TC • Media
Lillian MacKinnon, a resident of Highland Manor in Neils Harbour, turns 107 years old today. It’s believed she’s the oldest person in Nova Scotia, and one of the oldest people in the country. Submitted by Highland Manor
NEILS HARBOUR — Lillian MacKinnon isn’t shy when it comes to sharing her age with strangers. For her, it’s a badge of distinction.
The spry lady, originally from Margaree Forks, will celebrate her 107th birthday with family today.
It’s believed she is the oldest living person in Nova Scotia.
Canso resident Elsworth (Braz) Ryan was believed to be the province’s oldest resident when he died May 3 at age 107.
In an interview Wednesday, MacKinnon said she’s looking forward to celebrating her birthday with family and friends at Highland Manor in Neils Harbour. She has lived at the nursing home since 2003.
“I like it here, very good, dear,” she said in a soft, shaky voice.
The daughter of Emma Tomkins and William Elmourne, MacKinnon became a teacher in her 20s once she graduated from the Normal College in Truro.
She was stationed first at a one-room school house in Glendale, Inverness County, and later at the Ridge School at Cape North, Victoria County, over a four-year period.
She went on to marry Kenneth MacKinnon, and together they had five children — Mary Ann, Effie, Elmourne, Kenneth and Stanley. She also has 15 grandchildren, and so many great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren it wasn’t possible to get an accurate number.
The couple spent only four years living off-island. In 1927, they moved to Boston to seek out work. MacKinnon landed a job as a waitress at Childs restaurant, a popular U.S. chain at the time, while Kenneth worked in a rubber factory.
They returned to Cape Breton for good following Kenneth’s father’s death in 1931.
Elmourne MacKinnon, along with brother Stanley, are her only surviving children.
Elmourne, 74, described his mother as a fiercely independent woman who lives a simple life in the Highlands.
“That’s probably what’s most memorable about her character,” he said Thursday.
When MacKinnon left teaching to start a family, in the late 1940s she took on the job of telegraph operator in Dingwall and occasionally filled in for the operator in Baddeck.
Prior to the automated telephone system, the telegraph was the main communication tool communities relied on.
Throughout much of the 1960s to 1980s, time was spent commuting between Dingwall and Sydney.
The couple owned a few rooming houses in the Sydney area during the peak of industrial activity at the steel plant.
Following Kenneth’s death in 1990 at the age of 90, MacKinnon returned to Dingwall on a full-time basis.
Despite a loss of hearing, Elmourne said his mother “still has her senses.”
At age 98 she had her first leg amputated above the knee due to poor blood circulation. A year later the second leg was amputated for the same reason.
Elmourne said his mother was angry and frustrated that she had to be confined to a wheelchair.
“She was a walker right up until then. She was known for that all through the community.”
MacKinnon remembered herself loving “jumping and running” in her early years.
While today’s gathering is a private family affair, the manor plans to hold an open house for MacKinnon on Aug. 14 at 2 p.m.
Highland Manor recreation director Tara Williams said people who plan to attend should call ahead of time.
“There will be cake and we always get an entertainer in to sing, play fiddle or guitar,” she said.