Isles’ oldest woman dies aged 105

Ruby Lindsay preparing for her 105th birthday last summer. Photo: Shetnews

SHETLAND’S oldest resident Ruby Lindsay has passed away two months before what would have been her 106th birthday.

She died following a short illness having been in relatively good health until recently – celebrating her 105th birthday with family, friends and neighbours at her home at Mooradale, Lunna last July.


Born in Mid Yell on 10 July 1908 as Robina Smith, she was able to look back on a career spanning eight decades in cooking and catering, beginning in a household in Lerwick’s King Harald Street in 1922 and coming to an end in 1997 at Lunna House after her son Jim suggested that the tender age of 89 meant it was time to retire.

When Shetland News caught up with her last year Ruby insisted she “could have continued [working] for another ten years”.

She remained an active member of the Vidlin WRI and visited the North Haven day care centre once a week to catch up with the latest news.


Her high teas and cream teas at Lunna House were famous beyond the shores of Shetland – visitors coming by the bus load and the guesthouse doing a roaring trade, a legacy she was tremendously proud of.

In 1929 she moved to Edinburgh and secured a job looking after a minister’s family in Duddingston. She met her husband Frank Lindsay three years later while working in the kitchen of the boys’ hospital of Glenalmond College, one of Scotland’s most expensive private schools.

The couple married in 1933, and it was here their two eldest children Margaret and David were born. They moved back to Shetland two years later and set up a family home in a tiny cottage down by the beach at Gulberwick, before moving to a croft up the hill.


They stayed at The Garth until 1948 before taking over the Bona Vista Guest House in Lerwick – starting off her unparalleled career in catering.

It soon became well known as a lodgers’ house and many stayed for long spells, including North Star picture house manager Alex Greig for seven years. The 84 year old travelled up from England in order to visit Ruby in her final days at Lunna over the past week.

The family embarked on a yet larger project when they bought Lunna House from the Bruces of Sumburgh.

“I looked at it and I thought he was mad,” she told Shetland News last year. “But then it was a fine thing to do. I was quick at work at that time. A lot of people enjoyed it, it was very special.”

And the secret to the longevity which allowed her such a busy and fulfilled life? “I’ve never been sick and I never had a day off,” she said. “Hard work, no alcohol and no smoking!”