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A visit to Tobermory will never be quite the same again with the passing of Anne (Annie) Flavell – or Cookie, as she was known.
Stalwart of the chandlery Seafare on Tobermory’s Main Street for 41 years, Cookie and her veritable Aladdin’s cave of seafaring goods were an institution of Tobermory meaning so many things to so many different people.
Annie’s nickname was forged early on when she qualified in Hotel and Catering management.
Her first job was as CCC with the Post Office. Before she started work, Annie had to sign the Official Secrets Act and it can only now be safely revealed what CCC actually stood for – ‘Chief Custart Curdler’.
She thereafter worked in various places in Edinburgh before moving to the Clachaig Inn in Glencoe where she was one of two chefs and became known as Cookie.
Her life was changed forever when she arrived in Tobermory in 1976. At that time, Seafare was a small supplies shop for local diving businesses. Cookie took it and built it up into a proper emporium which has grown and grown and is now renowned on the west coast. Indeed for many, Seafare is the ‘go to’ place in Tobermory.
As well as being an integral part of the community of Tobermory, Annie got involved with the RNLI 20 years ago, when she volunteered to become a DLA, or deputy launch assistant. This is an important role involving taking the decision whether or not to authorise the launch of the lifeboat.
In 2010, she was awarded the RNLI silver medal in acknowledgement of her role. In 2013, she became the treasurer of the RNLI, working tirelessly behind the scenes and devoting hours every week to managing the station’s finances.
Cookie’s hard work and dedication were recognised last year with the award of the RNLI’s prestigious Gold Badge. A low-key, private presentation was held at the station after Lifeboat Day, when Cookie had finished counting the money.
As in so many areas of her life, she was modest, unassuming and never wanted any fuss. But alongside her hard work, she was indeed the life and soul at every RNLI station social event, had the greatest sense of fun and loved a bit of mischief with any excuse to party.
Anne was also treasurer of the Tobermory Harbour Association for many years and her support for the community company was unwavering.
She also helped West Highland Yachting Week with several aspects of the event including the famous window dressing competition in Tobermory.
Nothing was too much effort or too much time for her. Because she was part of Main Street in Tobermory with Seafare, she became well known and loved by many visitors as well as the locals – she has been a constant presence in the lives of several generations of village children especially her niece Frankie and her nephews Jim and Matt as well as her nephew Frank, who hails from London.
Tobermory’s Main Street is known the world over for its iconic coloured houses. Yet in reality it is the people of our community who bring colour to the town. And Cookie was certainly one of the town’s most colourful characters.
Without her in the doorway of her shop, Main Street will seem a little monochrome, especially in the summer when there will be no excuse for a chat and a laugh with Cookie outside Seafare.
Nothing was too silly for her and there are many tales of her exploits and the famous back shop ‘lock in’ sessions at Seafare. Cookie’s parties and lunches were legendary and in particular the ‘prime wine time’. She was much loved for her dry and sometimes wicked sense of humour.
Once on a dull winter’s day she persuaded a willing close friend to dress up in some sailing gear and climb into the shop window to give a few passers-by a start as he winked at them.
Above all, she was affectionate and dependable – someone who everyone knew they could trust. She had many friends and valued her relationships with all of them. For many she was indeed a legend.
And as was outlined at her farewell service in the Western Isles Hotel, only Cookie could make something out of being the proud purveyor of ‘Creeping Crack Cure’ at Seafare.
The sealant has now been renamed ‘Finds and Fixes Leaks’ which doesn’t have quite the same ring.
Seafare was the embodiment of Cookie in so many ways. As well as the serious and practical chandlery stock at the back of the shop, there was a selection of silly stuff like hats and even cow bells at the front.
Seafare was somewhere you could go for a laugh or for some advice. Indeed, Cookie has helped countless ‘yotties’ the length and breadth of the west coast and farther afield with their queries and problems.
She was a great sounding board. She never judged, and her advice was invariably wise counsel.
Tobermory Harbour Association stated via social media: ‘Where would our boat owners have been without Seafare? We will miss you Anne and thank you for all you did for our harbour and for all our visitors afloat.’
When news was broken to the lifeboat crew about Cookie, one member commented: ‘The world needs more Cookies, not one less.’