I WAS saddened this week by the death at the grand old age of 99 of a great community stalwart, Mollie McIntosh, MBE, who lived in Walkerburn and was well-known across the Borders.
For me she sums up the best in our communities and at one point served on no fewer than 17 different committees as well as being active in the WVS, Red Cross and several other organisations.
It was no surprise that in 1990 she was awarded an MBE for services to the community and has received awards including Tweeddale Citizen of the Year.
Mollie was an inspirational grassroots champion of democracy and wider public service. I knew her first through politics early in my parliamentary career and her friendship has been something I have greatly valued since.
She joined the Conservative and Unionist Party at the age of 18 and was actively involved with the party all her adult life. She had a great knowledge of the area, including political history.
During her working life she was on the administrative side of the old Ballantynes Tweed Mill at Walkerburn also running the mill shop and visitor centre during which period she met such stars as Gracie Fields and Judy Garland.
I was particularly grateful for Mollie's energetic and enthusiastic support for the local Conservatives.
When I first met her around 20 years ago, she was in her late 70s and we frequently shared a laugh together when I referred to her as my favourite young Conservative!
I will never forget her wicked sense of humour and the twinkle in her eyes. I often joked with her that I wanted to take a sample of her DNA to give to others as I so admired her energy, spirit and defiance of age. Almost up to the end of her life she was still active and drove her car.
It was great to be campaigning with Mollie as she knew absolutely everyone -- be it on Peebles High Street or in other Tweeddale communities.
Although a lady with friends of differing political views, her passing particularly highlights the esteem in which she was held within her own party.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson stated in a tribute: "The words 'pillar of the community' are too often used, but when it came to Mollie McIntosh that's exactly what she was.
"She was Walkerburn through and through. A life-long Conservative, she believed politics was at its best when it was at its most local and really made an impact on people's lives."
Former Scottish Conservative Leader, Annabel, now Baroness Goldie, spoke of Mollie's indomitable spirit together with her infectious, impish, pawky sense of humour and unflagging interest in politics.
She recalled: "Whenever she left a message on my voicemail, it was a real pleasure to call her back. I knew I would feel a hundred times better at the end of the call than I did at the start, she was a tonic."
Meanwhile, Dame Eleanor Laing, MP, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, was a family friend of Mollie's and regular visitor to Walkerburn.
She said: "I'm so sad to hear that Mollie did not make it to her 100th birthday. She was not only a doyen of the Conservative Party but a great character and we all adored her. My teenage son loved talking to Mollie. To him she was a living history!"
Also published in Friday 22 March edition of Southern Reporter