He was the founding editor of the Southern Highland News, a man dedicated to his community and his family, and a champion for women.
MacKay 'Mac' Cott received well-deserved recognition for his contributions to the Southern Highlands community on June 10 with inclusion on the Queen's Birthday Honour's List for a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). Sadly Mac, as he was fondly known, passed away on that same morning.
He never had the opportunity to celebrate or be presented with the medal in an official capacity but Mac was well aware of the honour to come his way. His response after learning about the honour was "my whole mantra was, 'I'm here for the community. If I were to be remembered by the community in any way, it's for caring about the community."
Mac, without a doubt, achieved that goal. The announcement of his OAM by the Southern Highland News on June 10attracted plenty of praise and congratulations from people in the community thrilled to learn of his award. Among those messages:
"Congratulations Mac and indeed so well deserved. An inspiration to so many of us who were lucky enough to work for you."
"This is a much deserved award for a truly wonderful man. Congrats Mac."
"Congratulations Mac. Thoroughly well deserved!"
Those same people, and many more, will now be saddened to learn of Mac's passing after a long battle with cancer. He was just short of his 89th birthday on July 20.
While Mac had a positive influence on many in the community it is equally apparent that the woman in his life were important and influential to him. "I have been surrounded by women my whole life - starting with my mother who was a registered nurse and war time single mother, as well as my first wife Shirley who died in 1964, my second wife Freda and my four daughters - I have a wonderful respect and appreciation of how women achieve what they do," he once told Southern Highland News' current editor Jackie Meyers. "I'm impressed and inspired by the way they tackle situations - given confidence women can do almost anything."
Mac was raised by his widowed mother, grandmother and aunts. He moved to the Southern Highlands with his first wife Shirley in 1957 with two young children; Jennifer and Margaret, adding another daughter, Elizabeth and a set of twins David and Robert, to the family before Shirley's death from ovarian cancer at the young age of 32, in 1964, the twins were just six months old.
Mac's mother moved to the Highlands to help him raise the children, the older of whom were boarded at Santa Sabina in Strathfield, coming home on weekends to spend time with relatives while Mac worked hard to make a home.
He met his second wife Freda, while working at the Southern Highland News. Freda, who worked in advertising for the paper, had three children of her own, Ian, Graham and Trina. They married in 1971 merging the two families into one, becoming a wonderfully, lively and loving family that worked, travelled and laughed together.
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Mac took on his role of editor at the Southern Highland News in 1958 at the young age of just 28. He had already taken a step along several career paths - he'd been a university drop out, a part-time soldier, a corner shop owner and a truck owner and driver. However, it was his career in media that held his attention for more than five decades.
"I was doing a bit of freelance stuff for a Wollongong paper owned by my childhood mate Colin Lord," he said in a profile in the Southern Highland News special publication Snapshot. "We came up to the Southern Highlands, or Berrima District as it was known in those days, to sell a tourist and travel supplement.
"People Col spoke to convinced him and his uncle, Stan Lord, that a district-wide paper would do well in the area and the concept of the Southern Highlands News was born." Mac went on to open the doors to a media career for about 30 cadet journalists.
Relative, Lynne Moriarty described Mac as a very humble man, non judgemental but aware of injustices.
"He was accused by both sides of politics of having a bias, he didn't. He was someone who made a difference, in that he was unaligned," she said. "He was a hero, to us, a pacifist, a true gentleman and a fabulous raconteur.
"Oh the late nights, early morning discussions [we had] around the kitchen table with a glass or two of red, the old fuel stove warming and the laughter and deep and meaningfuls across the generations.
"Mac Cott has left an enviable and inedible mark on those who loved him and what more could you wish for."
Ms Moriarty added that there were several male grandchildren and great grandchildren, in the family, who now carried the name Mac. "A true testament to this wonderful man."
Mac's funeral service details are yet to be finalised.