Oldest isles resident dies at 105

Shetland’s oldest resident, 105-year-old Ruby Lindsay died early on Wednesday at the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick.

Although just two months short of what would have been her 106th birthday, and increasingly frail, she had been in relatively good health until recently.

Ruby Lindsay on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2008. Photo: Keith Morrison

Ruby Lindsay on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2008. Photo: Keith Morrison

Mrs Lindsay celebrated her 105th birthday last July with family and friends in the home at Lunnaness she shared with her son Jim, and was able to enjoy the day with a stream of visitors from home and away.

At that time Mrs Lindsay was still sprightly and led an active social life – being a stalwart of the Vidlin SWRI, going to church and to an old folk’s club and day care at North Haven Care Centre once a week.

A knee injury forced her to use a walking stick for the first time, but otherwise she was in remarkable health after nearly 80 years of hard work, mostly in catering and baking.

Her cooking career culminated at nearby Lunna House, a guest house which she and her husband Frank bought in 1970 and renovated. The historic centre of the Shetland Bus operations, it had been empty for 25 years and was a “wreck”, with no water or electricity.

Mrs Lindsay’s afternoon teas and high teas gained a great reputation with people from all over the world – as many a five bus parties a day would come to sample her pancakes and fancies, served on fine china. She only gave up Lunna House 15 years ago, at the age of 89, at Jim’s insistence.

Mrs Lindsay was born Robina Smith in Mid Yell in 1908, the eldest of six children. The family moved to Lerwick when her father found work there as a cooper, and she was educated in the town, leaving school at 14 for her first job in King Harald Street doing “housework”.

Later she became cook at the hospital wing of Glenalmond School, a private school in Perthshire. While there she met Frank Lindsay, marrying him in 1933.

The couple’s eldest children, Margaret and David, were born there and the family eventually moved back to Shetland. They initially had a croft in Gulberwick which they worked during the Second World War, and later bought the Bonavista guest house in Lerwick before the even bigger challenge of Lunna House.

Mrs Lindsay had loved the work at Lunna House and missed it when she moved along the road to a smaller property. She said: “I saw so many folk and I never had an idle day.”

She credited her long life to that work, as well as the fact she had never drunk alcohol, never smoked, and had a staunch belief in God since her early days.

Mrs Lindsay is survived by her children and grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

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