It began with a dance with a soldier in Alyth in 1963 and would lead to Woolworth’s girl Sonia Proctor touring the world, mixing with royalty and becoming the first lady of Angus.
Within years of that evening in Perthshire, Sonia would be looking after the welfare of hundreds of Black Watch wives and supporting her regimental sergeant major husband, Ronnie.
Over the decades, the couple would make home in 13 places across the world and finally settle in Kirriemuir. Mrs Proctor would devote herself to charity work. Ronnie would become Provost of Angus, with Sonia providing support and grounding.
A husband’s affection
That special partnership ended on Friday, March 26, when Mrs Proctor died at home. She was surrounded by her family as her eight-month cancer battle ended.
Mr Proctor said: “Sonia was a lady who began her adult life as a shy, quiet teenager and grew into the most heartwarming, honest and down-to-earth wife, mother and grandmother who was loved by all.”
Mrs Proctor was born in Meikleour cottage hospital on January 26, 1946. Her full name was Isabella Watson Brown Reid Griffin.
She was the fourth generation of living females in the family to be called Isabella, so was given the name Sonia to avoid confusion.
Young Sonia was the eldest of Frank and Isabella Griffin’s daughters and was educated in Coupar Angus.
She left school in 1961 to become an apprentice tailor. That career ended when the business closed so Sonia took a job at the wire basket-making factory at Stanley Mills.
When an opening came up at the newly-opened Woolworth’s store in High Street, Lochee, she jumped at the chance. Sonia thrived working with colleagues and meeting customers.
Her life was to change in 1963 when she went to a dance in Alyth. She met a young Black Watch soldier home on leave and they spent the entire night on the dance floor. It was the beginning a romance that was to last for more than half a century.
That boy soldier, Ronnie Proctor, almost immediately embarked on a short tour in Malta but when he returned he met up with Sonia and soon they were going steady.
They were married in Abbey Church, Coupar Angus, on July 31, 1965. The reception was in Angus Hotel, Blairgowrie, and the couple honeymooned in Inverness.
Ronnie then returned to his base in Germany and Sonia remained with her parents, waiting for army permission to join her husband.
They did not qualify for married quarters because they were under 21. Instead they rented private accommodation which left them just £3 a week to live on.
When Ronnie turned 21 he landed smart married quarters at half the cost, leaving the couple with money to enjoy a bit of a social life.
First son Roland arrived followed by Frank and a few years later Fiona.
By 1968 the Proctor family was at the former US airforce base at Kirknewton, near Edinburgh, where Ronnie was promoted to sergeant.
Next stop was Rodd Road, Dundee, and then on to Kirkcaldy. In January 1972 the family relocated to Hong Kong. For long periods Sonia was on her own with the children while her husband was on duty near the China border, Korea and Malaysia.
During the 1970s The Black Watch undertook tours of duty in West Belfast while soldiers’ families remained under armed protection in Colchester.
Ronnie then had a spell as an instructor at Sandhurst before another posting to Northern Ireland.
Mixing with royalty
In the Silver Jubilee year of 1977, the couple were invited to a garden party at Hillsborough where Sonia met the Queen for the first time.
After a spell at Catterick Garrison while Ronnie was on tour in Belize the family returned to Scotland. They were based at Bridge of Don where Ronnie was appointed RSM of the Scottish Division depot.
Then in 1981 it was back to Germany where Ronnie became Black Watch RSM and Sonia, together with the commanding officer’s wife, looked after the welfare of battalion wives.
Another day was spent with royalty in 1982 when the Queen Mother visited The Black Watch on their return from duty in Canada.
Ronnie said: “In 1984 I was commissioned as a regular officer and Sonia made the transition quite effortlessly. However, she never forgot her background and was well liked and respected by officers’ and soldiers’ families alike.”
The need for a permanent family home led the Proctors to settle in Kirriemuir in 1985.
“Although Sonia missed the excitement and camaraderie of army life with fellow wives, she settled down to life in Kirriemuir. I spent another four-and-a-half years in Northern Ireland and 18 months in Berlin before my last military employment in Perth.”
When Ronnie retired, he worked as assistant regimental secretary of The Black Watch based at The Black Watch museum.
This involved a daily commute to Perth, accompanied by Sonia who volunteered at the Save the Children charity shop in the city.
She also attended Rodney gym in Perth and later took up pilates at Forfar community campus.
“Her family was her greatest love and she willingly assisted in childminding for her grandchildren in Dundee and Falkirk.
“On my election as provost, Sonia was the greatest support and was well liked by all who knew and met her. She was thrilled to meet Edward and Sophie, Duke and Duchess of Forfar, and accompanied them on a long, gruelling but enjoyable day visit.
“A letter was sent by their royal highnesses and they made the most favourable comments about Sonia.”
The family’s announcement can be read here.