Mara McGregor, a resident at Steepleton Manor Care Home took a trip to see the Queen in Dorchester yesterday which bought back special memories as Mara was once a familiar face within the Royal household.
Mara, 89, has been privileged to paint three portraits of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and two of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, as well as HRH Princess Anne and other members of the Royal family.
One of her pictures, a full size portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was commissioned to hang in the Houses of Parliament in Sydney.
Mara McGregor was born in Malaysia in 1927, the only daughter of a rubber planter, and moved to South Africa when she was three, where she grew up under the influence of her father’s commercial art studios. Mara excelled at Art while at school but never thought of making it a career as she was interested in acting and singing. She later moved to East Africa to join her parents and while there, she met her husband Alan, an ex-Battle of Britain pilot. They came to England in 1950 and Alan re-joined the RAF in 1952. Sadly, Alan passed away in 1997.
Trying to establish herself as an artist was not an easy task being a serving Officer’s wife as she was continually on the move. However, when stationed in Scotland, she painted a picture of Kenneth McKellar which was displayed in a House of Fraser store. As a result of this, Mara was asked to paint two grand-daughters of Lady Fraser of Allander and she was so delighted with them that it resulted in an introduction to Harrods who held a large exhibition for her from which several commissions resulted.
She was then commissioned to paint Black Rod for RAF Cranwell which led to her being commissioned to paint her first Royal portrait of HRH the Prince of Wales in 1970 while he was a student at the RAF College. Her portrait of the Queen Mother took place in 1981. Her last royal portrait took place in 1997, which was of the Duchess of Kent.
Mara has lived at Steepleton Manor Care home for the last four years and has two daughters and a son. She lived in Hampshire for a large part of her life before coming to Dorset.
She has also painted various equine portraits including one of the 1981 Grand National winner ‘Aldaniti’ which she donated to an auction in aid of The Bob Champion Cancer Charity. In 2004 Mara visited Kenya and produced two paintings, one of a cheetah with her cub and one of a lion cub.
Rachel Lewis from Steepleton Manor said, ‘Mara is a wonderful lady with a remarkable talent which has led her to meet many members of the Royal family. She was so happy to see the Queen visiting Dorchester yesterday even though she did not get chance to speak to her. All of her portraits are amazing’.