A lifelong Lanarkian has celebrated her 100th birthday in the company of South Lanarkshire Provost Margaret Cooper and Vice Lord-Lieutenant Gavin Whitefield CBE.

During the visit to Elizabeth Aitken, they heard stories of daring wartime escapades, a determined career woman, a devoted wife and mum, and a keen golfer with a love of all sports.

Born at Harelaw Farm on the outskirts of the town in 1922, Elizabeth is the third of eight siblings and relished the freedom of growing up in rural Lanark with her brothers and sisters.

Harbouring an ambition to secure her own career in agriculture one day she did well at school but was frustrated when her father sent her to Glasgow’s domestic science college instead.

 However, her headstrong nature soon wore her dad down and he eventually allowed her to enroll in Auchincruive agricultural college in Ayrshire where she thrived during the pre-war years.

On leaving college Elizabeth had a number of jobs that took her from King’s College, Newcastle, to Carlisle and then back to Scotland, bringing with her a reputation as an ‘agricultural trouble-shooter. One of her main areas of expertise was helping farms that were experiencing problems with the quality of their milk and figuring out what had gone wrong.

With the farm still in the family to this day – now run by her nephews – Elizabeth still contributes ideas to the harvest or comments on the new milk tanks. This knack for problem solving also allowed her to play her own part in the war effort.

Having been taught to drive by her brother, she took on the challenge of navigating country roads with the lights dimmed as was the law during WW2, helping to remove signs which would make it harder for any invading army to find farms. This prowess behind the wheel continued throughout her life, driving daily until she was in her mid-90s. Also as a nonagenarian, she swapped four wheels for wings, twice making the journey across the world to visit family in New Zealand.

Elizabeth married David Aitken in 1950 and the couple had two daughters, Margaret and Jean, following which she took time out from her career to raise her family. Said Jean: “She was a fantastic stay-at-home mum, making sure she was always there for us and cooking three-course lunches every day. Soup was always a staple, and teatime meant cakes on the table. She was also a really hospitable host, and no one came to visit without the offer of a meal.

“That commitment to family is, and was, so important throughout her life. She is intensely interested in her extended family and has amazed us all with her remarkable ability to turn the other cheek and offer a hand to anyone in need.”

Elizabeth also enjoys sports, with a particular passion for hockey in her youth. She discovered a love of golf as an adult, which she said allowed her to walk off any worries she had. To this day she makes sure she never misses any of her favourite sports which also include football, rugby, and tennis, by making sure she has the full satellite TV sports package.

Provost Cooper described her meeting with Elizabeth as a great privilege. She added: “In this role, I am fortunate to meet so many of the people of South Lanarkshire of all ages and walks of life. But having the chance to spend time with people like Elizabeth, learning even a little from her lifetime of stories and experience, is a genuine treat.

“In her 100 years, society has changed beyond all recognition, yet she has taken it in her stride with the steadfastness that only those who have lived through so much tend to have.

“A hard worker, a devoted family person, and an example to all of great resilience and drive, Elizabeth will be well-known to, and fondly thought of by, many in Lanark as a volunteer delivering meals-on-wheels to the elderly in Braxfield and down into New Lanark long before it was restored.

“She was also, I understand, an active member of Lanark in Bloom, sitting on her small stool, continuing to look after planters well into her nineties. I’m sure that the people of the town and all who have in some way benefitted from her dedication to this community over the years, will join me in wishing her the happiest of 100th birthdays.”

Posted by Gavin Whitefield