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Louisa McNair: Auldearn gardening enthusiast who worked for Winston Churchill, dies aged 103

Louisa McNair.

Lousia McNair, who has died aged 103, attributed her longevity to plain food, good genes and the Nairn air.

Her sisters, Emma and Mary, both lived until they were 102 and her eldest sister, Edith, died aged 96.

Louisa also loved exercise, tended her vegetable and flower garden and cooked her own broth until she was 99.

As a young woman in the 1930s, she went to work in the kitchens of Winston Churchill’s London home on the recommendation of a Highland landowner.

She then went to work for the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, before returning to Nairn to join the Land Army at the start of the Second World War.

Louisa McNair.

Louisa, nee McDonald, was born in Cluny, Aberdeenshire, in April 1918.

Her father was a forester at Cluny Castle. Louisa’s mother was asthmatic and was advised to live near the coast so, in 1933, the family moved to Nairn.

Louisa left school at 14 and worked in farm kitchens for £6 a month but then secured a job with Sir Alex Grant at Logie House, Dunphail.

Cycling

Her cycles from Nairn to Logie House would engender a lifelong love of keeping fit.

In 1936, on the recommendation of Sir Alex, Louisa moved to London to work in the kitchens of Winston Churchill’s family home.

After her spell on the Duke of Devonshire’s staff, Louisa worked on farms across Nairnshire as part of the Land Army and forged lifelong friendships.

Marriage

After the war she met and married agricultural contractor, Alex McNair, and had two sons, Angus and Roddy. In 1952, the family moved from Newton Park, Nairn, to Auldearn.

Louisa’s son, Angus said: “Mum was always growing, preparing and cooking vegetables and making jams, doing washing and cooking and bringing up her family.

“She also had part time work as a home help and various short-term work around the locality.”

From the 1970s until the 1990s, Louisa and her husband won many awards at fruit, flower and vegetable shows.

When her husband died in 1994, Louisa continued to dig and cultivate her own garden.

Diet

Angus said: “She said there was no secret for living a long time but believed a good diet with plain food was a big factor, coupled to good family genes, a common factor, as her sisters reached similar ages.

“But of course, she credited plenty outdoor activity as therapy as well as cycling to get the heart pumping and flush out any toxins by getting a good sweat up.

“Her lifestyle was not racy or over busy on the social scene. She went to music concerts, and enjoyed sports on television and did partake of the odd Players mild, giving up in retirement but she said it was for relaxation.”

You can read the family’s announcement here.

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