A Perth woman who first attended Sunday School at the age of two has been honoured by the Kirk for more than 100 years of service.
Centenarian Sheila Wyles has enjoyed close links with the Church of Scotland since she was taken to worship by her parents in 1916.
The 104-year-old, the oldest active Church of Scotland Guild member in the country, was described as “inspirational” during a ceremony to celebrate her long service.
Sheila said it was an “honour and a pleasure” to be given a certificate from the Moderator of the General Assembly, Rt Rev Susan Brown.
Known as the Grand Old Dame of the Guild, Mrs Wyles, who was widowed nearly 60 years ago and still lives in her home, joined the organisation when she was 14.
She last attended a meeting at her church, Perth North, a few weeks ago and was at the Guild Annual Gathering in Dundee’s Caird Hall in September.
In the last three years, the guild has raised £725,000 to benefit six life-changing projects in Scotland and beyond.
“The guild has been an irreplaceable part of my life and if I have been able to help people in any way, it has been my privilege,” she said.
Mrs Wyle grew up in Methven, outside Perth and served in the Home Guard Auxiliary during the Second World War.
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She only stopped making pancakes for guild events two years ago.
“I am proud to receive this long service certificate from the moderator,” she said. “I never thought I would reach this milestone.
“I first went to Sunday School in Methven when I was two, and when I was 14 my mother took me to guild work party meetings.
“I have been involved in the guild since then and have enjoyed it very much. It is a way of life and a big support in times of difficulty.”
She said: “I have been involved in so many different projects it has supported over the years and, to be honest, I do not like missing meetings.”
Mrs Wyles, who trained in domestic sciences, enjoys sewing and knitting. After the Second World War, she helped make 3,000 layettes – newborn baby clothes – that the guild sent to mothers in Germany as part of the reconciliation process.
Mrs Wyles credits her long life to her strong Christian faith, as well as her supportive family and friends.
She said friends have told her she is “getting back what she has put in” to make other people’s lives better.
Following the presentation, Mrs Brown said: “It was so lovely to meet Sheila at the Guild Annual Gathering and to chat about the big part faith and the church has played in her life.
“She is an amazing lady, a true inspiration and she has touched so many over so many years.”
“I have a lot to be thankful for”
Mrs Wyles was born in Perth on July 6, 1914 – eight days after Archduke Franz Feridinand of Austria was shot dead in Sarajevo, sparking World War One.
She said her long and happy life has not been without its heartache and struggles.
Her father John Cameron died when she was seven months old, her husband Albert passed away in the early 1960s and their daughter Rachel died of Lupus in 2001 at the age of 51.
Not much was known about the disease at the time of Rachel’s diagnosis, so Mrs Wyles threw herself into fundraising for research, raising thousands of pounds.
When she turned 100 in 2014, she asked guests at her birthday party to donate money to St Thomas’ Lupus Trust and £1,370 was raised.
In her younger days, Mrs Wyles worked in children’s homes in East Lothian before taking a job with the council in Perthshire.
She was responsible for the introduction of school meals. She retired when she was 65.
Mrs Wyles, who used to sing in the church choir and played the organ, said: “I do not think I would have survived without the church
“I have a lot to be thankful for.”
In the year Mrs Wyles began attending Sunday School, the world was gripped by conflict.
The Battle of Verdun got under way on the Western Front, leading to around 1 million casualties, while the Easter Rising of Irish republicans against British occupation began in Dublin.
The year also saw the first successful blood transfusion, carried out by the British Royal Army Medical Corps.
The HMS Hampshire sank after hitting a mine off the coast of Orkney with Lord Kitchener aboard. More than 730 lives, including Kitchener, were lost.
Born in 1916 were author Roald Dahl, former Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and Edward Heath and actor Kirk Douglas.