Edna Picken – a true champion of the south
June 7, 1924, to February 10, 2018
Born Edwardina McNab, but knows as Edna, the youngest of eight girls and a sister to three brothers, their home was Castle House, Kildonan, and her parents were Helen and Edward, a seaman with the Caledonian Steam Packet Company.
She was educated at Kildonan Primary School and Rothesay Academy. Her playgrounds were the fields and the shore which she loved – rock pooling and gathering brambles at the bottom of cliffs.
Edna, David and Dougie learned all the names of the shipping companies by the colours of their funnels. The Clyde was busy then and she saw everything from cargo ships, liners, Queens and convoys. Edna’s father died when she was 11, but she was always close to her mum, especially as older family members got married, went to university or the services. Sadly, by the late 1950s, four of her sisters had died.
Edna worked in the tearoom at Cook’s Stores, Breadalbane Hotel and a boarding house in Machrie. She met John Crawford Picken and they married on January 30, 1946, in the Kildonan Hotel. They farmed at Levencorrach for seven years. In the beginning there was no electricity or running water, shopping came in vans to the main road, then you had to carry everything back up the hill.
Edna was kept busy but happy as three of her children – Elizabeth, Sandy and Catherine – were born while at Levencorrach. In 1953, the family moved to Lanamhor where Edna and Johnny worked hard together to build up the farm. The family was complete with the arrival of John and Edward.
Lenamhor was a busy place in the summer – the farmhouse was always let as were other holiday houses and eventually a large campsite on the shore fields. Over the years lifelong friendships were made and still continue with Edna’s children. Youngsters on holiday were never turned away from the farm but it was usually Edna that gave the stern ‘health and safety’ talk. Winter was more relaxed but just as busy as it was a dairy farm.
Tragedy struck in 1972 when Johnny was killed in a car accident. Edna found her inner strength and faith that got her through this part of her life – she just needed to get on with it. That was her way.
Edna was always community-minded and was soon involved with the community council, senior citizens and parents’ association, and wasn’t slow in writing the odd letter to the local press. The village hall was always important to her and the family with fundraising events helping to keep the hall used and to make funds for many organisations.
Edna was also a lifelong member of the ‘rural’. She loved it and everything about it, from the village hall to the Highland Show and she spent some time at federation level. Meeting people, making new friendships, learning new things – it was all about taking part and she was always trying to get new members for Kilmory Institute.
The RNLI was the charity that she raised funds for. With a father, brother, son and grandson all seafarers, it just had to be. Edna had a great respect for the sea and all its moods and she had to live near it. Her fundraising over the years was very successful. She had great help from the community especially with houseto-house collections and coffee mornings. Kilmory Church was always a special, peaceful place to her and, before churches had to be locked, she would let herself in and sit awhile. She was the first woman elder to be appointed.
In the 1950s, six Southend farmers – Elizabeth Cook, Archie Morrison, Duncan Mulholland, John McNeish, Gordon Yates and Edna – started to campaign to upgrade the junior secondary school to a high school. Eventually the whole island got involved. It took about 14 years to win the fight and the original six were proud of what they had started and pleased and happy that island children could complete their education on Arran.
Edna loved gardening and found it relaxing. At Bruce Cottage she had plant pots established that gave a good splash of colour ... despite John’s sheep. She was a good baker and always put baking into the ‘rural’ section at the agricultural show, sometimes winning, sometimes not. Her grandchildren saw no problem with her baking, and were always ready for more.
The most important people in Edna’s life were her family and extended family – she had a great relationship with them all. Young and old, large and small, from near and far, spent time with her, listening and learning from her stories, asking questions even if it was just to know how her chair worked. She loved when family, friends, neighbours called and spent time with her. After her last great-grandson arrived she worked out that since becoming Mrs J C Picken it had taken 71 years, five children, 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren before there was another J C Picken and that she was still here to meet him and have a cuddle at age 93 was wonderful.
Edna considered herself blessed in her senior years because she could read, watch TV, have a conversation, get around on her zimmer, write letters and use the phone, and she was still in her own home, albeit with support and help. She was happy and content.
To see Kilmory Church full and overflowing with family and friends for her final service was a measure of the woman the Southend of Arran knew as Edna.
Edna Picken as she will be fondly remembered.