Oldest surviving inhabitant from remote Scottish island

Oldest surviving inhabitant from remote Scottish island

Oldest surviving inhabitant from remote Scottish island that was abandoned in 1962 after once thriving community dwindled to just 12 celebrates turning 100

  • Jean Robertson, who now lives in Thurso, was born on island of Stroma in 1921
  • Said secret to longevity included ‘watching quiz shows and doing crosswords’
  • The abandoned island of Stroma is located off the Caithness coast in Scotland

The oldest surviving resident of an abandoned Scottish island has celebrated her 100th birthday. 

Jean Robertson, who was born on the island of Stroma in 1921, received flowers, gifts and a special birthday card from the Queen after she reached the milestone age on March 6. 

The former resident, who now lives in Thurso, described how she was passionate about researching the abandoned island and said the secret to her longevity was ‘keeping an active mind, watching quiz programmes and doing crosswords’.

 Jean Robertson, who was born on the Scottish island of Stroma in 1921, received a special birthday card from the Queen after she reached the age of 100 on March 6

She said: ‘I’ve always maintained a healthy lifestyle and still keep an active mind, watching quiz programmes on television and doing crosswords.

‘I am still passionate about researching facts about Stroma and its former inhabitants. I also take a keen interest in the lives of my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

‘All in all, I would say that all these things contribute to my inner contentment.’

Ms Roberston, who was also Stroma’s last postwoman, was born on the island in 1921 to Jeanie and William Bremner.

After receiving her education at Stroma Public School, she worked briefly at Thuster Lodge on the mainland and would often return to the island to help out on the family croft.

She simultaneously worked in one of the three island shops for several years.

During the Second World War, Ms Robertson worked as a postal worker and would deliver mail around the island on her bicycle.

In 1946, she married Frank Robertson and over the next few years they raised their children, Jackie, Sheena and Billy, on their croft, Bellevue. 

However in 1957, the family reluctantly moved from their island home to Thurso in Caithness due to the closure of the school where their older children were the last pupils. 

The island of Stroma is located off the Caithness coast in Scotland and was once populated by a vibrant community of islanders

In 1901 there were 375 residents on the island but by the early 1960s just 12 people remained

After they resettled, Mr Roberston became well known in the farming community as a livestock inspector with the Department of Agriculture. 

However in 1896, after 40 happy years of marriage, Ms Robertson’s husband passed away. 

In her later years, Ms Roberston became a member of the Church Guild and Friendship Club. 

She was also involved in providing information and photographs for the book on Stroma, which was edited by the late Donald Young and published in 1992. 

The island of Stroma, which is located off the Caithness coast in Scotland, was once populated by a vibrant community of islanders.   

In 1901, there were 375 residents on the island but by 1949 that figure plunged to just over 199.

Over the course of 13 years, the number of residents on the island continued to dwindle and by the early 1960s just 12 people remained.

In 1962, the last resident islanders left and they were soon followed by the keepers of the island lighthouse and their families in 1997.   

The abandoned Scottish island of Stroma

 Inhabitants on the island supported themselves through growing their own crops and fishing

The island of Stroma is located off the Caithness coast in Scotland and is the most southerly of the islands in the Pentland Firth.

It was once populated by a vibrant community of islanders and towards the end of the 18th century there were reportedly thirty families living on the island’s two townships – Nethertown (north of the island) and Uppertown (in the south).

In 1901, there were 375 residents on the island but by 1949 that figure plunged to just over 199.

Over the course of 13 years, the number of residents on the island continued to dwindle and by the early 1960s, just 12 people remained.

In 1962, the last resident islanders left and they were soon followed by the keepers of the island lighthouse and their families in 1997.   

A number of ancient stone structures found on the abandoned island show that it was inhabited in prehistoric times and a first historical record of the island is found in the 12th century Orkneyinga Saga. 

During the 17th and 18th centuries, residents on the island could be cut off for from supplies from the mainland for weeks during due to storms and violent gales in the Pentland Firth.

However by the early 19th century, the island was said to be ‘very productive in corn’ and inhabitants supported themselves through growing their own crops and fishing.

Despite their isolation, the islanders maintained a tight-knit community and established their first school in 1723, followed by two churches in 1877 and 1878.   

By the 1920s, residents had built their own wind turbines to recharge the batteries of their radio sets and the island also had three shops.  

In 2019, an exhibition on the island, created by collaborative artists Mara Marxt Lewis and Tyler Lewis, was staged at Lyth Arts Centre in Scotland.   

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