She has lived through two world wars and one of her earliest memories is her mother telling her about the Titanic disaster.
And as she prepares to celebrate her 107th birthday tomorrow, Lena Tannett has just one gift request – a blue feather boa.
Miss Tannett, believed to be Edinburgh’s oldest resident, was left heartbroken after her fiancé was killed in the Second World War.
Devastated by his death, she never had another relationship – and she still treasures the toy monkey he gave her before he went off to war.
The keepsake is of constant comfort to Miss Tannett, who has lived in Bruntsfield since 2005. Although frail and bedridden, she still delights the care home staff with her many tales of her earlier life. And despite people’s amazement at her age, she has taken it in her stride – and puts it down to clean living.
She will mark the milestone with a small family celebration at the home tomorrow.
Miss Tannett’s great-niece Morag Siller, 44, said: “She never lets the monkey out of her sight. She never had a relationship after that, she remained faithful to him all her life. It’s adorable, it gives her comfort. We never knew her fiancé’s name – my mother sadly has dementia so wouldn’t remember. Lena didn’t really talk about it. It broke her heart and she never really recovered from that. I wish now that I’d been able to get more information about him. He was her true love and will be to the end.”
Ms Siller said that when asked what she wanted for her birthday, Miss Tannett had asked for a blue feather boa – but the family has so far struggled to find one for tomorrow’s big day.
She added: “Her earliest memory is her being called in from the garden by her mother, and being shown the newspaper which said a boat had sunk. It was the Titanic. She has all these memories – it’s phenomenal. She was born about five years after Queen Victoria died – she has lived through so much. She now lives her life through dreaming – she’ll talk about the fact she’s been climbing up a hill. She definitely likes to sleep, but if you get her on a good day she’ll talk and she has a good memory.”
Miss Tannett was born in Greenock, where her father was a shipbuilding engineer. She met her fiancé while volunteering as a lorry and ambulance driver in the Second World War. When he died, she moved to Callander to work.
She later retired in Edinburgh so she could be nearer her family. Ms Siller, who lives in Manchester but visits her great aunt when she is back in the Capital to see her mum Ann, said: “She’s been such an active woman all her life, it’s sometimes sad to see her like this. She laughs, and says – ‘all my friends are dead’. It must be really difficult. But she is very proud that she has got a telegram from the Queen. She’s very aware that she’s got to a good age and she always looks forward to her birthday. She didn’t smoke or drink, her mother and her sister died when they were quite young, so she always presumed that genetically she wouldn’t get to that stage. I am very proud that she is my family.”
Lee Baines, unit manager at Chamberlain Road, said: “She is a remarkable and very interesting lady to talk to.”