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Orkney family come together to celebrate relative’s 100th birthday as Covid restrictions ease

Four generations of Barbara's family came together on Wednesday to celebrate her 100th birthday.
Four generations of Barbara's family came together on Wednesday to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Four generations of an Orkney family have come together for the first time since Covid struck to celebrate the centenary birthday of a much loved relative.

Barbara Jolly, a six-year resident of St Rognvald House care home, was surrounded by family, care home staff and well wishers on Wednesday as she marked her 100th birthday.

Her daughter Carol-Ann, grandaughter Karoline and great grandchildren Khloe and Alec turned out to celebrate the milestone.

It marked the first time the family had all been together in the same room since the start of the pandemic.

Four generations of Barbara’s family came together on Wednesday to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Pride of place alongside her birthday cake on the day was a card sent from Her Majesty the Queen.

The family believe the secret to her longevity is down to her love of walking and never smoking or drinking – apart from the very odd occasion.

Her daughter Barbara, who currently resides in France, recalled a hilarious occasion at a family christening.

She said: “I live in France and Mum would visit most years. One of the first times she visited we were all invited to a christening.

“The typical meal was served and as usual between the starter and main course there is the Trou Normand – French custom of consuming a glass of Calvados (whilst doing various actions) between courses.

“Mum was warned about the alcohol and that she did not have to do the actions to the song or to drink the contents of the glass.

“Well up she stood and raised her glass while everyone sang the song, joined in doing the actions and down the hatch went the glass of Calvados. Everyone cheered and clapped, and Mum never batted an eyelid. We still giggle about that today.”

Barbara’s life story

The 100-year-old pensioner was born on June 9, 1921 in Edinburgh, a sibling to her older brother Walter and second child of Agnes and Walter Chisholm.

Barbara pictured with her brother Walter.

As young children they enjoyed meeting up with their cousins during large family outings – picnics were a favourite – a welcome release from the very strict school life at the Mary Erskine School for Girls.

Upon leaving education she worked a clerical assistant on Queen Street dealing with telephone accounts, following in the footsteps of her mother.

Reflecting back on the Second World War, Mrs Jolly recalls how the family overcame the one egg ration a week as her family sent eggs from Orkney; causing quite a stir with work colleagues.

She said: “One day at work a girl asked me how I had another egg sandwich as I had had one the day before. I had to think quickly and told her my mother had given me her one as she didn’t like them! After that I ate my lunch in the toilets.

“During the war phone calls could be monitored and it was picked up in family phone calls that we were thanking someone for the eggs. Apparently, someone thought this was code for something else and someone came to their door to question us, of course it was all innocent.”

Blissful marriage cut short

Thanks to her brother, Barbara met her beloved husband William (Bill) John Jolly, originally from Orkney, and later married in 1948 in Edinburgh.

Barbara married Bill in 1948 in Edinburgh.

Leaving Scotland’s capital, the pair moved up to Orkney and lived in the family home of Hawthorn Villa on East Road.

Their first daughter, Carol-Ann was born in 1949 and five years later along came Barbara.

In 1977, tragedy struck when Bill died suddenly aged 59 of a presumed heart attack.

At the time, his wife was in France waiting for her grandson, Darren, to be born. The police in France arrived to inform them.

Returning to Orkney, she had to adjust to a new way of life and filled her days concentrating on her family and friends, knitting, baking and reading.

The couple with their children Carol-Ann and Barbara.

Keeping connected through lockdown

During the first lockdown, the family had to stay in touch through video calls.

Thankfully, the close bonds developed with the care home staff proved to be invaluable and never more so were they like a second family to Barbara and the other residents.

Plans for a reunion with other close family members visiting from France have had to be put on hold due to the pandemic, but they are hoping for another celebration later in the year once things ease further.

The 100-year-old said she had missed vital family time amidst the restrictions.

Mrs Jolly said: “I don’t watch the news so much anymore due to Covid and I don’t like seeing the masks which hide folk’s smiling faces.

“The music, entertainment, bus trips and shows have been a miss and, of course, the visits from people who helped care for me and close contact with the family.”

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Birthday celebrations

Vice Lord Lieutenant Sarah Scarth, royal representative, and Orkney Council convener Harvey Johnston paid a visit to Barbara on Wednesday to offer the council and community’s best wishes on her special day.

He said: “I am delighted on behalf of the Council and our community to offer our best wishes to Barbara on the occasion of turning 100 years of age. After a long and challenging period of lockdowns and restrictions, families now being able to reunite is all the more special.

“Tribute must also be paid to the residential care home staff and the wider community for helping to keep all our residents as safe as possible during these challenging times.”
Meanwhile, care home manager Shirley Miller said her “zest for life” is an “inspiration to us all.”

She said: “Barbara is an inspiration to us all, with her acceptance of challenge and change during this past year. She retains her zest for life, still a wee twinkle in her eye! She greets me with a smile each morning, even when we are moaning about the weather.

“A dignified lady with a wealth of precious memories, who completely deserves reaching this incredible milestone.”