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Inverewe House
Inverewe House

Mairi Sawyer lived from 1 March 1879 to 23 July 1953. She is best known for carrying forward the work of her father, Osgood Mackenzie, in establishing Inverewe Garden near Poolewe. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.

Mairi Mackenzie was the daughter of Osgood Mackenzie. In 1862 he had purchased the Inverewe Estate near Poolewe and set to work to establish a 50 acre garden on an unpromising coastal site. By the time Mairi was born, Osgood was 17 years into his lifelong project. Her parent's marriage broke down while she was still young, and she seems to have spent part of her time with her mother. However, it seems that while still a child she became enthused with her father's vision and worked alongside him to help turn it into reality.

In 1907 at the age of 28, Mairi married Robert Hanbury. When Osgood Mackenzie died in 1922, the work of completing Inverewe Garden was carried forward by Mairi. Robert Hanbury died in 1933, and in 1935 Mairi married Ronald Sawyer, a landowner and farmer. Together they rebuilt Inverewe House, which had stood ruined since a serious fire in 1914, and under their stewardship, her father's dreams of Inverewe Garden developed into reality.

Ronald Sawyer died in 1945. With no surviving children, Mairi Sawyer began discussions with the National Trust for Scotland about future ownership of the garden in 1950. In 1952 she gave Inverewe Garden and an endowment for its future upkeep to the National Trust for Scotland. What in 1952 was an extremely remote place has become steadily less so in the decades since as the road network in North West Scotland has been steadily improved and as car ownership has increased. As a result, visitor numbers, which stood at 3,000 per year, are now around 200,000 per year. Mairi Sawyer died the year after she handed over the garden and secured its future.

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