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A Place to Remember People of Torry: Mo Aitken, heroic mum and popular barmaid who defied doctors to bring home son in a coma

Three decades later Maureen was still selflessly caring for "miracle" son Ally, and her much-loved family, until her sudden death.

A Place to Remember People of Torry: Mo Aitken, shown with her son Ally.
A Place to Remember People of Torry: Mo Aitken, shown with her son Ally.

If anyone deserved the status of being a beloved Torry quine it was 68-year-old “supermum” Mo Aitken.

The weel kent Torry barmaid, now immortalised with a plaque on Greyhope Bay’s popular white memorial bench, died suddenly in April 2024 after dedicating her life to looking after her disabled son.

When Ally came off his motorbike as a teenager medics told Mo that her son would never come out of his coma. She refused to believe it and fought for his survival.

More than three decades later her goal was still the same – to do all she could for her family.

We look back on Mo’s life as part of A Place to Remember: People of Torry.

All her days in Torry

Maureen Aitken, better known as Mo, was born on June 10, 1955.

One of five children, but the only girl of Robert and Edna Aitken of Grampian Place, Torry, she was raised at home by her mother while Robert worked as a gas storeman.

Maureen ‘Mo’ Aitken and her wolf hound Ronan.

She attended Walker Road Primary then Torry Academy where she showed academic promise. Her abilities were realised when she secured work in a legal office before moving on to Woodhill House as an audio typist.

Mo wed young and though her marriage broke down she had two children, Ally now 48, and Louise, 46.

Dippy, but not for long

Committed to supporting her children Mo began working in the Torry Bar.

There, she met offshore scaffolder and part-time bouncer David Stuart.

“She was called Dippy,” David – who went on to be Mo’s partner of nearly 40 years – said.

“Despite being a Torry quine she was a bit green, and at first was a bit clueless about working in a pub.

Best friends Irene Wallce and Mo Aitken.

“She wasn’t dippy for long though. Over the years she worked in just about every Torry bar, except the golf course. And everybody loved her.”

Son Ally’s tragic motorbike accident that left him in a coma

In the Torry Bar – then owned by George and Betty Mitchell – Mo found a second family, but when Ally was just 15 the family’s lives were devastated by a tragic accident.

“He was out on a motorbike up the Gramps, came off the bike and hit his head. He was in a coma for months with Maureen by his side as much as she could possibly be there,” added David.

Traumatic times captured by newspaper archives, concerning Ally Johnstone, Mo’s son.

Ally, who had been the dux of his primary school, also played table tennis for Scotland and was being scouted by football teams Leicester City and Arsenal, at the time of the accident in April 1991.

Ally with one of his football heroes, Aberdeen star Eoin Jess.

After three months doctors broke the news that there was nothing more to be done for Ally. But Mo stepped in.

‘You can’t go home in a coma’

“My mum didn’t listen to that and decided to bring Ally home,” said Louise.

“They told her ‘ye canna take somebody home in a coma’ but she was adamant,” added David. “Within a few weeks we felt sure his eyes were tracking our dog.”

Maureen spent weeks intensely helping Ally, through aromatherapy, playing his favourite games and shows, and speaking to her boy.

One day he started to smile.

Newspaper articles from the time chart Maureen Aitken’s brave fight for son Ally.

A second opinion by another hospital confirmed that Ally was coming out of his coma but would still need round-the-clock care.

“He knows what’s going on, he just finds it hard to express that due to brain damage,” said Louise. “But he’s here 100% because my mum never gave up on him.”

Over the years Maureen was outspoken in her belief that families must continue to fight – even in the face of contrary medical advice – and not give up on those in comas.

There was nobody like Mo

To accommodate Ally and the complexity of his condition Maureen, David and the kids moved from the family home in Balnagask Road to Morven Place.

Each taking turns to care for Ally while juggling the demands of their jobs and family life, Maureen continued as a waitress and barmaid.

She worked in Campbell’s, returned to the Torry Bar, did another stint at Campbell’s, had a short spell at the White Cockade and until last year was still doing two nights a week at the Grampian Bar.

David and Mo, who were together for almost 40 years.

“Mo was a people person, and had a bit of a following in the bars. She loved her job and everybody loved her too.

“There was nobody like her. When I had throat cancer she was there for me day and night. The kind of person who would do anything for anybody,” David said.

An amazing mum and grandmother

Ever proud of her family, Mo was delighted when she became nan to Louise’s daughters Charlie and Kira.

Ally and Mo enjoying some hydrotherapy time together in Blairgowrie.

“She was just a brilliant mum in every way,” said Louise. “We had brand new trainers while she went about in holey shoes. I couldn’t have asked for a better mum or nan for my girls.”

‘We didn’t expect to lose her’

On Sunday April 28 Maureen became suddenly unwell. With only previous “health niggles” news that she’d experienced a serious heart attack came as a shock.

“We didn’t really have time to take a breath. She had the heart attack at home, was taken to hospital and by the early hours of the next day she had passed away,” explained David. “That was the last thing we expected.”

Mo Aitken with her granddaughters Charlie and Kira, and daughter Louise.

Saying goodbye to her, however, was a simple affair.

“We had discussed our plans previously, for what would happen when we go. She never wanted a funeral so we opted for direct cremation.

“It’s just like Mo to not want a big fuss.”

A place to remember Maureen

Some weeks after her death, while Louise and the girls were away, David visited a favourite spot of his and Maureen’s: the white memorial bench overlooking Greyhope Bay.

“I’m always up there walking the dog, and there are names on there of people I know. I grew up across from the Murrays, so knew Lynne and Mary. I’m good friends with Michael.

“I just decided that it would be a good place to remember Mo as well.”

Remembering Mo.

While Ally was being looked after by his carers David took the opportunity to add a small bronze plaque to the popular bench.

The inscription reads: “Maureen Mo Aitken – brightest star in the sky – 1955 to 2024.”

‘We really miss Mo’

Louise said: “Losing mum has been such a shock. When David sent us a picture of the plaque we were really pleased.

“I often go up to the bay now, sit on the bench and talk to her.”

The well-used and much-loved Torry memorial bench which now carries a tribute to Mo Aitken.

For David and Ally it’s still early days of grieving for Mo.

“It’s still not real, we really miss her, but we’ll get there. I can work a bit from home to keep Ally company, and whenever I’m out with the dogs I have a place to remember Mo.”