PICTURES: Birthday girl Elizabeth McMillan (100) of Tain looks back on memories galore as family gathers to celebrate milestone
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A WOMAN who left school at 16 and worked amongst family at an Easter Ross post office for 40 years this week looked back on a long happy life – and hinted at the secret of her success as she turned 100.
Elizabeth McMillan was surrounded by friends and family from across the UK at Carnegie Lodge Hotel in Tain for a celebration dinner.
Born in 1922, she joined the staff at Tain's post office in 1938, aged 16, working there until her retirement.
She admitted: "I couldn't wait to be out of school, it really wasn’t for me! My father said that I had to find a job first, so I went to work for the post office.”
It was a family business – her father, John was a postman there and her three brothers worked there too.
Ms McMillan said: “All of them were sent to the front in the First World War and they all came back.”
A keen cyclist, she shared memories of a camping trip in tandem with her father cycling from Inverness to Aberdeen, then Dundee to Glasgow, and back in only three days.
"Back in the day, I would come back from work and my father would say ‘let’s go for a wee run’, and we would get up and go to Invergordon. At weekends we would go down to Inverness with the family. They would take the train and me and dad would cycle down, spend the day there and then head back.
"I'll always remember my first trip down to Inverness. It was just before the war, and I was 16. When we arrived, we realised my skirt had a hole in it, so I ended up buying my first ever pair of trousers and I always used them for cycling afterwards – it was not common for a woman to wear trousers back in the day!"
With her father, she also shared the passion for gardening.
"I would spend my afternoons with dad in the garden, but he wouldn't let anyone near his carrots! He was so proud of them. After he died I took over the garden in the house. One day a neighbour told me that she was looking at me from the window and said that I took after my father, and I couldn’t have been prouder!
"Having a garden and growing vegetables was really a big help during the war."
Katherine Ross Macleod (98) used to work with Elizabeth at the post office. She said: "I met Elizabeth when I started working for the post office in May 1940, and she was already there. We then spent many happy years together. We were not in the same class at school so we didn't really get to know each other before then. She was very good at her job, very clever."
Another friend and former colleague, Margaret Fox (95), said: “I went to work for the post office when I was 15 years old and that's where I met Margaret. Her father was a postman and her brother a message boy. I worked there seven years then moved to Invergordon.
"I remember the days when we would go dancing at the carnival in the village hall. We always loved to dance. Elizabeth was very close with my cousin Margaret. When she moved to Atlanta in the USA, they would write each other very often.”
On a post on the Facebook group Tain Now and Then, locals wished her happy birthday and some added some personal memories.
Lesley Mackenzie said: "Elizabeth and my Dad John Ross were in the local Scottish Country dance team which travelled around the North performing for the Coronation in 1953
Another local, Scott Dundas, commented: "Happy 100th Elizabeth. Remember you Ella and Mr Gleed with much affection. Can't believe it's over 40 years since you retired. I was your replacement in 1981 at a very young 16. Was very jealous of your new Vauxhall Astra at the time. Very happy memories of all the lovely people who came into Tain Post Office Counter."
After retirement, Ms McMillan travelled around Europe and other parts of the world.
Gifted of a sharp mind and sparkling memory, she said she didn't feel as if she just turned 100.
"When I turned 90 I told everyone that I felt as if I were still 70," she said
“I never married or had children – maybe that’s why I got to the age I am!”
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