Real lives: They came from far and wide to toast Jenny’s 100th

Jenny Lyall

Jenny Lyall

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Relatives flew 12,000 miles from New Zealand to help great-grandmother Jenny Lyall celebrate her 100th birthday.

The centenarian, who is a resident at Hilton Lodge Nursing Home in Haddington, celebrated the milestone on Sunday.

Sir Garth Morrison, Lord Lieutenant of East Lothian, presented Jenny with a card from Her Majesty the Queen, while residents at the home joined in by toasting the occasion with champagne.

Friends and former neighbours from Gifford, where Jenny lived for almost 40 years, also raised a glass.

Granddaughter Morag Cuddeford-Jones, 38, said: “My gran was really the heart of the home – a proper old-fashioned grandma.

“She’s very good with children, especially having been a teacher, and a fantastic storyteller.

“She knows all the old Scottish tales and was bouncing her great-grandson, Lachlan, on her knee and re-telling them.

“Right up until a few years ago, she still had her weekly knees-up with ‘the girls’ at Jenners’ tea rooms.”

Born in the Black Isle, Jenny is the oldest and only remaining survivor of seven siblings.

She left home in Fortrose to become a teaching student in Aberdeen, where she met future husband Bill, who was also training to become a teacher. Bill started teaching at George Watson’s Boys College in Edinburgh while Jenny taught in Kircudbright.

They married in 1939 when Bill joined the RAF as a squadron leader, in which he commanded one of the road stations which protected London, with the couple moving around the country during the war years.

Eventually they settled in Craiglockhart, before daughter Alison – Morag’s mother – was born in 1944 and son Donald in 1948.

Jenny later retrained and went on to spend 20 years teaching with the Capital’s Royal Blind School.

The couple retired in the early 1970s and moved to Gifford, where both became active members of the community – joining the Women’s Institute and local cinema group.

Morag said: “They built their house – the Birchdale – from scratch, with just a little bit of help, and had lived their ever since.

“They had many friends in Gifford but were also very much Edinburgh people.”

Sadly, they lost Alison to a brain haemorrhage at the age of 55 in December 1999, before Bill passed away in 2003. Jenny continued to live in Gifford before moving in to Hilton Lodge Nursing Home three years ago.

Morag said Jenny “revels” in her grandchildren – two of whom, Jennie and Fiona, live in New Zealand and her three great-grandchildren – Morag’s children Tomos, seven, and Joshua, four, 
who live in England, and Lachlan, aged one, son of Fiona.

“The celebration really was a lovely day,” Morag added.