One of Perth’s last surviving veterans has remembered old friends on Armistice Day.
Elsie Mackay, 102, served with the Auxiliary Territorial Service [ATS] – the women’s branch of the Army – for the final three years of the Second World War.
She is still going strong and lives in sheltered housing on the historic Bowerswell estate in Kinnoull.
The house on the estate is considered Perth’s ‘official’ war memorial and still contains the city’s book of remembrance for the Second World War.
Politicians and residents gathered there to mark Armistice Day on Friday.
The unwelcoming November weather meant Elsie was unable to attend the remembrance service but she still paid her own respects with son Robert.
Role in war effort
Elsie Wilson grew up in Sheffield and worked at a cutlery factory in the city.
After the outbreak of the war it became a shell-making factory that was bombed by the Luftwaffe.
In 1942 she volunteered for the ATS and served mainly in Newcastle.
Elsie was in charge of the stores and responsible for the care of the new recruits.
Grocers, hoteliers and post officer owners
They moved to his hometown of Perth and had three children: the late Elsie Roberts, Robert and Morag Davidson, who now lives in Australia.
During the 1950s the couple were grocers in Dunning and then became hoteliers in Forgandenny.
Later they ran the post office St Fillans.
Son Robert, 67, used to own County Newsagents in Perth’s County Place.
“Mother worked in my newsagent business until she was 85,” he said.
Sister born on Armistice Day
Elsie moved to Bowerswell in October 1991 after the death of her husband.
She is both its oldest and longest-serving resident.
“It has been a great experience living here,” she said. “There was quite a community here at one time.”
Today has particular poignancy for Elsie.
Her late sister Adelaide was actually born on the day Armistice was signed – November 11 1918.
“That’s why it is a day of family remembering,” Elsie said.
“I remember all my friends and all my memories.”
Tea has been ‘saviour’
Elsie is still in good form as she progresses through her 103rd year.
She says her longevity is based on “hard work, a good appetite and a cup of tea”.
“The tea has saved many situations,” she said.
Her favourite hobby is knitting.
“That is the one thing that keeps me going and my mind active,” Elsie added.
Botherswell ‘should be protected’
She is also grateful to live in a comfortable home with so much history.
In the late 1940s, Perth Town Council purchased the house and surrounding land for £5,000 to establish a “living” war memorial to the fallen.
This figure was soon repaid after a public appeal.
The Bowerswell sheltered housing complex includes the listed mansion with recreational rooms, 20 cottages and 21 flats.
The house has been under refurbishment for the past few years and works are still ongoing.
A remembrance service takes place at the war memorial every year.
Elsie said: “It’s nice to have a purpose for the house and a property that goes beyond just staying here.
“It should be protected and looked after.”
There were two services at Bowerswell House on Friday.
At 10.30am there was a service taken by Graham Crawford, Minister of Kinnoull Church.
There was then a gathering outside at the war memorial where wreaths were laid, a two-minute silence took place and a piper played.
Present were Alexander Stewart MSP, Peter Barrett on behalf of the Provost of Perth and regular attendee Murdo Fraser.