MOTHERS. Full of fierce love and bonkers advice. Protective and strong and infuriating and funny. Skilled jugglers, expert time-managers. Mothers make you cringe, they embarrass you in front of your friends, they pick up the pieces when life leaves you shattered. No-one can make you feel guilty like a mother can. No-one can make you feel safe like a mother can.

Today’s celebration of mothers in all their gorgeous glory has its origins in religion, although nowadays it is more about lunches and flowers and presents and cards.

It was first celebrated in Scotland in the 17th century, when it was linked to Laetare Sunday. Traditionally, people would visit their ‘mother church’ and eat simnel cake, so it seems it had very little to do with actual mothers.

It was revived in 1913 by Constance Smith, a High Anglican who believed there should be a “day in praise of mothers.” Smith, under the pen-name C Penswick Smith, published a booklet called The Revival of Mothering Sunday in 1920.

Her campaign, coupled with the huge losses experienced by mothers during the First World War, sparked interest across the UK. Soon the idea of a ‘Mother’s Day’ was incorporated in to every calendar, linked to Easter and Lent and celebrated by Scouts and Guides. It is now celebrated widely on the fourth day of Lent.

Ironically, Jarvis came to despair of how commercial Mother’s Day had become.

“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world,” she proclaimed, on the subject of Mothering Sunday cards.

Actor and activist Elaine Mackenzie Ellis and her mother Ishbel will be spending Mother’s Day “going to the cathedral then eating cake and putting our feet up.”

“My mum has always been the kind of person who rolls up her sleeves and gets on with it,” says Mackenzie Ellis. “Forty years ago, she delivered a neighbour’s baby. That’s the kind of woman she is.

“She lays down the law. On Mother’s Day, for example, my sister and I are told any gifts must cost five pounds or less, or she’ll take them to a charity shop.”

She adds: “She’s always had a very dry sense of humour and gets away with a fair amount of cheek. She sings constantly at home, but never at parties.”

Mackenzie Ellis, best known for a string of stage and screen appearances including Sunshine on Leith, Only an Excuse, Me Too! (as Tina, the pink taxi driver) and Rab C Nesbitt, is also one of the founder members of all-female grassroots comedy movement Witserface.

She is a passionate community activist and speaks up for causes she feels strongly about – something she believes she inherited from her mother.

“My family is full of strong and opinionated women,” she says. “My mum’s auntie Babs was bombed twice in the London Blitz. My gran was very quick-witted and forward-thinking. She had her ears pierced and a fashionable bob when most working-class women didn’t cut their hair.

“Another sister was a qualified grocer having served an apprenticeship and my gran was a fancy box maker.

“Dad's mum was equally feisty – he always warned us never to refer to her as English, as she was a fiercely proud Cornishwoman.”

Ishbel worked for Wylie Lochhead and then Fraser’s in the 1950s, before having Elaine and her sister Anne. She nursed her own mother, who died when Elaine was eight, then became a school auxiliary worker at Royston Primary and later, St Martha’s in Balornock.

“People still come up to her as they recognise her from their schooldays,” says Mackenzie Ellis. “She loved working with the children and it meant she could always spend all the school holidays with us.”

Mackenzie Ellis says her mother never worried about the career her daughter had chosen. “My mum has always had a ‘it will be okay’ kind of attitude about most things,” she explains.

“She wasn’t a performer, although when she was wee she would take part in the back street concerts organised by neighbours for the war effort.”

She smiles. “She will still happily re-enact her rendition of Oh Johnny, how you can love, complete with dancing, whenever asked.”

MacKenzie Ellis adds: “I like to think I'm made with traces of all my female ancestors. I have been told always to stand up for what I think is right. My mum, my grannies and aunties all did that and my mum is still doing it. She joined her first political party, the SNP, at the age of 80. We share the same sense of humour, the same temper.”

She says: “One of my mum’s favourite retorts when I was a narky teenager, whining ‘but I thought….’ was to reply, ‘well, dear, I’m not responsible for your thoughts.

“Hated it at the time, but it’s a foolproof argument.

“My mum has always told us about her parents and grandparents, so we have a real sense of where we have come from and who we are.”

Helen Brooker-Collins comes from a long line of strong women. She spent her childhood summer holidays with her gran, Rosie, in East Kilbride.

“She was full of questionable nuggets of advice,” says Brooker-Collins. “One of the best was rubbing Vic on to your feet and putting two layers of brown paper in your shoes to get rid of a chesty cough.

“Her remedy for a sore throat was giving you a chunk of butter coated in sugar.

“She used to tell us a mysterious tip about cutting the ends off joints of meat before putting them in the oven to cook. I only discovered years later that she did it because the joints were too big to fit in her wee oven.”

Brooker-Collins, who now has two daughters of her own, jokes that some of her gran’s advice is “just too cruel” to inflict upon her own children.

“I tell my girls to think before they say anything and ask themselves – is what I’m going to say kind, helpful and honest?” she explains. “If you don’t answer yes to all three, keep it to yourself.”

Brooker-Collins, who now lives in Warwickshire and is director of a sports performance company, adds: “What my gran definitely did leave with me was a deep sense of being unconditionally loved and cherished in a way I have never had the privilege of experiencing since.

“That’s not to say I’m not loved – it was just an overwhelmingly wonderful way to grow up.

“She may not have said it out loud, but the advice I take from that is to shower your precious ones with such an abundance of love that it’s forever with them, bolstering them through the dark times and adding extra sparkle to the joy.”

Journalist Caroline Wilson’s mother Ishbel, who lives in Spean Bridge, is an oracle of wisdom. “Bicarbonate of soda is her answer to practically everything,” says Wilson. “Cleaning cookers, baths, pots and as a useful spare toothpaste.

“She’d give the cat an egg for a glossy coat, and once even put brandy in the goldfish bowl when our fish was poorly. It worked! That fish was restored to full health.”

She adds: “We were never allowed any painkillers or cold remedies – it was a hot lemon drink with a spoonful of sugar. For me, that’s the most comforting taste in the world now.”

Business consultant Beth Wallace reckons she has inherited many of her mother’s traits. “I am thrawn, like her, and I can’t go to bed with an untidy lounge,” she says, with a laugh. “My mother is an extremely practical person, so she always has answers to things like ‘how do I get a stain out of this?’.

“It usually involves bicarbonate of soda, lemon, salt or baking powder.”

Her mother Anne, from Ayrshire, is a retired physiotherapist, which her daughter says also comes in useful.

“She has a lot of practical medical advice, like what to put on a burn,” she nods. “She also used to tell me not to sit cross-legged all the time when I was a child, and I ignored her.

“She was right, of course, as now I have hip and knee issues.”

Wallace says she is proud to look more like her mother as she grows older.

“I have recently decided to embrace my silver-grey hair,” she adds. “I take it as a compliment when people tell me I look like my mum. My ex-partner told me he knew I’d grow old beautifully as my mum was so pretty, which was flattering for both of us.”

She adds: “I have listened to lots of her advice (apart from the crossed-legs part) – one of my favourites is turning bright clothing inside out on the washing line to avoid it bleaching in the sun.

“But I take after my grandma when it comes to my love of expensive shoes.”

Actor and playwright Libby McArthur says her mother, Madeline, inspired her with storytelling.

“My mum grew up in Nazareth House on Paisley Road West,” she says. “She was a nurse and then had eight of us. Her mystical outlook on life and her deep-seated beliefs made me see you could transcend poor circumstances, keep faith with love and life's mysteries.”

“She used to shrug and say, if something got broken – never get upset about a broken thing, it’s not a broken bone.

“I loved the fact that my mum was happy if you came home scruffy, covered in dirt and with scuffs and grazes. She said it meant you had had fun.”

McArthur adds: “I inherited that attitude, because I never wanted my son to worry if he accidentally broke something, or got filthy mucky out playing. Both were par for the course in our house anyway.”

Madeline died the week McArthur’s son Brian was born, 35 years ago.

“My son has just made me a granny,” she says, beaming. “I can't wait to pass on the carefree attitude his granny had to my wee granddaughter Chloe.

“There will be no sweating the small stuff. There will be a whole lot of splashing in puddles.”

Elizabeth Swarbrick, a retired nurse, is the mother of Herald on Sunday writer Susan Swarbrick

THROUGHOUT my life I have tried to learn something new every day. It doesn’t need to be huge – it could be the name of a flower or how to master some baffling facet of technology – but I never want to stop discovering interesting things.

I have always endeavoured to instil that same sense of curiosity in my own children. Along with the mantra that nothing you learn ever goes to waste. There will likely be a time in the future that little nugget of information – be it changing a fuse or knowing how to spell Mississippi – comes in useful.

My own mother taught me the importance of doing things for others and about the power of community. I grew up in a small mining village in Lanarkshire. If ever there was anyone who was sick or in need of company, my mum would be the first to chap their door.

I believe it was this which guided my own path into nursing where I spent almost half a century, first in acute medicine, then as a midwife and later working in care of the elderly.

Kindness is the most important currency. No act of kindness is too small. It costs you nothing and could mean everything to someone else.

Money may make the world go round, but it has its limitations. Happiness and health are true wealth. It is people who bring you the greatest joy, not possessions. That is something I encouraged my children – Susan and Stuart – to aspire to.

Over the years, I’ve nursed people from many different backgrounds. The one thing that binds us all is the fragility of life and the inevitability of death.

In their final hours, some of the richest have found themselves alone and scared in a hospital bed. You hold their hand and talk to them, hoping it provides some comfort, however scant or fleeting that may be.

In contrast, some of the poorest – in material terms at least – are, in fact, the richest. They have people who love them at their bedside. I know which one I would rather be.

Perfection is a myth. The most that any of us can do is to simply try our best. If you achieve that, then you can walk away with your head held high.

Susan says: It's impossible to list all the gems of wisdom my mum imparted over the years. Sage advice such as to never let the sun go down on an argument – a philosophy that has served me well.

My mum taught me how to ride a bike, sew a button on, cleaned up skinned knees and patiently endured/cheered enthusiastically at countless childhood swimming and gymnastics competitions. When I got married in 2010, she made my wedding dress.

She is unafraid to challenge or call me out on bad behaviour (yes, even as an adult) but equally is there to offer much-needed encouragement and love when life gets tough. I feel lucky to have such an amazing mum.