Real Lives: 'Frances was so active in church and community'

Frances Ellen McLean, a minister at St James the Less Church, Penicuik, has died, aged 86.

Born in Edinburgh, Ms McLean was given an early taste for travel by her family, who used to journey on business between London and Edinburgh.

After leaving school, she studied nursing at Edinburgh University before working as a midwife in the city for several years.

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In the mid-1950s, when she was in her early-30s, she moved to Umtata in the Eastern Cape of South Africa to take up missionary work in a local hospital there.

Working with an Anglican mission, she not only worked as a nurse, midwife and sometimes doctor, delivering medical care to the local people, but was also involved in the education of local youngsters.

During her time there she helped to create and expand a local maternity unit, and also expanded its small TB ward. Part of her work involved travelling to the local townships with a mobile clinic.

She returned to Scotland after almost 25 years working in South Africa and moved to Linlithgow, where she again worked as a nurse, before moving back to the Capital.

She never forgot her experience in South Africa, however, and took on a role with the Links project, which worked to raise funds for impoverished communities in the country.

Around 1986 she moved to Penicuik, and began working with the Links project at the local Anglican church, the St James the Less Church, and in 1988 she was ordained to the priesthood.

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She worked as a non-stipendiary minister in the community for the last 20 years, and became well-known to members of the church and the wider community.

Sadly she underwent a major operation at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary last Tuesday to treat an aneurysm of the aorta, and while she briefly rallied, her health failed and she passed away on Wednesday, October 29.

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Mike Hay, choirmaster at St James the Less Church, said: "It is such a shame about Frances. She was so active in the church and in the community.

"A lot of her time was taken up with taking the ministry out into the community, visiting people in their homes, and she was also very involved in caring for the elderly members of the congregation.

"The minister was speaking about her sad death on Sunday, and he remarked that despite her age she was one of the most active members of the church and he will now have quite a job on his hands filling all of the jobs that she undertook.

"She was always active and willing to help people, and she was certainly an important member of our community. We will miss her a lot."

A funeral service will be held at St James the Less Church, Penicuik, tomorrow at 11 am, to which all family and friends are invited.