Annie Huston - a life well lived


Monday 11 July 2022 18:00

ANNIE Isabella Scott was born on the 30th July 1921, the second child and eldest daughter of Thomas and Sarah Scott (nee Sterritt).

Her Mother was one of a family of six girls, a brother had died in infancy. Her father was from a family of nine, three girls and six boys.

Home initially was at the Scott homestead at Woodpark, Crawfords Bridge, and it was from here that Annie walked over two miles there and back to school in Tynan in what is now the CoI Church Hall.

One of those she walked with was the late Bob Morton from Derryhaw.

The family eventually moved to the Townland of Tullycallidy where the Sterritt homestead was. This meant a lot shorter walk to Cormeen Primary School.

Like most of her peers Annie left school at age 14, but she did not go out to work as such. Along with her sister Rae she stayed at home to help her Mother keep the house, help with the rest of the family and work on the farm. The family would eventually rise to seven in number, her other siblings being Robert (Bob), Rebecca (Cis), Sarah (Sadie), Rachel (Rae), George and Edna.

She enjoyed her teenage years attending St Mark’s Parish Church, Killylea, where she belonged to the Girls’ Friendly Society (GFS). The highlight of her time in the GFS was travelling by train to Dublin for a visit, staying in the Halls of Residence of Trinity College, quite an adventure in the 1930s.

Other activities associated with the Church were cookery classes with her friend Annie Trimble later to become Annie Gillespie and playing Badminton in the old Church Hall that is now the Silver Band Hall.

Annie didn’t have to go far to meet her Husband, William (Bill) Huston, as both belonged to St Mark’s and the families only sat two pews apart.

They were married in 1944 and set up home on the Huston family farm on the Armagh side of Killylea.

Eventually they would have four of a family, Mavis (McCullagh) the eldest who spent her entire teaching career in Churchhill Primary School in Caledon passed away in 2019, followed by Billy, Roy and Audrey.

Her sister in law Hilda, her daughter Vivienne and father in law William made it up to a household of nine, not unusual numbers going back then.

Her life then was no different from other country women, rearing a young family, keeping the house and working on the farm including milking cows by hand, feeding calves and pigs, all manual labour. It was a great advance when a bucket plant milking machine was installed in the early 1960s to milk the fourteen cows. Large families were reared then on limited resources but got by.

A large part of her time in the 1970s was taken up along with her sister in law Hilda looking after her father in law, William senior. He passed away on Christmas Eve 1977 at the age of 97.

It was a huge shock to her and the rest of the family when her husband Bill passed away suddenly on St Patrick’s Day 1978, at the age of 63, only three months after his own father.

She continued to help her son Roy run the farm and the only jobs she didn’t do was drive a tractor or milk cows by machine. She gathered stones, helped to put up barbed wire etc, really any job that a hand was needed at.

As Roy relates, if she was in the house and a hand was needed for a small job he would shout in, “Can you give me a hand for a few minutes.” Inevitably the answer came back, “Hold on until I get my Wellingtons on,” or “wait until I turn the cooker off”, she would never refuse. She preferred to be outside.

Now with more time on her hands she spent a lot of it in the large vegetable garden and greenhouse where she was in her element, reading up on her numerous gardening books. She grew tomatoes and sweet corn from seed, bringing them on in the airing cupboard.

She had the “war wounds” to prove her farming days, the distorted nail on a finger that was the result of a confrontation with a Turnip gougher, a broken toe from an incident with a slat over a slurry tank, a bad cut from a sow dropping a steel door down on top of her foot. But through it all she rarely complained, she was of that generation that just got on with whatever had to be done.

While bringing up her family and working on the farm she never got far, there was little spare time or money, the only full day away from the farm was taking her family on the Sunday School excursion to either Bangor, Newcastle or Portrush.

But in later years her family saw that she got out and saw more.

There were trips to the Isle of Man and Scotland, to England where one of her highlights was attending the Chelsea flower show, the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District and back home the County Down and Antrim coasts, she really enjoyed the Antrim coast.

But there were also trips further afield. To Jersey in the Channel Islands, Amsterdam and the Tulip fields, Paris, Canada, where she marvelled at the Rocky mountains and a cruise around the Canary islands which included berthing in Agadir, Morroco in North Africa where she marvelled at the mounds of spices for sale in the market and the meat on the open butchery counters covered in flies.

Nearer to home she enjoyed long walks in Gosford Forest Park, hr favourite time of year was the autumn, she loved the colours of the leaves but by the same token she hated the long winter nights

Annie enjoyed good health for most of her life and was rarely at the Doctors. However in March of 2013 at the age of 91 a fall resulted in a badly broken wrist and femur which required surgery in Craigavon Hospital.

It was thought that she would never walk again but she was determined that she would and with the good work of Loane House rehabilitation unit in Dungannon she got home after fifteen weeks.

After a spell downstairs a stair lift was fitted and she was able regain some level of independence once she mastered how to use it. A carer from the Trust now came four times a day to attend to her needs.

She then started to attend Lisanally Day unit in Armagh twice a week and it was there that it was discovered that she was good at crafts and painting, something that leaving school at 14 had denied her the opportunity to learn fully.

Long walks were now a thing of the past but she was happy to get into a wheel chair and be pushed around Gosford or go to Scarva on a Sunday afternoon to listen to the band on the band stand and then be pushed up the canal tow path for a look around, she was always appreciative of anywhere or anything she got.

Another fall in August 2015 at the age of 94 resulted in another broken wrist requiring more surgery and a spell of recovery in Roxburgh House in Moy but again she got through it and eventually got back home again, where she was happiest.

Gardening was now also a thing of the past but she enjoyed getting down to the greenhouse in the wheel chair to see the progress of the tomatoes, sweet corn and strawberries which Roy had now taken over growing.

Covid and the lockdown in spring 2020 saw the carers reduced to three times a day and the number of visitors greatly reduced, which she did not like and it probably did not help her any mentally.

Annie celebrated her 100th birthday on the July 30, 2021 with a party out on the lawn under canvas to reduce the chance of spreading Covid.

She received over one hundred birthday cards including from Her Majesty the Queen. and a letter from the Earl of Caledon, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for County Armagh. When asked what did she think about receiving a card from the Queen, her reply was, “Not everyone gets one of those.”

St Mark’s Church presented her with a large framed photograph to acknowledge her achievement as the oldest parishioner of the Church which took pride of place above the mantelpiece in her living room.

Annie was a lifelong member of member of St Mark’s, Killylea and had a quiet but deep faith which carried her through the many ups and downs in her life.

She rarely missed Church and was a member of the Mother’s Union. where she was given the honour of cutting their 100th anniversary cake.

She enjoyed listening to ‘Songs of Praise’ on TV on a Sunday evening, she did not have a favourite hymn as such, she enjoyed them all.

Annie was also a great supporter of Charities such as Christian Aid, and the Hospice. If an appeal came on for a major disaster she would always send a donation

Losing Mavis her eldest in 2019 was a grievous blow to her which she never really got over.

Another fall in October 2021 resulted in another spell in Craigavon Hospital and then back to Loane House in Dungannon.

In November Annie contracted Covid but it never developed so she came through it with flying colours. Lack of a suitable care package and various lockdowns resulted in her not getting home until mid April, some 27 weeks later.

Unfortunately Annie grew weaker, her time on earth was coming to an end and she passed away peacefully on the evening of June 9, thankfully she had been home for eight weeks, where she always wanted to be.

Paying his own tribute Rev Bill Atkins at St Mark’s Church Killylea said, “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

“ Paul wrote these words to the Thessalonians, but we could say that they apply also to Annie. Her life was characterized by that trio of Christian virtues, faith, hope and, love; faith, hope and love which were demonstrated in work, toil, and patient endurance.

“ The apostle also said there is great gain in godliness with contentment. She lived a long life, for most of it a hardworking farmer’s wife, mother and grandmother, devoted to her Lord and her family.

“She never missed church until the years took their toll on her strength, was generous in giving to charity, and was always willing to lend a hand in church events.

“Even in the last decade of her life, while she was able, she was in the kitchen of the church hall, covered in flour as she made soda farls for the Big Breakfast.

“Though death brings the sadness of separation, we can lay Annie to rest with confidence.

“We need not mourn as those who have no hope, because the Lord Jesus has promised, ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions; I go to prepare a place for you. I want you to be with me , where I am, so that you may see my glory’.

“Her departure leaves a great hole in the lives of her many friends, and especially for her son, Roy.

“He had dedicated his life to her care in her latter years, and especially in her final year. People say, ‘Sorry for your loss’. But she’s not lost. We know where she is. Jesus said, ‘and this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day’.

“Annie believed in Christ, who died for her on the cross, and rose to be Lord of all.

“When we last saw her, she couldn’t walk; when we next see her she will be jumping with joy. Her frail arms, once strong enough to carry sacks of meal or breezeblocks, shall vigorously wave palm branches; her brow which Roy had so lovingly wiped, shall wear a crown of victory.”

Her well attended Funeral was on Sunday, June 12, to St Mark’s Killylea, the Church that had been her spiritual home all her life.

Interment was in the family plot. Jackson Stoops undertakers were in charge of the funeral arrangements with donations in lieu of flowers to Tynan patients comfort fund and Marie Currie, care of Jackson Stoops.

A long life well lived.

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