Have you heard the one about the Funeral Director, the Priest and the Lord Lieutenant? Well this afternoon all three turned up with pipers and standard-bearers and an MP at Barbara Rae’s house in Tain. The occasion was Barbara’s 100 birthday.
Born in the aftermath of the 14-18 Great War, Barbara lived and served through the 39-45 second world war, and all its after effects – a life changing and life affirming experience for so many of that generation. Barbara, in common with both our own Marjorie Taylor and actress Patricia Routledge, attended Birkenhead High School; though of course they were not all there at the same time and neither Barbara nor Marjorie bear any resemblance to Hyacinth Bucket in “Keeping up Appearances”.
Barbara’s war included the blitz of Liverpool – she was not yet 21 by the time it ended. She was lucky to survive. She worked in Liverpool but lived with her parents in Birkenhead. Her brother David was serving in France and having his own adventures. The family home was badly bomb damaged in May 1941 and they had to move out, but the family survived.
Barbara joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in 1942 after the Liverpool blitz, and went into the Meteorology section of the RAF. She had her main training in London, and thereafter was based at several UK airfield locations. Especially RAF Millom and RAF Cark in Lancashire (Cumbria) the Lake District, which is where she eventually met Willis. They were married in 1945. During the time that Willis worked for Customs and Excise at Liverpool Docks.
They lived in Birkenhead until 1961 when they made the move up to Tain where Willis was the Excise Officer at Glenmorangie Distillery until his retirement in 1981. Their children Ian and Pat were educated at Tain Royal Academy. In 1974 they bought a new build house in Knockbreck Avenue – and lived there from 1976. So, Barbara is one of the longest duration residents of the Avenue…and certainly the oldest!
Barbara who had always been active in her church in Birkenhead quickly found her way to St Andrew’s Church. Barbara did so much in and for St Andrew’s Church over the years, much of it as part of the St Andrew’s Ladies Guild, (later the St Andrew’s Fellowship). She put in hours of patient needlework to make altar frontals and pulpit falls, she repaired vestments and all these things we still experience as they’re still in weekly use. She arranged flowers to enhance the congregation’s experience of coming to church. She did work on the Church Magazine and was a member of the Vestry. Just a few of the things that Barbara did in our Church.
Barbara was also very active for some years with the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (the WRVS) in Tain again helping with their local work, and especially delivering ‘Meals on Wheels’ around Tain and environs. Both Barbara and Willis were also active in later years with the Tain Choral Group and the Garrick Singers (now Easter Ross Musical Theatre). Willis performed for a few years with the Garrick Singers, whilst Barbara as ever just got on with things needing to be done in ‘wardrobe’ and backstage.
Sadly Willis died in 2000 after having suffered a heart attack and a series of strokes in the 90s which left him with reduced mobility and unable to talk properly, but he was ably looked after by Barbara.
Today family and friends turned out up and down Knockbreck Avenue to honour Barbara, an amazing lady. It was a privilege that we were all able to celebrate with you on this special day…..