Home   News   Article

'Silent Three' reunited for 70th birthday bash

By SPP Reporter

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
The 'Silent Three' together again – Jean Mackay, Margaret Cairns and Ann (Nan) Ballingall.
The 'Silent Three' together again – Jean Mackay, Margaret Cairns and Ann (Nan) Ballingall.

But the greatest gift of all was the presence of her two childhood friends, one of whom had flown all the way from Canada specially for the event.

It was the first time Margaret, Jean Mackay (nee Jappy) from Melness, and Ann (Nan) Ballingall (nee Macdougall) from London, Ontario, had been together since their schooldays over half a century ago at Helmsdale Primary School.

“Jean and I have often seen each other, particularly at Highland Games, and I’ve also seen Nan, who has been back here two or three times, but the three of us were never able to meet up all together before,” said Margaret.

“We had an absolute ball. It was a great reunion and we blethered until the cows came home. Nan is so interested in Helmsdale and always wants to know what is going on, although things have changed so much since our young days.”

The trio quickly became friends after meeting in the infant class and remained inseparable through their school years at both Helmsdale and Golspie.

The close relationship was strengthened by the fact they are second cousins. Their grandmothers were sisters.

Margaret laughingly recalls that they called themselves the “Silent Three”, after the heroines in a comic strip in the girls’ magazine “School Friend”, published from 1950 to 1963.

As avid readers of the magazine, the three loved the story about the trio of schoolgirls at St Kit’s Boarding School who banded together as a secret society against the tyranny of the head prefect and also fought crime.

Margaret said: “We were the Silent Three – we used to pretend we were sleuths solving crimes!”

The girls went their separate ways when their schooldays came to an end. Margaret remained in Helmsdale, while Jean eventually moved to Melness and Ann trained as a nurse, married an oncologist and emigrated to Canada. All three became mothers and grandmothers.

Although the ties that bound them together were stretched, they have never broken and the trio kept in touch via letters and then e-mails.

“We have the type of friendship that picks up from where it left off,” explains Margaret. “We might not be in touch for a year or more but then it is the same as it ever was.”

Margaret’s big birthday bash was held in the Bannockburn Inn in Helmsdale last Friday, 9th November, but she had not expected Nan to be there because of the distance involved.

“Imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail from Nan to say she was coming. It was absolutely lovely,” she said.

It was a flying visit for Nan, who also enjoyed a family get-together with her brother, Mark Macdougall in Kildary.

Margaret said: “Only Nan would fly across the Atlantic in November to go to a birthday. It’s not everyone that can say someone they went to school with flew over from Canada for their 70th birthday.

“It was just fantastic to see her and for the three of us to be reunited after all these years.”

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More