Milestone memories of a bygone era
Four generations of one family were able to reunite to celebrate St Rognvald House resident Barbara Jolly’s 100th birthday today, Wednesday 9 June.
A welcome easing of restrictions meant Barbara could enjoy the company of her daughter Carol-Ann, granddaughter Karoline and great grandchildren Khloe and Alec for the special milestone.
Unfortunately, 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 – just like Her Majesty the Queen, Barbara can enjoy two birthdays!
Pride of place alongside the cake was a birthday card from HM the Queen, and Vice Lord Lieutenant Sarah Scarth, royal representative, and OIC Convener Harvey Johnston paid a visit to offer the Council and community’s best wishes on the special occasion.
Harvey 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, having her family here today 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.”
Jolly by name and jolly by nature, Barbara has shared some of her memories from a bygone era, having lived through World War Two, the tragic and sudden loss of her husband, and now a worldwide pandemic.
Barbara 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.”
In 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.
She doesn’t know what the secret to her longevity is, but her family believe it’s down to Barbara’s love of walking and she never smoked or drank – well apart from the very odd occasion.
Daughter Barbara 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 Smith Chisholm was born on 9 June 1921 in Edinburgh – the second child of Agnes and Walter Chisholm. Walter was a tailor like his father and grandfather before him.
Barbara had an older brother Walter and their childhood home was 2 Bellevue Place, Edinburgh and later 2 Ashton Villas, Brunstane Road, Joppa (next to Portobello).
Barbara recalled that her bedroom at Ashton Villas was right at the top of the staircase and small, but she had the most amazing view looking across to Arthur’s Seat and the railway.
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.
With her father being a tailor, she remembers her mother, Agnes, telling her how she was one of the first ladies in Edinburgh to show her ankles!
Barbara said: “I was always well dressed in costumes made by my father and then also my brother. My father also made uniforms for the Queen’s Guards. They had a shop up George IV Bridge at Joppa.”
Barbara had wanted to join the WRENS, but her parents didn’t agree so she worked as a Clerical Assistant on Queen Street, dealing with telephone accounts. Her mother had also worked there too before she married Barbara’s father, putting calls through to folk.
To bolster the one egg ration a week during the war, Barbara’s family were sent eggs from Orkney.
Barbara recalled: “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 phonecalls could be monitored and it was picked up in family phonecalls 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.”
It was thanks to her beloved brother Walter, that Barbara was to meet and eventually marry her husband William (Bill) John Jolly. Bill, an Orcadian, and Walter had become good friends and was introduced to Barbara.
Bill was a keen sportsman - running, football and fishing and received the Kirkwall Grammar School Boy's Championship silver medal. A medal that was to disappear for many years only to be discovered by a woman who purchased a chair from the family and found it down the side when reupholstering it.
Bill went to Skerry’s College in Edinburgh - preparing candidates for Civil Service examinations. His grandfather was John Jolly the founder of John Jolly Coal. They were also a Shipbroker & Stevedores.
Barbara married Bill in 1948 in Edinburgh and they honeymooned in Bournemouth. The couple 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. The family settled into a newly built house on East Road to be named Akranes after the place in Iceland from where the cement had been sourced!
Bill was also Consul for Norway and Vice Consul for the Netherlands. As a result of this Barbara was to cross paths with Royalty. She met Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and still remembers what she wore that day - a red velvet dress bought in Wrights clothes shop in Stromness for £2! Barbara also met Prince Haakon of Norway when he visited Orkney and he was interested to hear she had seen his grandfather, King Olav, at the Usher Hall in 1965. Barbara also met King Olav in 1987.
Tragedy struck the family and Bill died suddenly in November 1977 aged just 59 of a presumed heart attack. Worse still was that Barbara was in France waiting for her grandson, Darren, to be born. The police in France arrived to inform them.
Barbara had to adjust to a new way of life and filled her days concentrating on her family and friends, knitting, baking and reading.
The Orkney Library and Archive deliver one or two boxes of large print books every two weeks to St Rognvald’s!
The family recall one particular story on the golf course.
Carol-Ann & Barbara said: “One day she got the chance to play at St Andrew’s but it was a cold day so Barbara wore gloves which she had been given from her mother’s cousins in Shetland. Off she set and gave the ball one big whack and her club went swirling through the air and almost went through the big bay window at the St Andrew’s golf course. Her gloves were made of genuine Shetland wool – warm but not a good idea to play golf with! Never again did she wear them to play golf.”
Barbara has been a resident of St Rognvald’s for six years.
Manager Shirley Miller said she is very proud of how staff went above and beyond to ensure residents such as Barbara did not feel alone and isolated as a result of the pandemic and lockdowns.
“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.”