Scotland’s oldest woman, who remained active all her life, dies age 109

Anne pictured at Archview Lodge Nursing Home, Dalkeith with her son Tom.Anne pictured at Archview Lodge Nursing Home, Dalkeith with her son Tom.
Anne pictured at Archview Lodge Nursing Home, Dalkeith with her son Tom.

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Much-loved mother, nana, great-nana and great-great-nana Anne Lean, or Annie, has died aged 109 at a Dalkeith care home.

It was the year Shackleton’s mission to the South Pole started, British tennis star Fred Perry was born and the Secret Service Bureau counter-espionage unit - now known as MI5 - was secretly established.

Born Anne Barrie Beattie at Fushiebridge in the Parish of Borthwick, the wife of the late Tommy, ex-Provost of Dalkeith, came into the world 5.45 am on November 3, 1909.
A country girl, Anne was one of five with three brothers and a younger sister, brought up fetching water from a nearby well and remained active all her life.

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She spent most of her life in Midlothian - in Newtongrange, Temple and Dalkeith - with short periods in Fife, Musselburgh and Galashiels.

Her father, who spent many years at sea, returned to the area to work in the coal mines but tragically broke his back and had to wear a metal support for the rest of his life.
Her mother, a midwife, delivered 92 babies during her career, proudly losing none. She was also on hand when anyone in the village fell unwell, quick to attend the patient’s bedside with a plate of broth. 

When scarlet fever raged through the village it didn’t touch the family – it seems Anne’s mother duties tending to the sick helped build up a resistance and stave off the illness.
There was also no electricity or sewage system in the village in Anne’s early life and water had to be drawn from a well on the pavement opposite her childhood home.
And with no cars, when the doctor was called he had to ride from Gorebridge on horseback.

The family moved to the nearby village of Temple where Anne’s mother milked cows at the local farm and made her own butter, cheese and bread.

It was during this time the studious Anne, always top of her class, became accomplished at sewing, knitting, embroidery, dressmaking, cooking and baking.

After leaving school Annie took up a job as a “home help” for a doctor and his wife in Trinity. This was followed by a spell as a silver table maid with the shipping company, Salveson.
Later, after her children were older, she worked at Saxone shoe shop on Princes Street and then R&W Forsyth on St Andrew’s Square.
In 1932, after courting for several years, she married Tommy Lean, a garage mechanic and friend of her brother. The couple had three sons, Tom, the late Jim, John, and daughter Evelyn.

Tommy was later elected to the council and followed his father – the town’s first Labour councillor – as provost and magistrate. Annie’s father in law James Lean was the first Labour Dalkeith Provost and has a street named after him in Woodburn. 
She took an active role in political life.

Tom, Annie’s son said at her birthday in November: “And obviously with my dad also being a Labour Provost mum was always out canvassing for Labour votes when elections were coming up. She was very active all her life. And she was still driving until she was 90 when she was registered blind.”

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For 40 years, Tommy was also a member of Dalkeith Burgh Brass Band and Anne was an ardent follower as well as being a member of the Women’s Guild in Dalkeith.
When Tommy retired they moved to Galashiels where they opened a bed-and-breakfast. There at the age of 74, Anne learned to swim and eventually swam a marathon over several days. She was a keen dancer all her life.

They finally retired when Anne was 80 and bought a bungalow in Newtongrange. Even at 80, Anne was lifting concrete paving slabs while Tommy laid them. Tommy died in 1990.
Anne died peacefully on April 19 at Archview Lodge in Dalkeith.

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