• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Anne Green

Scottish nun who spent six years in hiding from the Nazis;

Born: May 10, 1912; Died: February 2, 2013.

Sister Anne Green, who has died aged 100, always put her longevity down to not worrying too much about the future. It was a maxim that served her well, not least during the six long years of the Second World War she spent in hiding, evading the Nazis in occupied France.

Moved between convents and safe houses, she was shielded by a defiant network of nuns and locals whose courage ensured her presence remained undiscovered, allowing her to continue her duties among the sick and elderly for the best part of another 70 years.

Her working life began in the 1920s, not in devotion to God but to her own family: as the third eldest of 10 children she had a responsibility to help provide for them and was put to work in the mills of Dundee.

It was only when she felt the younger children were old enough to play their part in supporting the others that she allowed the pull of her calling to draw her into a life serving God.

She was born in Springfield, near Cupar, where her Dundonian parents, Thomas and Helen Green, had moved in search of work. Her father was a gardener but had found a job as a farm worker in the countryside. When he later secured work in Dundee, the family returned to the city where the rest of her seven sisters and two brothers were born.

As a young girl she would visit and help out at the convent home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor at Wellburn. Seeing the Sisters at work prompted her to think about her own vocation but, after an education at St Joseph's RC School, she began work in the Dundee mill industry.

Though her parents tried to discourage her entrance to the order, fearing it would be a tough life, she said she knew God had other plans for her. She joined the Little Sisters in 1937 and took her first vows at the Mother House in La Tour, Brittany, two years later.

Not only was it the eve of war but, as her parents had predicted, life in the order was not easy. Allotted a series of different jobs, she later confessed she wasn't particularly proficient at any of them. She eventually found her forte nursing the sick and elderly.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, as a foreign national unable to get back to Britain, she was in constant danger. Secreted by the Sisters and helped by others, she spent time in a number of safe houses, moving on each time the Germans arrived in town.

Finally she settled at a house run by the Little Sisters near the Belgian border. When the Germans occupied the town the mayor phoned the Reverend Mother, warning her to send away any foreigners. There were four of them, including an Australian, but she told him there was nowhere for them to go.

She spent the rest of the war confined there, living in fear that discovery would mean certain death. When the occupying forces visited the home they would either hide in the attic or the cellars. No-one ever betrayed them.

Effectively a prisoner in the convent, the longing to be outside as she gazed from the window was sometimes too much to bear. Despite the danger, she begged to be allowed to accompany a Sister going out to collect fruit and vegetables from local farms.

On the way back, spotting a German patrol in the distance, she hid among the sacks of potatoes in the cart, coming within a whisker of being discovered as the soldiers prodded the sacks with bayonets.

Looking back on the incident, on her 100th birthday she said: "My heart was hammering as the Germans approached. I was sure I would be found. I prayed like I'd never prayed before. I never ventured out of the home again."

Freedom finally came when the Americans liberated the town. That day, she approached the tank convoy, asking the commander to help find her younger brother Tom, who was in the British Army. It appeared to be a needle-in-a haystack job as he replied: "Sister, there are just a couple of million soldiers back there but I'll see what I can do."

Incredibly, her brother turned out to be in the area – by mistake. He had been posted elsewhere but fell asleep on the train and slept right through the disembarkation. He had been considered AWOL but ended up on a completely different posting. Two days after her conversation with the American soldier she was reunited with Tom who had still been at school when she left Dundee in 1937.

She remained in France until 1949, working in various Little Sisters of the Poor homes, before returning to Britain to work for the Order, first in Greenock, then in Ireland, Liverpool, Carlisle and back to Greenock. She finally returned to Dundee in 1993 and ran the shop at Wellburn, using her skills as a seamstress to make soft toys to raise funds for the home.

Quiet and serene, with a constant smile, she once said of her life: "I would do it all again tomorrow if God called me." She is survived by her sister Jean, five nieces, a nephew and extended family.

Contextual targeting label: 
Block list

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

140347