Edna Picken – a true cham­pion of the south

June 7, 1924, to Fe­bru­ary 10, 2018

The Arran Banner - - News - El­iz­a­beth McLay

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.

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