Mary Beith was known as a lecturer and researcher of great clarity on the traditional medicines of the Highlands. Through her newspaper and magazine articles, her book Healing Threads, and her contributions to conferences and universities, she looked below the surface to reveal a systematic body of knowledge in the Highlands of the past, expressed in those times in training and professional contact and bodies of medieval manuscripts, and laid the foundations for a fresh research approach.
She had previously worked as a journalist in situations requiring courage and self-reliance, and she won an award for her exposure of the “smoking beagles” scandal and reported from Northern Ireland in difficult times. She spoke in the second Orkney Science Festival in 1992, and twenty-five years on, the Festival paid tribute to her in a Memorial Lecture. It was given by ethnobotanical researcher Anna Canning, who has a degree in herbal medicine from Napier University and much experience in the study of plants and traditional remedies and the insights that can be provided by modern scientific studies.