Campbeltown Courier


- By Hannah O’Hanlon editor@campbeltow­

Tributes have been paid to Second World War veteran and Campbeltow­n resident Ailsa Stewart who has died aged 109.

Mrs Stewart was, until her death on Sunday May 5, Scotland’s second oldest living person.

She was born on December 21, 1914, in the then Britishrul­ed India, where her father was serving with the British Army.

She moved to the UK aged 16 and, after the outbreak of the Second World War, she joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service, known as the Wrens.

She initially trained in meteorolog­y, spending time at HMS Jackdaw in Crail, Fife, and HMS Condor in Arbroath, before switching to torpedo assessment, which led to her final posting to HMS Landrail, the Royal Naval Air Station at Machrihani­sh.

One of her duties was to hone the skills of the Fleet Air Arm pilots detailed to attack the German battleship Tirpitz waiting in a Norwegian fjord to pounce on Arctic convoys.

While in Kintyre, she met her future husband, Archibald Ian Balfour (AIB)

Stewart CBE BL, who, at the time, was a solicitor and procurator fiscal for Kintyre, Islay, Jura and South Knapdale.

The couple married on October 21, 1944. They first settled at St Clair Terrace, Campbeltow­n, before moving to Askomil End. The couple had three sons, Patrick, Angus and John, who all followed in their father’s footsteps in law.

All now retired, Patrick and John were partners in the family firm, Stewart, Balfour and Sutherland, while Angus, based in Edinburgh, qualified as an advocate, later taking the rank of Queen’s Counsel and, finally, accepting appointmen­t to the Bench of the Court of Session and High Court with the judicial title of Lord Stewart.

Having retired from her naval career – during which she attained the rank of Second Officer – to raise her family, Mrs Stewart immersed herself in local life, supporting many charitable causes, in particular the local branches of the British Red Cross and Royal National Lifeboat Institutio­n.

She also took a great interest in supporting travelling people, taking two girls from the community to live with her and her family, and funding the younger one’s education at Kilgraston School in Perthshire.

As well as being an active member of Campbeltow­n Lawn Tennis Club, she was a keen sailor and enjoyed spending time with her husband on his yacht, Lunga.

In later life, she became an enthusiast for tall ship sailing. Among a number of deep-sea voyages, she celebrated her 80th birthday by crossing the Atlantic on the tall ship Eye of the Wind.

She was a great traveller, both on her own, returning to India a couple of times, and with her husband, visiting many places around the world, including Soviet Russia, Scandinavi­a, South America, the Far East, Australasi­a, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, the Caribbean, and across the United States of America.

Mrs Stewart’s solo adventures included riding the Trans-Siberian Express from Vladivosto­k to Moscow, touring French Polynesia in a cargo ship delivering to the islands, navigating the length of Chile, and going ashore in St Helena while en route from South Africa to the UK on a Royal Mail ship.

At home, she enjoyed playing draughts, stopping playing with her grandchild­ren only when they were skilled enough to beat her. She was, on top of her other talents, a magnificen­t gardener and glorious cook and entertaine­r.

Argyll and Bute LordLieute­nant Jane MacLeod said: “It was with considerab­le sadness that I learnt of the death of Mrs Ailsa Stewart who, when I last met her, was Scotland’s second oldest person.

“It was a privilege to present her with her 108th and 109th birthday cards on behalf King Charles III.

“Mrs Stewart was a remarkable lady who served her country in the Second World War as a torpedo assessment specialist in the Women’s

Royal Naval Service and, following her marriage to the late Archibald Ian Balfour, served the community of not only Campbeltow­n but Argyll and Bute. She was a lady of indomitabl­e spirit and an exemplary role model for women, young and old.”

South Kintyre councillor Jennifer Kelly added: “I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs Stewart on the occasion of her 109th birthday last year as I represente­d Argyll and Bute’s provost on behalf of the council. Mrs Stewart was a marvellous lady and I was deeply saddened to hear of her passing. I would like to send my heartfelt condolence­s to all Mrs Stewart’s family and friends.”

And, on behalf of Campbeltow­n Lawn Tennis Club, Jane Gallagher said: “Everyone at Campbeltow­n Lawn Tennis Club was sad to hear of the death of Mrs Ailsa Stewart, who remained a trustee of the club aged 109. Mrs Stewart had opened our new clubhouse just a few years ago.

“Mrs Stewart enjoyed playing tennis when she was younger and got involved with the committee at a time when membership had declined and there was a risk of the club closing. She pushed the older members to change the rules so that everyone who wanted could join. She drove forward lots of fundraisin­g to improve the courts and facilities.

“More recently, others took on the running of the club and encouragem­ent of children, most notably Mrs Gertie Dickson, but Ailsa Stewart’s input was invaluable. The club’s sympathies go to her family.”

Mrs Stewart’s son Patrick, Argyll and Bute’s former Lord-Lieutenant, presented his mother with five birthday cards on behalf of the now late Queen Elizabeth II.

Speaking to the Courier this week, he said: “The family has been moved by the number of messages of sympathy received, demonstrat­ing her actions and personalit­y touched many, not just her own, but in following generation­s. To the end, while declining physically, she retained, in good measure, her mental strength and determinat­ion as her devoted carers, both family and at Lorne Campbell Court, can readily attest.”

 ?? Photograph: Wattie Cheung. ?? Ailsa Stewart, 1914-2024.
Photograph: Wattie Cheung. Ailsa Stewart, 1914-2024.
 ?? ?? Ailsa Stewart receiving a card from Queen Elizabeth II on her 100th birthday from her son Patrick, then Argyll and Bute’s Lord-Lieutenant.
Ailsa Stewart receiving a card from Queen Elizabeth II on her 100th birthday from her son Patrick, then Argyll and Bute’s Lord-Lieutenant.

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