Starving, without teeth, uneducated and grieving the loss of her mother, Jemima Glen was sent to the Angus countryside on doctor’s orders.
But the wee girl who had never been to school and doctors feared ‘wouldn’t make it’ past her sixth birthday beat all the odds to become the Dux of her class and live to 94.
With a life marked by generosity and kindness to follow, this is the remarkable story of Dundee’s Jemima Cruickshank.
Jemima – better known as Mina – was born on February, 26th 1927, in St Andrews Street, Dundee.
The older sister of Elizabeth and Margaret, her dad was John Sutherland Glen, a merchant seaman, who went on to become a ship’s engineer.
John’s time in the navy was perilous. Torpedoed three times during World War Two, he was eventually plucked from the sea by an Icelandic fishing boat.
The girls’ mother, Rubina Glen, married 17-year-old John, when she was 19.
Struggling to look after her daughters in impoverished conditions with a husband away at sea she tragically died at just 30 years old.
With their mental and physical health now suffering Jemima and her sisters were sent to their paternal grandmother’s home in Westhall Terrace, Duntrune.
Having raised 13 children of her own she knew how desperate Jemima’s health had become.
Sandra Strathie, Mina’s niece, said: “A doctor was called out for Mina. She was six, painfully malnourished, suffering pyorrhea which caused all her first teeth to fall out, and she’d never even been to school.
“He advised that with country air and good food she “might make it.”
But there was no ‘might’ about it.
Under her grandmother’s care, Angus air and a diet of porridge and fresh soup – a daily discipline she maintained throughout her adult life, Mina began to thrive.
“When she went to the country she had never seen grass before. They had lived in a typical tenement. She would recall stories of when she first saw and touched flowers.
“She learned how to grow vegetables under the guidance of her gran and her uncle Davie Glen, the well-known Scottish entertainer who built mountain bothies for climbers.”
Despite her late entry to education Mina became Dux of Murroes School in Duntrune.
Her father offered her the opportunity to go on to university but she turned him down in favour of working as a land girl where she experienced firsthand the effects of war.
Sandra said: “My aunt wanted to do practical work. I remember her telling me that in those days she was always hungry. And she could see that a shortage of cloth meant people struggled to provide even the most basic of clothes for themselves.
“She used her skills to make and mend for them.”
Her sewing ability led to an apprenticeship as a seamstress with a tailor in Dundee.
In her spare time, she taught the jute mill women how to sew.
With a love of animals and the countryside Mina found a kindred spirit in farmer, John ‘Jock’ Cruickshank.
On July 18th, 1953 they tied the knot at celebrated in Wellbank Hall, Angus.
Known as an accomplished sewer by that point, she even made her own wedding dress.
“Mina could make anything – even a kilt – and she was extremely popular as a result. There was a constant queue for sewing jobs which she greatly enjoyed,” added Sandra.
Together Jock and Mina developed Murroes Farm, by Broughty Ferry – then just a small holding – and raised their three sons, John, Andrew and Colin on the farm.
Mina and Jock went on to have six grandchildren: Lisa, Justine, Sarah, and Andrew Cruickshank, and Hannah and Callum Fuller.
They had celebrated 61 years of marriage when Jock passed away in 2014.
Aside from the farm and sewing, Mina was a devoted Christian and was an active part in Murroes Church, Murroes, Broughty Ferry.
She was a church key-holder, cushion maker, cleaner and Women’s Guild member for 37 years.
As part of the Guild she would attend the Church of Scotland General Assembly in Edinburgh, diligently taking notes to take back to those interested, from the parish.
Generosity of spirit
Whether it was caring for family members, sewing items for charity, taking in injured animals or serving in her church Mina remained someone committed to helping others.
“My aunt embodied Christian values and would help anyone in need, in her own quiet and humble way.”
Even after Jock’s death Mina carried on living at the farm with the help of her sons, family and friends.
For the remaining three years of her life Andrew and daughter-in-law Lorretta cared for her at home in The Stables, Murroes Farm, where she happily spent her final days looking out over the countryside that she loved.