Honorary “Granny” to many

May 10, 2021

She was a mother to seven of her own children, and honorary “Granny” to dozens of others.

Darn Good Citizen

In 1960, Mary Neilson was presented Vernon’s Good Citizen award for her years of mending sweaters and darning socks for young hockey players.

A Love of Music

Mary Neilson was born in Kirkmichel, a village in Southern Scotland. From a young age, she had a love for music, winning first place at a music festival when she was nine years old for her rendition of a Scottish ballad titled “Caller ‘Ou.” 

 

Portrait of Mary Neilson, seated, with her husband Andrew and seven children in 1955

 

She continued this trend as a young woman, singing in church choirs and entertaining veterans, as well as performing Scottish songs on her own radio show on CKY-FM Winnipeg between 1924 and 1928. Her show, “Burns Nicht,” was on the air during radio’s infancy, making Mrs. Neilson a pioneer in this form of entertainment. 

A Love of Children

In 1939, Mary, her husband Andrew, and their seven children moved to Vernon. While here, Mrs. Neilson truly began to cultivate another of her life’s passions: the nurturing of children, regardless of if they were her own or not.

Mary had a close relationship with her six daughters and one son; in a 1956 Vernon News article, she described her children as marvelous people. But she also cared deeply for the well-being of other children. When asked about her commitment to creating and repairing clothing for Vernon’s young hockey players, she simply said “I like darning.”

A “Granny” to Many

Despite her evident modesty, Mary’s efforts did not go unnoticed by the city’s youngsters, who gave her the affectionate nickname of “Granny.” She was also asked, on two occasions, to pitch the opening ball at the start of the local lacrosse season. The young players autographed one of the balls and presented it to Mary, who displayed it proudly on her mantelpiece.

Mary’s Scottish roots had a profound effect on her approach to life. She was very kindhearted, but also had a no-nonsense demeanor. “I had a strict upbringing,” she said. “I gave my own children a strict upbringing. My grandchildren are getting a strict upbringing. We’re all in good health. You can’t get away from the good old Scotch way.”

Mary Neilson passed away on February 4, 1966. During her funeral service, Reverend Pritchard said “we can grieve only at our loss. She blessed the world with her presence and it is a better place for her being here.”

Gwyn Evans

2 thoughts on “Mary Neilson

  1. Seeing this was such a gift for myself and family! That’s my Granny on the left! Hearing about her Mother and a bit of how they grew up is amazing! Thank you so much for the lovely surprise!

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