Obituary: Jeannie Pattison - The oldest Scots woman living in the UK, she enjoyed work, family time and travel

Jeannie Pattison, supercentenarian
Jeannie Pattison, supercentenarian
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Born: 31 May, 1901, in Inverness. Died: 9 September, 2011, in Bishop Auckland, aged 110

QUEEN Victoria and Giuseppe Verdi had just died and the Boer War was still raging. Marconi had still to receive a transatlantic radio signal, the Wright Brothers were not yet airborne and it would be another four years until Einstein introduced his theory of relativity.

This was the world into which Jeannie Pattison arrived. She was born in Inverness-shire but lived for much of her life in England, including a short period as a guest of Lady Carlisle at one of Britain’s greatest country houses, Castle Howard.

More than 110 years later she became the oldest Scotswoman then living in the UK.

The youngest of five children, she was born at the Railway Gatehouse at Gollanfield Junction, near Nairn.

Her parents, coachman and signalman John Sixton and his wife Margaret MacLennan, already had three daughters and a son.

The family lived in the Highlands for about another ten years before moving south to Yorkshire where her mother ran a boarding house by the sea at Scarborough while her father worked as head groomsman at Castle Howard.

Jeannie was just a teenager when the First World War broke out and, after the shock bombardment of Scarborough by German battle cruisers in December 1914, she and the rest of the family were invited by Lady Carlisle to go out to the safety of Castle Howard where they spent several weeks.

They later moved on to Bishop Auckland and by the time she was in her mid-teens, Jeannie was working in service at Grove House, Hamsterley Forest. It was a job she loved and she often used to reminisce about her time there.

By the time she met her future husband, bus driver Bill Pattison, she was working as a bus conductress.

Encouraged by her mother, she married Bill when she was 21. Four months later her mother, who had been widowed, emigrated to New Zealand with the new bride’s brother and sisters. She never saw her again and it would be another half a century before Jeannie was reunited with any of her family.

Meanwhile, having given up work, she started a family of her own but lost her firstborn, a son, when he was only a few weeks old. She went on to have five more children and outlived all but one, her son Bill. She also brought up a cousin’s daughter from the age of three and looked after her as one of her own.

Once they were all grown up she went back to work when she was in her 50s and spent several years as a dinner lady at Cockton Hill School, in Bishop Auckland, a stone’s throw from her home.

She retired at 60 and was 71 by the time she saw two of her sisters again. Agnes and Phyllis came over from New Zealand to help Bill and Jeannie celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.

The three sisters had a great time and enjoyed each others’ company, their affection spanning the 50 years of separation.

The Pattisons had another decade together and celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary before Bill died in 1983.

After a life of constant hard work and dedication to her family, in her 80s Jeannie found the opportunity to do things she had never been able to do. She travelled twice to Malta, where her son Jack had served during the Second World War, and visited Jersey.

Though she had long lost her Scottish accent she retained fond memories of Scotland and recalled the times she spent by her father’s side when he took her along to change the signals.

A witty woman, she still had a dry sense of humour, loved books and was a voracious reader. She also loved to knit and was often found watching television, knitting and reading simultaneously – usually a Catherine Cookson saga. For many decades she baked two or three times a week, made jam and always had a dedicated wash day.

Latterly, she was cared for by her granddaughter Pauline Dowson before eventually going into a home in Bishop Auckland at the age of 102.

“She never ever thought about her age,” said Pauline, “and up until she was 109 she really enjoyed life. She always had a laugh with the staff in the home who were absolutely brilliant with her.”

She also enjoyed a sherry but put her longevity down to a routine of drinking boiled water morning and night and eating an apple a day.

She is survived by her son Bill, her cousin’s daughter Frances, 15 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren. ALISON SHAW