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

Island's oldest resident is ready to party

IT'S not every centenarian whose birthday party is attended by the former secretary general of Nato.

INSPIRED: Lily MacDougall has long expressed her appreciation of the striking landscapes of the island through her paintings and poetry.
INSPIRED: Lily MacDougall has long expressed her appreciation of the striking landscapes of the island through her paintings and poetry.

But Lily MacDougall is no ordinary centenarian.

The oldest resident on Islay, Mrs MacDougall, who turns 100 on Thursday, is still highly active. She drives her car around the Hebridean isle and has played the piano and written bagpipe music. She paints in oils and writes poetry.

Only a few weeks ago she was called upon to officially open Islay's new £500,000 lifeboat station.

The party in her honour, which takes place today at Islay's Ballygrant Hall, is due to be attended by George Robertson, the former Defence Secretary and Nato secretary-general, his wife Sandra and their daughter Rachael.

The couple were introduced to Mrs MacDougall some 20 years ago. They have known her daughter, Christine Logan, for almost 30 years.

Mrs Logan, who runs a personalised tour service on Islay, said: "My mother is such a positive person and has always liked the colour red. She has driven red cars, she always wears red shoes or red earrings.

"She appreciates life. She has had a hard life in some respects but she has shown extraordinary talents with her hands, in her embroidery, her paintings and her poems.

"When I was younger she made my clothes, my high school kilt. She also made wreaths for funerals. She is just so clever. She has had such a full life in her own way."

Mrs MacDougall was born in Heather House on Islay the year the Great War broke out. She was fourth youngest of a family of 10. Her mother sold fish, fresh fruit and nuts from the family's vehicle, which served as a lorry, van and car.

The family's radio was a necessity as her mother's two brothers, Donald and Willie, were among the islanders who both served on the local lifeboat.

She said: "The radio signal was often not great but everyone on the island would anxiously listen to the wireless for word of where their loved ones were heading for.

"The wirelesses were charged by an accumulator - a vital piece of equipment at that time.

"They were also how we got to hear of the national news from London. The weather forecast was important, as shipping was a main concern for people living on the island."

Her family had to live off the land, and she turned out to be a crack shot with her guns, including a .22 rifle, a 4.10, and a 12-bore shotgun. She became an accomplished hunter, shooting deer, pheasants and rabbits for the pot.

Flour would be delivered to the island in flour bags, which islanders would turn into such items as pillow-slips. Mrs MacDougall once made a tablecloth, embroidering it with illustrations reflecting her many interests.

The tablecloth will make a special appearance at today's party.

She has long expressed her appreciation for the striking island landscapes in oil paintings and in poetry.

Mrs MacDougall said she has always been happy on Islay. As a young woman she tried unsuccessfully to find work in Glasgow as a "clippie" on the Corporation buses. She sold household items from door to door before returning to Islay to do the same there.

She also worked for seven years in the office of the island's Caol Ila Distillery before starting up a fish business, doing door-to-door sales and earning the local nickname of "Lily Fish".

In August 1980 the Queen visited the island and she was piped off by Mrs MacDougall playing Leaving Port Askaig.

Her husband, Dugald, the lighthouse boatman on the Sound of Islay for 45 years, died in 2004.

She lives alone with her two cats, Sophie and Sushi.

She added: "I am looking forward to the birthday party but part of me wonders what all the fuss is about. After all, I am only going to be 100."

Contextual targeting label: 
Transport Tragedy

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.

246861