Guest house owner;

Born: October 11, 1922; Died: June 29, 2013.


The funeral service for Janet Johnston took place at her home on the Isle of Arran and within sight of Greannan, the guest house she owned for many years. Family and friends gathered in the open air overlooking the fertile Shiskine valley and Blackwaterfoot where she spent the vast majority of her 90-year life.

Born Janet Currie, she was brought up on Drumadoon Farm with her brother who become the Reverend James and her sister Jean. The girls at first went to Glasgow for their secondary education but due to the Second World War were evacuated home and Janet sat her Highers on the island, proud of being the first Arran girl to do so. Due surely to a misguided examiner, her time at the University of Glasgow was short-lived and she returned to the farm where she relished the hard daily work of milking, ploughing, seeding and harvesting.

Many from Scotland and further afield count the annual holiday on Arran as an extra lung which keeps body and mind active in the year ahead once the return ferry journey is over. My family found Arran, and Blackwaterfoot in particular, nearly a century ago and it was clear that as young men my father and his brothers enjoyed sparring verbally with the young teenager Janet in carefree times at Drumadoon before the war. For my brother, sisters and me holidays in the farm cottage of Drumadoon always included visits to the kitchen of Greannan.

It was the girdle-baked pancakes I went for but I could see how much my parents valued the friendship with Janet. The banter was still there as Janet talked passionately while preparing supper for her guests. It was a hotel kitchen but it had everything good about a true farm kitchen right down to sheepdogs at your feet. It was as well Janet's guests played plenty golf and tennis because she served sizeable meals to them all day.

Her character shone through in every encounter. I recall the pancakes as a boy but as young adults we all received huge helpings of encouragement from her in respect of our paths into higher education and career.

I do not know who first described Arran as Scotland in miniature, a strong brand which has stood the test of time, but Janet saw nothing small about Arran and firmly believed the island produced outstanding people in many fields and that the place and its people should not be short-changed in any way from being an island.

She was an admirer of all three members of the House of Lords who hold links with her part of Arran: Jack McConnell whose parents also ran a busy guest house in Blackwaterfoot; John Maxton whose wife Christine first brought him as a holidaymaker many years ago; and Donald Mackay instructed by Janet as a law student that if he became a judge it was to be Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, which of course he complied with.

To be known by Janet was something akin to being watched by a TV licence investigator because if you as much as set foot on the island she knew about it and woe betide you if plans were not made to call in.

Equally, if holidaymakers thought Arran was all about relaxing from the stresses and strains of work at home they had another think coming.

On a visit to Janet you were expected, even obliged, to rev up and engage in lively conversation or share news of extended families that she seemed to know more about than you.

Along with her own family on Arran and around the world, special friends such as the Howies from Dunlop and many more former guests from her days at Greannan will miss her greatly. It will be strange to be on the island this summer without a visit to prepare for and enjoy.

But there is continuity there; her nephew Charles Currie still lives in Thornwood, the cottage in Blackwaterfoot which Janet once owned and where this writer first went as a 10-day-old baby.

At her funeral the minister related how Janet told him she thanked God every day for his ministry in Shiskine. She had a deep Christian faith and at heart was someone who cared about you more than she did of herself.

Predeceased by her husband Malcolm and survived by her sister Jean, many of us who were privileged to know and love Janet and be loved by her will say they have never met anyone like her.