Home   News   Article

Former whisky boss takes on chairman's role at Highland mental health charity, Mikeysline

By Val Sweeney

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Graham Hutcheon has taken on the role of chairman of Mikeysline.
Graham Hutcheon has taken on the role of chairman of Mikeysline.

After a 38-year career in the whisky industry, Graham Hutcheon is now taking on a new challenge – chairman of Highland mental health charity, Mikeysline.

He brings with him impressive and formidable business credentials including 20 years as director of group operations at Edrington – the company behind leading whisky brands such as The Macallan and Famous Grouse – and also as a past chairman of CBI Scotland.

Having now retired, the 60-year-old Glaswegian hopes to use his experience as Mikeysline continues to expand its work eight years after it was founded following the tragic deaths of friends, Martin Shaw and Michael Williamson within 48 hours of each other.

Mr Hutcheon, who replaces the outgoing chairwoman Donna Smith, takes up the role as the charity recently mourned the death of its founder, Ron Williamson.

Although he never met Mr Williamson, Mr Hutcheon is acutely aware of his achievements.

“When I got involved, Ron was unwell so I have only seen him in videos,” he said.

“I am the first chairman who has not met Ron but I am determined to build on his legacy.”

Mr Hutcheon spent 38 years in the whisky industry after graduating in chemical engineering at Strathclyde University.

He is a former chairman of North British Distillery, a founding member of the UK Food and Drink Sector Council and former president of Brugal SA in the Dominican Republic.

Currently, he is a non executive director of Skills Development Scotland and an advisor to Simpsons Malt.

He and his wife, Aileen, who have two adult sons, Grant and Iain, split their time between Glasgow and Nairn

“I first became aware of Mikeysline because my friend’s son lost a friend to suicide,” he said.

“There is always a connection.

“We became supporters of Mikeysline.”

Following a fundraising event, he became a trustee and before he knew it, he was being asked to become chairman.

Graham Hutcheon. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Graham Hutcheon. Picture: Callum Mackay..

Mr Hutcheon is clear about what he brings to Mikeyline.

“It’s nothing to do with suicide prevention or mental health management – it’s about business governance,” he said.

“It is business expertise I bring as chairman rather than mental health expertise which they already have in the organisation in great depth.

“I don’t run the charity.”

That role is undertaken by chief executive Emily Stokes and the Mikeysline team members whose passion and professionalism he praised.

He reflected that his last role before retirement was at Edrington whose principal shareholder is the Robertson Trust which has given millions of pounds to charities in Scotland.

“The ethos of the business was always about giving back,” he said.

He cited his business principles of the three “Es” – Efficiency, Expansion and Engagement – which he hopes to apply to Mikeysline.

Referring to efficiency, he acknowledged that in the current economic climate there is a demand on people’s bank balances.

“It is all about managing every pound,” he said.

“We raise as effectively and efficiently as we can.

“It is about using all the huge generosity in the region and making sure it is spent effectively.”

As for expansion, Mikeysline has plans to reach out further to communities across the Highlands and into Moray.

The charity already has a drop-in centre, The Hive, in Academy Street, Inverness but now plans to go mobile.

“We have a van which has been fitted out and will go out on the road to remote areas such as Orkney and Skye,” he said.

“It will be a mobile Hive.”

The charity aims for it to be out on the road by April and there are also hopes to expand into Moray next year and also to expand its reach in Badenoch and Strathspey as well as doing more on the Black Isle.

In addition, it is looking at setting up a group this year to support women whose mental health and wellbeing is affected by the menopause.

Turning to the third ‘E’, engagement, he said: “The fact it is a grassroots local charity, locally funded and delivering local services is fundamental to Mikeysline.

“It is a community charity and we are beholden to no one other than the needs of the local community.

“Ultimately, it is about the community in the Highlands.”

He felt that at the outset Mikeysline, whose ambition is to prevent suicide and improve mental health, had provided support which had not existed.

He said although the issues were discussed a lot more publicly than previously, fundamental problems such loneliness and stress still existed.

Emily Stokes, of Mikeysline, welcomes the new chairman.
Emily Stokes, of Mikeysline, welcomes the new chairman.

As he takes over the helm, Mr Hutcheon pondered on the reasons behind Mikeysline success.

“We have great people and a great organisation,” he said.

“It attracts people who want to make a difference and change the dialogue around mental health.

“Most of them have life experience which they can pass on.

“People in the region recognise this is needed and recognise the people who work in Mikeysline are professional and passionate and local.

“They recognise the challenges people are facing.”

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More