Shetland’s oldest resident Ruby Lindsay has been celebrating her 105th birthday today with family and friends in the home at Lunnaness she shares with her son Jim.
Friends from Edinburgh and Lincolnshire had travelled to the isles for the “privilege” of being there for the happy occasion, and the number of cards was testament to the good wishes sent from around the world.
A large decorated fruit cake was in pride of place and Mrs Lindsay, whose career has been in cooking, said of her birthday: “I feel happy because I’ve always been able to do things. I could still bake a bannock no bother, but I can’t see so well.”
But she is still sprightly, although a recent knee injury has forced her to use a walking stick for the first time.
Mrs Lindsay was born Robina Smith in Mid Yell in 1908. The family moved to Lerwick when she was young and she was educated there, leaving school at 14 for her first job in King Harald Street doing “housework”. And her work, mainly in catering and baking, has continued ever since.
She moved to the mainland in 1929 and became cook at the hospital wing of Glenalmond School in Perthshire. While there she met Frank Lindsay, marrying him in 1933.
The family eventually moved back to Shetland and later bought the Bona Vista guest house in Lerwick. Mrs Lindsay’s practical skills meant the house was soon refurbished and full of guests. Then, around 1970, came an even bigger challenge – taking on Lunna House which had been empty for 25 years. “It was just a wreck when we saw it first,” she said.
But it became famous as a guest house and destination for afternoon teas, with as many as five busloads of tourists arriving in a day to sample Mrs Lindsay’s home baking.
It was only on Jim’s insistence she gave up the house at the age of 89: “I was intending to do another 10 years”, and they moved a few miles along the road. But she missed it: “I saw so many folk and I never had an idle day.”
What is the secret of her active life and longevity? “I never took any alcohol and never smoked.”
More in Friday’s <i>Shetland Times</i>