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OBITUARY: Karen Morrison of Dingwall and Durness - a woman who made the world a better place

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A BRIGHT light has faded with the death of Karen Morrison, aged just 60, after a courageous nine-year battle with cancer.

Karen made her home in Dingwall but she was well known in Durness, where her husband Colin Morrison was brought up, and the wider north-west Sutherland area.

Karen Morrison
Karen Morrison

She loved Durness, the people, the scenery, and family times. She also loved a glass of gin at the end of the night with Joyce, Colin’s mother. It was where she could unwind and have fun.

Karen was born in Opunake, New Zealand, in July 1963. Her mother Margaret Urquhart, from Dingwall, had met and married Ron McSweeney, a New Zealand-born electrical engineer who had worked on the huge Highland hydro-electric developments.

When these came to an end, he and Margaret moved back to his homeland. The family returned to Dingwall in early 1975 – by this time Karen had two siblings, Donella and Morgan.

A talented swimmer, she joined Alness Sub Aqua Club at the age of 17 and frequently dived off the west coast, in the Cromarty Firth and,many years later in the Philippines.

After leaving school, Karen trained as a nurse at Bangour Village Hospital, a career she loved intensely. She particularly enjoyed working on the psychiatric ward, where she cared for the patients with sensitivity, strength and respect.

She later worked as a theatre nurse in Scarborough, often telling gruesome talkes from the operating theatre that would horrify and fascinate her impressionable young brother and sister.

Karen moved back to Dingwall after the birth of her first daughter Kayleigh, and after living for a short time in the family home, she was determined to regain her independence.

Through hard work and determination Karen moved with Kayleigh into their first home in Millbank Road where they lived when she met Colin Morrison.

In 1994 Karen and Colin married – her late brother Morgan, who sadly died in a car crash shortly afterwards, proudly gave her away. Two years later their daughter Natalie was born.

Long before, and for most of her illness, Karen was an enthusiastic supporter of good causes at home and abroad. Family trips to Africa led to their involvement with GAGA - the charity Goodwill and Growth for Africa, founded several years ago by its chairman, Tony Weller.

She took part in a number of Highland Hospice fundraising challenges- the most recent in September 2022, zip-lining off the Kessock Bridge.

She had lost so much weight due to her illness that she slipped while climbing over the barrier and crashed heavily into the side of the bridge. However, she carried on and set off down the zip line - very slowly because she was so light.

Karen Morrison
Karen Morrison

Colin’s friendship with Durness-born property developer David Morrison (no relation) led to David’s company, Sangobeg Investments Ltd, setting up a charity called Sangobeg Scholarship Programme, to support GAGA by providing funding for university level education and training for promising young people who would not otherwise have the chance to realise their full potential. There are currently 20 scholars studying a variety of disciplines.

A few years ago, some of the earliest beneficiaries visited the tiny Durness hamlet of Sangobeg, where David was born and where Colin’s elderly parents still live.

“Karen was a very special person and she gave us a really worthwhile cause to support," said David.

Colin said: “Karen showed incredible strength and courage in the face of the ultimate challenge that we all face. She didn’t tiptoe through life, she marched through it.

“She would never ask anyone to do something she wouldn’t do, and she always got the job done properly. She took notice of the people around her and if they needed help, she would always be there.

"Karen was devoted to her close friends and family, with a very special place for her beautiful granddaughter Ella who arrived only six months before her death.

“She put her heart and soul into fundraising projects for South Africa – the house is still full of African jewellery and craft which she had bought to be sold at the many craft fairs she frequented.”

Despite a local warning of gales and rain, her funeral service at Inverness Crematorium on the last day of January was so well attended that even the corridor outside the main chapel was packed with friends and admirers, while donations for Highland Hospice and equipment for Dingwall district nurses reached £1800.

Willie Morrison

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