition. “I said, ‘Stop searching, Mrs Mack has arrived’. It was a metamorphosis. The hat I found was a real cracker. And I told them I wasn’t going to wear any make up or lipstick.”

Mrs Guthrie grew up in Ayr raised by her bank manager dad Jim and mum Enid along with little sister Anne.

She said she remembered always wanting to be an actress.

She worked in radio from around the age of 12, trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and became adept at difference voices – from regional accents to being able to sound like a child.

In other work Mrs Guthrie played Rik Mayall’s mum in Kevin Turvey: The Man Behind the Green Door.

She also sat next to Charlie Sheen in make-up when she had a role as a kilt shop manager in his Glasgow-filmed movie Postmortem.

HeraldScotland:

It was in 1983 that she landed the role that turned her from a jobbing actress to one of TV’s most formidable and memorable soap characters – and it was for that that she was continually recognised.

As well as playing the role of Mrs Mack, she also played her sister, Florence, in the show.

Last year she said she still received letters from fans across the world.

And there were royal fans of her performances as the Queen and late Queen Mum were also keen viewers of the soap.

“It was a good advertisement for Scotland as it showed what a beautiful place it is and has given people a lot of happiness,” she told the Daily Record.

Iain Gordon, general manager of the Pavilion Theatre in Glasgow, where Mrs Guthrie was a regular performer, said: “It is very sad news to hear of Gwyneth Guthrie’s passing.

“She was one of the real all-round great Scottish actresses, a real funny woman to work with who knew exactly how to put a character together on stage.

“Personally I learned a lot from her over the years and enjoyed the time working with her.

“I remember a show where she came on stage, sat in a chair and got huge laughter without even saying a word. Thinking of it still makes me laugh.

“Condolences to all the family, friends and fans.

“Rest in peace Gwyneth, it was a pleasure to know, work and learn from you.”



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