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Falkland Islander celebrates 100th birthday

Since she was born in 1923 Clara McKay has worked as a maid, a travelling teacher, and a shepherd of 1000 sheep.

She has seen five British monarchs sit on the throne, 25 Prime Ministers, and 24 Governors of the Falkland Islands.

Clara’s father hailed from the Scottish island of Scalpay and her mother from Hill Cove on West Falkland.

She was born in Port San Carlos, on East Falkland, where her first memories come from.

“There were seven families living there at the time. They all had good gardens, they grew everything, carrots, potatoes, turnips…”

Clara remembers her first time travelling to Stanley. Her father had to return to Scalpay for six months so she went to the town with her mother and stayed with friends. She was seven years old and went to school.

“I remember being pushed off the slide by other children and getting called ‘the old camper’.”

On their return to Port San Carlos, Clara continued her schooling with the travelling teacher, moving settlements every few weeks.

“We would leave Port San Carlos, with the man of the house the teacher had been staying with, and ride to Third Corral where the Short family were.

We would stay two weeks there, move to Bombilla with the McRae family, then to Douglas settlement for four weeks. Then to Lorenzo for two weeks, back to Douglas for four weeks, then to Teal Inlet for another four weeks. He would stay four weeks in settlements but only two weeks in outside shepherd houses.”

Clara remembers her father supplying two bags of potatoes to pay for her board at Teal Inlet as frost prevented them growing them.

She remembers her school days coming to an end earlier than planned:” I was mad keen on wanting to learn Spanish so I insisted on staying in school until I was 16. I wouldn’t have left but my mum’s sister had a baby and I was sent to look after it.”

She then took a job as a house maid, looking after Officers who were in the Falklands during the Second World War.

“I did that for four years and I now consider it a waste of time.”

After the four years she went back home and received a letter asking her to take a job as a travelling teacher. She obliged, was given a horse called Fiona, and set off on her circuit.

After a while, Clara remembers being asked to go to West Falkland and teach the children of the farm managers but not the children of the workers.

“All my life I hated class distinction, I was furious about this. I was already engaged so I said ‘to heck with that’ and got married.”

She was married to Bill in Christ Church Cathedral in 1948 but there was “no such thing” as a honeymoon. The newly married couple made their way straight out to Elephant Beach on horseback to take up shepherding and had three children.

During the Falklands Conflict, the couple was at New House and ordered to Stanley. They were left with no home or belongings and found themselves penniless and jobless.

They stayed with friends in Stanley until the dentist sold them his house.

“He said he wanted someone to love it and look after it as much as them so they sold it to us. We’d lost everything in the war and got no compensation.”

When asked what really stands out as the most memorable events in her life Clara answered: “There’s a good many of them. The thing is you had so little, when anything occurred it was a big occasion and you really enjoyed it.”

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