Tributes poured in at the end of September 2019 after the news broke of the sad passing of former Comhairle nan Eilean Siar councillor Mairi Bremner.
Born in September 1945, Mrs Bremner was one of the most prominent figures in Uist and Western Isles life over many years and was still active in a number of public roles. She was a passionate advocate for the Gaelic language and culture. Her funeral took place on Friday September 29th in St Michael’s Church, Ardkenneth, South Uist.
Mairi was formerly a primary school teacher and ran her own business with her husband Robert for many years.
She was a councillor with CnES for 24 years, representing the former Iochdar ward, and chaired the Social Work committee from 1986-2003 when she stood down as a councillor. She was also Vice-Chair of the Policy & Resources committee as well as holding many other prominent positions including Chair of Human Resources and being a Comhairle representative on COSLA.
Mairi also served as a non-Executive Director of the Western Isles Health Board and on Comunn na Gàidhlig’s board.
She was the longest serving Board Member of the Hebridean Housing Partnership, as well as being involved in smaller community organisations. For instance, she acted as Gaelic adjudicator at Mòd Ionadail Uibhist 2019.
In the past she was a director of Tagsa Uibhist, Pròiseact nan Ealan and of the UK Committee for European Bureau of Lesser used Languages.
Earlier this year she was involved in a public campaign to get women more involved in local politics – as there are no longer any female councillors on CnES. At the time she said she was saddened by the absence of women on the Comhairle, the only local authority in the UK with no female representatives. "It grieves me because I think women have a better understanding of people's needs and wishes," she said. “I also think women are more approachable. I felt that I was approached more, and by people from outwith my own area for a lot of things because they felt like they could talk to a woman."
Convener of the Comhairle Norman A Macdonald, said: “Mairi was a tremendous voice for her community, serving in distinguished roles on the Comhairle, most notably as Chair of Social Work.
"Mairi was a robust campaigner for her community and for the islands and she was full of compassion and concern for the most vulnerable in our community. She was also a leading figure locally and nationally in Health and Care issues.
"Our thoughts at this sad time are with Mairi’s husband of over 50 years, Robert, her family and her many friends.”
In comments on Monday September 23rd, the Hebridean Housing Partnership said: “Today marks a very sad occasion for us as a Partnership as we learned of the sudden passing of one of our longest serving Board members, Mairi Bremner.
Chairman Mr. Norman Macleod said: “It was indeed with much sadness that we heard our dear friend and Board member Mairi Bremner passed away following an unfortunate incident some days ago in Glasgow.
"Mairi was appointed at our AGM in September 2009 and was a hard working volunteer member. A passionate and diligent contributor, HHP and the wider community were very well served by Mairi during her ten years on the Board.
"She will be sorely missed by us, but more so by her family especially by her husband Robert and her two sons of whom she spoke often.”
Chief Executive Dena Macleod said: “It is hard to take in that Mairi is no longer with us. She was a vibrant character who brought so much more to us than her board skills; she brought humour, a huge heart for the people in our community, wisdom and compassion.
"Mairi appeared to have an enviable, unbounded level of enthusiasm and was always eager to encourage whoever came across her path. I will miss that voice of encouragement and the endless stories of her beloved dog, Bingo.”
Mairi served as a Board Member for 10 years and was only recently re-elected to serve another term. Mairi's commitment, knowledge and experience was truly valued by the HHP board. Such was her varied experience that she excelled in her role as Chair of Audit & Risk Committee.
“We join many across the community in sending our sincere condolences to Mairi’s husband, Robert, and their sons, Aeneas and Steven, along with Mairi’s wider family, and many friends and colleagues who remain in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.
The Lord-Lieutenant of the Western Isles, Donald Martin was a close colleague of Mairi Bremner during her time at the Comhairle and during her Chairmanship of Comunn na Gaidhlig.
Paying tribute to her enormous contribution to the Gaelic language and culture he described her as being “instrumental in promoting the Comhairle’s Bilingual Policy in the early days of the Council. As Chair of the Social Work Committee she pioneered the use of Gaelic at Council meetings by encouraging anyone with a knowledge of the language to use it.
“Very often she would reprimand a Councillor or officer with the words “Cuin a chaill thu do chuid Gàidhlig” (“When did you lose your Gaelic”).
Having had an early career as a teacher, she was a passionate supporter of bilingual education and promoted the language at international level through her work on the European Bureau of Lesser Used Languages. As Chairman of CnaG, Mairi championed many community and youth initiatives such as the Sradagan youth groups and the gaelic schools’ debates.
Mairi dedicated her life to the service of others and was always ready to provide encouragement and advice. Her legacy through the numerous bodies which she so dutifully served will have been to have made a significant difference to the lives of many.
She was a popular and regular participant on Gaelic radio and television programmes where she displayed her considerable qualities as an engaging, informative, and entertaining contributor. Sàr Ghàidheal dha-rìreabh air am bidh ionndrainn mhòr.