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Nannie Allan, Banff department store stalwart, dies 88

For almost 20 years she worked for the gents section of Benzie and Miller, then Arnotts.

Annie Allan - known to friends and family as Nannie.
Annie Allan - known to friends and family as Nannie.

Annie Allan, formerly of Benzie and Miller and Arnotts in Banff, has died aged 88.

Part of Hilton Scottish Women’s Institute, Annie served in the gents departments of the department stores for almost 20 years.

Farmer’s daughter

Annie Allan – always known as Nannie – was born on August 9 1935 in Ladysbridge, Banff. Daughter of farm workers George and Alice Johnston, she was one of eight children.

Raised initially in Ladybrae Cottage she attended Hilton School.

The family moved on to Denhead Croft with Nannie leaving education around the age of 15 to start work in “a big house” in Portsoy.

Her stint at work was short lived, however, when her mum requested a return to the family home to help keep house.

Nannie stayed there until she married.

Found love at the dancing

In 1952 she began courting Robert John Allan, also a farm worker. While they had met through their families’ mutual line of work, Robbie would often pass Nannie’s family home.

“It certainly wasn’t love at first sight,” said son Rob, “mum referred to him as ‘one of the cheeky Allans’.”

Robbie and Nannie Allan on their wedding day in 1955.

Romance did blossom, when the pair both attended a dance in Hilton Hall. Robbie asked Nannie to dance and by October 1955 the young couple had tied the knot in Whitehills Church.

After a few days honeymoon to visit Robbie’s sister in Elgin they returned to Burnside of Culbeuchly – known locally as Burnies – to start married life. Small homes for the use of farm workers, there was no electricity or plumbing – though there was a well.

Their fortunes soon took a turn when the properties were modernised not long after the newlyweds had settled in.

Raising a family

In 1957 son Robert was born and in 1961 Kevin arrived.

When the boys started school Nannie was able to take on more work outside the home. She found employment with Orden’s Farms at Todhills where she collected the eggs of battery hens, then washed and cleaned them.

By the mid 70s the family were benefitting from their mum’s new job working for Chalmer’s the baker in Banff.

From there she began work for Benzie and Miller department store, which later became Arnotts.

While Robbie worked for Davidsons Farms, Nannie found her fit, for almost 20 years, working in the store’s men’s department.

Arnotts men’s department

Known as “the dungeon” the men’s section was located in the basement of the four-storey building where a women’s floor and hairdresser occupied the higher levels.

“Mum loved it. She was particularly proud to also do alterations, so the customers were always happy,” Rob said.

Over the years Nannie would take time out for social activities. A member of Deveronside Social Club, and “a social member” of both Ladysbridge and Banff bowling clubs while her sons and husband played, she was kept busier still by her contribution to the Scottish Women’s Institute, Hilton.

Nannie Allan with her beloved husband Robbie.

Robbie added: “Nan loved helping with the lunches, doing the soups and sweets.”

Around the age of 63, Nannie’s husband Robbie stopped work due to a heart complaint. Nannie followed shortly after. But “they didna’ retire,” said Kevin.

No rest in retirement

The paper shop and Spar in Whitehills was owned by Nannie’s brother James Johnston. She started helping sister-in-law Anne with flower arranging and wreath-making while Robbie delivered the floral items all over Banff, and as far as Huntly and Buckie.

When James and Anne were on holiday the Allans opened up the shop early each morning. In later years they helped another vendor, Grace Blanchard, who had a florist shop on Banff High Street.

When they did indulge themselves with some time off Nannie and Robbie liked to travel and visit family. Trips to visit Rob and daughter-in-law Hazel living in Spain, and with Nannie’s brothers and their wives to Europe were enjoyed as often as possible.

Robbie and Nannie Allan, who helped prepared and delivered floral arrangements in Banff and beyond.

Closer to home, they also spent time with Kevin and daughter-in-law Margaret caravanning in Lossiemouth and Nairn, and further afield with Nannie’s siblings.

Family remained the most important part of Nannie’s life. She relished spending time with her five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren whenever she could.

She also loved her garden, turning her greenhouse in a sunroom where she would enjoy coffee with Robbie and their neighbour, Derek.

‘We’ll miss her’

Last December Nannie began experiencing pain in her back. An initial diagnosis of cracked vertebrae eventually revealed bone marrow cancer. She was dealt the crushing blow that her condition was terminal.

With the aid of treatment for pain she was able to stay at home, however, after a recent fall she was admitted to hospital. Though it looked like she was making a good recovery – with plans to be discharged – she took a turn for the worse and passed away, with her family beside her, on Monday November 20.

Nannie Allan, wife of Robbie, who is dearly missed by her family.

A celebration of her life took place at Moray Crematorium where her favourite country music was played.

Rob added: “My mum was a well liked woman who was always very straight to the point. And 99.9 per cent of the time she was right!

“We’ll remember her for putting others before herself, for how much she loved and cared for her grand and great-grandchildren, and for just being our mum. Dad loved her so much and we’ll all miss her.”