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‘Scotland’s oldest coronavirus survivor’ dies at home in Perthshire aged 102

Daphne Shah made headlines around the world when she survived Covid, aged 98, at the height of the pandemic.

Daphne Shah holding 100th birthday telegram from Queen
Daphne Shah recovered from Covid and was thrilled to receive her 100th birthday telegram from the Queen. Image: Steve MacDougall

A Perthshire woman whose recovery from Covid-19 inspired the nation has died peacefully at the age of 102.

Daphne Shah was 98 when she was admitted to Ninewells Hospital at the height of the pandemic in April 2020.

She was thought to be Scotland’s oldest Covid survivor at the time.

Her recovery made headlines around the world after it was highlighted by Nicola Sturgeon at one of her daily Covid briefings.

Daphne went on to live well at home in St Madoes for another four years.

She told reporters her strong Christian faith played a big part in her survival.

Daphne Shah giving thumbs up sign
98 year old Daphne Shah at home in St. Madoes after beating coronavirus.

And she was still humming one of her favourite hymns, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, until shortly before her death earlier this week.

Her son Wes said his mother was a remarkable woman, whose courage touched the hearts of friends and strangers in an hour of darkness.

“We don’t feel sad this week,” he said.

“We feel happy that we had her until she was almost 103.

“And because her life was so long, we have so much to celebrate.”

Daphne Shah’s journey from India to Perthshire

Daphne lived in Perthshire for more than 40 years.

She was a leading figure in the Tayside Christian Fellowship, along with her late hudband Syed, and latterly at Hillbank Evangelical Church in Dundee.

Black and white photo of Daphne Shah as a young woman
Daphne Shah in her youth. Image: Supplied.

She was born into a British Army family in Cochin, South India, in 1921 – one of two daughters – and was working as a secretary in Madras when she met and fell in love with Syed.

They were married in 1950 and moved to East Africa, where Wes was born, soon after.

Syed was working as a Land Commissioner for the British Government at the time.

And when missionaries from Hillbank Church approached him to ask if he could suggest a piece of land for a chapel they were planning in Dar es Salaam, he not only found the land, he helped to build it by hand.

The connection endured, and Daphne worshipped at the Dundee church for the last 12 years of her life.

1960s photo of Syed and Daphne Shah
Syed and Daphne Shah. Image: Supplied.

The family came to the UK in 1971. And in 1983, Daphne and Syed moved north from London to Perth to join Wes, who was then training as an air traffic controller at Scone.

‘Her cookies were her passport’

The Tayside Christian Fellowship played a big role in the couple’s lives. Syed was a founding elder.

And Wes said his mother was never more content than when she was making other people happy.

“My mother was very friendly, and hospitable, she loved having people around,” he said.

“She loved to cook, she was renowned for her Indian cooking. And she loved to bake.”

Wes Shah with his arm around his mother Daphne Shah in front of a Christmas tree
Wes and Daphne Shah. Image: Mhairi Edwards.

Wes added: “She used to make cookies for the binmen, postman and delivery workers.

“And she would take packets of home-baked cookies wherever she went, and give them to the dentist, the doctor and people in all the different shops she went to.

“She said her cookies were her passport. They opened doors for her wherever she went.”

Covid introduced Daphne to the world

Following Syed’s death in 2000, Daphne went to live with Wes at St Madoes.

Then in April 2020, she became an unlikely celebrity following her brush with Covid.

Daphne Shah on one side, Nicola Sturgeon on the other
Daphne Shah’s recovery from Covid was hailed by then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

She spent five days in Ninewells Hospital receiving treatment for the virus.

After the Courier broke the story of Daphne’s recovery, it was picked up by newspapers and TV companies around the world.

Sky TV alone told the family it was broadcast to an audience of 262 million.

And Nicola Sturgeon said Daphne’s story was a reminder that “even in dark times, there is always light and hope”.

Daphne Shah seated on sofa with two large 9 balloons for her 99th birthday
The family made a big fuss of Dahne on her first birthday after Covid. Image; DC Thomson.

Daphne herself was proud that the opportunity allowed her to share her Christian faith with the world.

Wes said that was typical of his mother.

“When it came to her faith she didn’t just talk the talk, she walked the walk,” he said.

“Her favourite Christian scripture was ‘In everything, give thanks to God’.”

The family say they have received a deluge of condolences.

A celebration of Daphne’s life will be held at a later date.