Family sings praises of Isabella aged 104

Isabella Smith is Leith Academy's oldest surviving pupil
Isabella Smith is Leith Academy's oldest surviving pupil
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THE oldest surviving former pupil of Leith Academy has celebrated her 104th birthday.

Isabella Smith, who reached the grand old age at Forthland Lodge nursing home in Restalrig, was born in Leith in 1909.

She grew up the second eldest of eight children and attended Dr Bell’s Primary School in Great Junction Street before moving on to Leith Academy.

Isabella was employed as a clerical worker at William Crawford and Sons biscuit factory in Leith and later left the position after marrying James Smith at the port’s old Kirkgate church in Henderson Street in 1937.

The couple initially lived in Easter Drylaw where they had two daughters, Eleanore and Eileen, but later moved back to Gladstone Place in Leith.

Isabella later took up several part-time jobs after her two daughters started school. She worked for a short period at the office of electrical engineering firm Ferranti before helping out at a family friend’s business in Newhaven.

James worked for flour miller Rank Hovis. He also played as the organist and was an elder at Drylaw Parish Church, with Isabella involved in the women’s guild.

Eleanore said: “They were both very much involved in church activities. They attended church very regularly.

“My mother was in the church choir and she enjoyed singing. Her family all enjoyed it. At family events, we used to all sing together.

“She did quite a lot of singing just out of enjoyment.”

The family would regularly holiday in Fife, hiring a cottage in Aberdour. They would spend a month at the location each year, with James travelling into Edinburgh by train for work for two of those weeks.

The couple made at least 20 trips together to Canada, mostly to Niagara Falls where daughter Eileen has lived for most of her life.

Eleanore said: “They stopped going back and forward when they were in their 80s, but my mother thoroughly enjoyed it. She liked to go. They were basically visiting family – they didn’t do much touring about Canada.”

Isabella has an active interest in family genealogy.

Eleanore said: “She’s passed on quite a lot of who was who in the family. Her father was one of 12 children, so she had lots of cousins. She was pretty family orientated and she’s got lots of nieces and nephews, being one of eight. Some of them visit her fairly regularly.”

The Smiths were married for 65 years, with James passing away in 2003.

Isabella has since had two large family gatherings at Forthland Lodge to celebrate both last year’s and her 100th birthday.

She was acknowledged as the oldest surviving Leith Academy pupil during its 450th anniversary celebrations in 2010.