Obituary: Alison Catto, guide commissioner and former member of the WAAF

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Alison Catto, guide commissioner and former member of the WAAF. Born: 12 September, 1920, in Oldmeldrum. Died: 31 January, 2011, in Aberdeen, aged 90.

AS A youngster Alison Catto had one ambition that she was forbidden by her parents to fulfil - she wanted to become a waitress. That she finally reached her goal almost a lifetime later is testament to her character. Yet in between she achieved so much more: for her community; the country; the Guiding movement and her own family.

A volunteer in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force during the Second World War, she became a lieutenant working in the top secret world of radar plotting before throwing herself into life as a farmer's wife, and moving up the ranks of the Girl Guides, immersed in village life in rural Aberdeenshire.

She was born into a farming family at Kilblean, Aberdeenshire, the daughter of Captain Alexander Manson and wife Isabel, a feisty councillor who advocated cooking for boys and woodwork for girls. Educated at Oldmeldrum Primary and Aberdeen High School for Girls, she went on to the School of Domestic Science in the city's King Street before working as a cook at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

In her youth she would attend dances in Oldmeldrum and Aberdeen, sometimes going on the back of her brother Jimmy's motorbike, her ballgown tucked beneath her.

And when she was 20, she signed up with the WAAF. It was 1941 and she was warned by a cousin not to mention she had studied domestic science or she would land in the cookhouse. As a result, she opted for special duties and found herself working as a plotter in an era when radar was in its infancy.

Despite the magnitude of the task, she loved the camaraderie and meeting people from all walks of life. She was posted across the country including to RAF Stanmore Park, near London, where she endured a bombing raid when her underground control bunker was targeted. On another posting to Inverness, the diminutive lieutenant, just 5ft 2in, was known for marching the men round the city from their billet at the Station Hotel up the hill to the bunker.

Demobbed in 1946, she returned to the North-East and, in that September, married farmer's son James Catto. They spent the rest of their married life at Auchencrieve, Methlick.

She was at the centre of village life as a founder, and the only original lady member, of Methlick British Legion and was the woman behind Methlick Flower Show and the local Old Folks' Party - a celebration she later attended herself as one of the "old folk".

A born organiser and great supporter of the Girl Guide movement - she met Lady Baden-Powell - she began as a guider with 1st Methlick Guides in the 1940s. She became district commissioner in 1954 and was area commissioner for around six years from in the 1960s.A move up the ranks came in 1966 when she was made county commissioner for Aberdeenshire, a post she held until 1971.

One of her proudest achievements was arranging for the purchase of Fyvie Cottage Hospital to create a Girl Guide activity centre. She had been heavily involved in the fundraising effort, which included a big concert at Aberdeen's Music Hall.

She was country president for a decade between 1980 and 1990 before helping to found Gordon Trefoil Guild in 1991. Her contribution to the guiding movement in the North-East was recognised with the Medal of Merit for exceptional service.

Her other community interests included Methlick Women's Guild, of which she became president, and helping to organise inter-village games held at Udny Castle.

She was also a member of the WRVS and delivered meals on wheels, often arriving at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary on New Year's Day to spend time with patients.

She was the only lady member of the Aberdeen RAF Association and organised a WAAF reunion of women wartime plotters which included a tour of the bunker in Inverness.

Widowed in 1995, she moved from Methlick into Aberdeen, latterly pushing a WRVS trolley round Woodend Hospital, speaking to everyone with the same grace and diplomacy she always displayed.She was in her late 70s when she finally achieved her ambition of becoming a waitress - in the caf of the Gordon Highlanders Museum, her brother and father's regiment. And it was there she celebrated her 90th birthday a few months ago.

Now returned to Methlick, where she was laid to rest, she is survived by son John and daughter Margaret, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.