Edinburgh’s oldest volunteer turns 100 as city hails her work

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MOST of us slow down in old age, but Edinburgh’s oldest volunteer Doris Keir says she plans to “keep on helping people” at the ripe old age of 100.

Sprightly as ever, Doris revealed thather secret to a long life is “drinking plenty of water” at a special birthday party at the City Chambers yesterday.

Edinburgh volunteer Doris Keir with the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Frank Ross, at the City Chambers. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Edinburgh volunteer Doris Keir with the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Frank Ross, at the City Chambers. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Doris volunteers at the Northfield and Willowbrae Community Centre every Monday, where she pours tea, hands out biscuits and offers support to those suffering from dementia and memory loss.

But yesterday it was her receiving the gifts as the Lord Provost of Edinburgh thanked her for the many years she has dedicated to helping others.

“I’ve always liked to help people,” said Doris. “I’ve always been like that since I was a child. I sort of look for the good in people, not the bad.

“And I never expected to be 100. When I was about 80 I thought ‘well, any day now’, and I’ve said that all along.”

Doris Keir aged 29 (right) and 18 (left) . The Edinburgh volunteer showed no signs of slowing down at a special birthday party thrown today by the Lord Provost. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Doris Keir aged 29 (right) and 18 (left) . The Edinburgh volunteer showed no signs of slowing down at a special birthday party thrown today by the Lord Provost. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Doris was born in Merchiston and brought up in Colinton, where she attended James Gillespie’s junior and senior schools and sat in the same class as author Muriel Spark.

She worked for many years as a civil servant for Edinburgh council and was employed as a secretary at Parsons Green Primary School.

After marrying in St Mary’s Cathedral, Doris moved to a house in the north of the city, where she has lived since the war.

She said: “We couldn’t get a house at first because it was the war, but then one turned up. My husband’s solicitor said ‘you better take it because there’s not another house to be had!’”

Doris sadly lost her husband as a relatively young women and two of her children years later. Of her surviving children, a daughter lives in Australia and a son and daughter came from Livingston to attend her celebration.

A devout Christian, she also held a gathering at the Christ Church at Britwell Crescent last week and read one of her many “funny poems” to around 80 friends and well-wishers.

She said: “I’ve written poetry since I was very young and used to read it a lot. Most of mine are funny, especially the one for my birthday.

“The party at the church was also lovely because we raised about £800 for people in Malawi. The church means a lot to me. People phone me up and I listen to them and I pray for people who need prayers.”

Doris is happy having received a card from the Queen on Thursday’s big day, but said she “never wanted to be a celebrity” as she was presented with gifts for her work.

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Frank Ross said: “Doris is an inspiration to us all and a formidable champion for those suffering from dementia and memory loss in her community.

“It is people like her who actively make the city a better place to live, and help to inspire more Edinburgh citizens to start volunteering for the benefit of others.”