Elaine Mearns of Inverness lived to celebrate and help others. Yet the 69-year-old, known for her time in Inshes Co-op and working as a clerk in the Highland Council’s service point, was never given “a big red book” of her own despite making many for others.
In light of her death, daughter Michelle, is taking comfort from knowing this will serve as her mum’s own ‘This is Your Life’ tribute.
Elaine was born in Inverness on November 14 1954.
One of six children, her parents Jessie and Ernie Mason, owned city shop Mason’s TV. She attended Dalneigh Primary and then moved on to Inverness High School.
As a youngster she worked part-time in Woolworths on the High Street before getting a full-time job as a clerk with the Highland Council in her late teens.
After work, Elaine would often join friends at the Gellions bar. It was there in the early 1970s that she met Sandy Mearns from Motherwell, who was visiting the Highlands for work.
In love with a Lanarkshire laddie
After reconnecting whenever he was working area the pair began courting and on September 22 1972 they were married in St Stephen’s Church.
Elaine spent the first four years of marriage in Lanarkshire living with Sandy and his mum, where he grew up.
Knowing she wanted to start a family and bring them up in the Highlands they returned to a flat on Mackay Road, Inverness.
While Sandy changed from a career in steel to working for Parcel Force and delivering coal, Elaine started working for the Co-op in Inshes.
Initially as a cashier she eventually became manager of the branch cash office.
In November 1976 son Scott was born, followed by daughter Michelle a year later.
In their spare time the couple joined a karate club, both achieving black belts, and Sandy had his own ice cream van called The Big Yin. Later, with the help of Elaine, they also had a hamburger trailer selling their fayre for 40p a burger.
In 1986 the family moved to Old Edinburgh Road and when Elaine wasn’t working and being a hands-on mum she would throw herself into organising charity events.
Michelle said: “She had us involved too, taking part in a charity float where we were all dressed as Quality Street sweets. And I have a memory of her sitting in a bath of beans for a fundraiser she did within the Co-op too.”
Big-hearted, Elaine also helped organise a wedding for friends of her son, Neil and Wendy Lockhart.
‘This is your life…’
After 15 years at the Co-op Elaine returned to work for Highland Council as a service clerk. Whenever it came to celebrating friends and family, Elaine was always the one to take the lead.
“Mum used to make ‘big red books’ in the style of This is Your Life when it was a special occasion. We never got a chance to do one for her, so it’s lovely to be able to pay tribute to her now,” added Michelle.
Sandy and Elaine continued to enjoy their life together. They were members of the local VW club, and when she coaxed him into overcoming his fear of flying, they were able to regularly holiday abroad.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing for the couple.
In 2012, while Elaine was in bed, Sandy put a Scotch pie into the fryer to cook and then answered the phone. Blighted by having no sense of smell, Sandy was unaware until he returned to the kitchen that his home was ablaze.
Though he got Elaine out safely they lost their cat, Smoky, in the fire.
“It was a difficult time because they had to move out for a year,” said Michelle. “They stayed in a hotel for a few months, then a temporary home, before being allowed back into their house.”
Kidney failure and flooding
Enjoying their together, and with Michelle’s daughter Shauna-Louise, Elaine left the Highland Council after 14 years.
Sandy began experiencing kidney failure and was also diagnosed with dementia.
“They had such a fun, loving, relationship. It was hard to see that dynamic change as dad began to suffer.
“It became very hard when his dementia worsened,” added Michelle. “He left the tap on and flooded the house. Once again mum had to move out for a year.”
In 2019, Sandy passed away. Elaine kept up her busy life as best she could, especially loving her “nana” time with Shauna-Louise.
Last year the family became concerned, after she suffered two falls, that her health was weakening. On her 69th birthday in November, Elaine was admitted to hospital with pneumonia.
“We got her home but she did deteriorate.
“Scott was worried about her so we kept checking in. What we thought was just tiredness and sleepiness turned out to be symptoms of a heart attack.
“She slipped away on Monday January 8 with Scott beside her.”
Ever the one to create a happy atmosphere, when her sister died Elaine jotted down her own funeral wishes. She chose George Esra’s Green Green Grass to be played on the day of her service. “Because she wanted us to have a party,” laughed Michelle.
A celebration of her life took place on January 25. Her favourite Red Hot Chilli Pipers’ version of Leave the Light On was also included.
Michelle added: “I could say so many things about mum but what I miss most is her hugs. She was always there with a hug. She gave great advice… and was the confidant of her 17-year-old granddaughter. We miss her terribly.
“It’s just a case of one day at a time without her now.”