Jess Grant – an extended tribute

Jess Grant

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Mid Argyll lost a much-loved personality with the passing of Jess Grant when she passed away  on April 5, her family by her side.

The following tributes have been written by Jess’s family, friends and representatives from a number of the many groups which she supported

Sons, Angus and Fergus Grant

Jess Grant was born Jessie Marie Bell in Glasgow on January 1, 1939. After leaving school she went to study at the prestigious Glasgow School of Art. While studying she met Alistair Grant and they married in 1961.

They began their life together living in Bowling Basin on the boat ‘Lucky Dollar’. Boats, whether living on, sailing on or working on, became a central part of their life together.

After Angus was born in 1962 and Fergus in 1965 they moved to America, returning after a year to live in the Jordanhill area of Glasgow. Jess worked as a high school teacher in the east end of Glasgow, but desire for adventure saw Jess and Alistair sell up home and move to the Crinan Basin in Argyll, once more to take up residence on a boat, this time ‘Jane’ in 1975. There, Jess became assistant hotel manager at the Crinan Hotel.

In 1979 the family moved ashore to Cairnbaan, while retaining ‘Jane’ for sailing, holidays and pleasure. In 1987 Jess returned to teaching, this time in adult education, at the Lochgilphead Resource Centre until her retirement in 2001. Her retirement coincided with the death of Alistair, after which she moved for one final time, from Cairnbaan to Lochgilphead.

Jess was always an active member of the community, being at one time the chairman of the local community council, and always ready to support neighbours in need.

Her sons both live in Germany, and she spent many happy times with them, their wives Andrea and Laura, and her grandchildren, Viviane, Nelli, Alan, Hamish and Kirsty.

She was instrumental in bringing a bit of Germany to Lochgilphead, hosting the regular ‘German group’, an informal meeting of friends for learning the German language and culture. She also travelled extensively in Europe with family and friends, but was a staunch advocate of Scotland and strong supporter of Scottish independence, converting many sceptics to this cause.

Jess’s passing came all too suddenly for her family and friends and at a particularly difficult time, when social distancing meant many couldn’t visit and comfort her at this time in her life. Angus and Fergus are consoled that they could be with her at home where she died peacefully on Sunday April 5.

Jess’s verve and drive were in evidence right until the end, fully engaged with events around her and even producing the latest poster for the Mid Argyll Arts Association in spite of the debilitations of her illness.

The family are very grateful to the Lochgilphead community health team, the doctors, nurses and carers who assisted in making her last days comfortable and pain-free. They are also sincerely grateful for all the love and support shown to Jess and them particularly in her last days, with special mention to Tricia, Anne-Maria and Edith.

Her passing leaves a big void in all our lives.

A celebration of Jess’s life will be held at a later date.

To Oma Jess, from her grandchildren

When I look around in my room I still find all these little items that Jess, or better Oma Jessi, as she was to us grandchildren, picked up and brought over to Germany whenever she was visiting throughout the years.

Mostly funny, silly little things. A device that would make coins magically disappear, for example.

I remember thinking those gifts were the most fun and frankly, years later, I still do.

Spending time with Oma Jessi was like that: Always a lot of fun and being a little silly. She taught us not to take oneself too seriously and how to enjoy life. For instance by insisting that we would always order big desserts whenever she invited us out for family meals.

The older we grew, the more we realised that there was much more she knew and that we could learn from her. She introduced us to Scottish culture, nature and art which has influenced us as we were growing up. She inspired us with her paintings and sketches, her music and book collection, her cooking and baking – especially her blueberry crumble.

Oma Jessi always supported us, no matter what. If there was something we were saving up for, she would generously help us out. If she knew we were interested in something, she would share the interest and back us up with helpful advice and recommendations, always wanting the best for us.

We admired her for being such an active, interested and involved person, travelling the world with her friends and family, mastering every new technology with no problem to keep in touch with her grandchildren, and for being an important part of her community.

Last has become very clear to us when we visited Lochgilphead this year in march. Seeing how many people came over to spend time with her and taking such good care of her again showed, how big her impact on people’s lives was and how much she was loved by friends, colleagues and neighbours.

We would like to thank everybody for letting us and her feel that.

She is deeply missed, but will always be a role model for all of us.

Kirsty, Hamish, Alan, Nell and Viviane

Lochgilphead Resource Centre

Jess was an essential part of the vibrant community that made up the energetic Lochgilphead Resource Centre. She was a staff member in the new building from 1987 to 2000.  Amongst many things, she was responsible for an accessible IT learning suite plus a  ‘communications through graphics’  section. This was groundbreaking in its day for encouraging personalised learning and individual projects. Jess just expected talent from people, and in return received creative concentration.

Her commitment to equality and social justice showed. Those she supported felt the benefit of her capacity for empathy balanced with dry humour, in the midst of any difficulty.

For years Jess and her team developed a successful desktop publishing business called Fyneprint. Many in Argyll will remember coming into the centre to pay for their orders of wedding stationery, business cards or posters. Howls of laughter amid tension could be heard from Jess’s team in the rush to meet deadlines.

She was important in any centre developments, people moving into their own houses, holidays away, music, drama and dance productions. She particularly enjoyed helping to arrange the many painting exhibitions, as this was her background.

Jess encouraged the very different people who came to the centre, to help each other.

In the four weeks of workshops leading to the inclusive community lantern festival, Jess supported the tentative talents of the young men from Iraq and Iran, the asylum seekers who annually joined the festival. She helped them to be at ease with others.

A good colleague, friend and listener, all knew they could rely on Jess for a straight answer.

Argyll and Bute Hospital

For 18 years Jess enjoyed supporting patients at the A & B Hospital as a volunteer. She was active in guided walks in Blabuie Woodland, food nights and a singing group. Raymond Deans said that these sessions were so much easier and more fun with Jess around: ‘She had a good way with patients and was always encouraging towards them’.

For two consuming years, Jess and Brenda Bratt strove to archive old hospital records, photos and historical equipment that urgently needed to be saved. Jess, Brenda and Grace Fergusson then undertook a series of community interviews, including past staff,  to finally produce the book ‘Up the Brae’, a gem of local history.

Blarbuie Woodland Enterprise

Jess was one of the founder members of Blarbuie Woodland Enterprise. As a longstanding volunteer at the Argyll and Bute Hospital it was a natural progression for her to become involved in a charity that worked to improve the health and wellbeing of those with mental health needs.

One of the early projects involved the compilation of ‘Up the Brae’, a booklet depicting the 150 years history of the mental hospital. Jess spent many hours with her co-author Brenda Bratt, carefully looking through old hospital records and selecting photographs and comments for the production which was sold in local outlets and gave pleasure to many in the community who remembered, or had worked at, the hospital.

She was not only a trustee of Blarbuie Woodland but was also very involved in day-to-day activities being an active member of Blarbuie Roots, the operational arm of the charity. Her wit, sense of humour and encouragement were very much valued, she kept everyone going in such a supportive way. She could often be found with her gloves on, potting up shrubs or preparing beds for sowing seeds and she always contributed to our open days; her kale crisps were legendary!

Her volunteering at Succoth ward continued even once the old hospital closed and she was keen to encourage patients to gain benefit from walks into Blarbuie Woodland.

She was cheery and active right up until our last meeting in February when it was clear that she was suffering pain. It was typical of her to think of helping others even although she was struggling herself. We will all miss her.

Mid Argyll Arts Association    

It is extra hard that Jess died in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic so that her many friends could not give her and her family the support before and after that they wished.

Not even a community funeral to share the many memories and stories of a very special person.  I write here from the viewpoint of the MAAA,  although I also knew Jess for many years before she joined our arts committee. We had an almost entirely new committee when Jess ‘volunteered’ and being her usual totally supportive self she came straight in when needed, and was always to be there thereafter, putting in many hours of work with her computer sorting out publicity problems for us. A real mainstay, she dealt with all the advertising and press contacts as well as distributing the many posters and fliers, along with Avril Stewart.

She always kept us on our toes and would say frankly if she did not agree with proposals or thought we were getting just too ‘arty’! Despite not being able to drive any longer she always found a way round transport problems and never missed meetings or concerts if possible. This was true right up until her cancer diagnosis. Amongst her many extra duties she also took on, with Sue Maclean, the organisation of the film group – with all the added publicity needed for that as well. Jess was very kind, astute, and ready to tease any of us when needed. A telling-off from her definitely had to be listened to.

Another  outstanding thing about her was how she always managed to look so elegant, beautifully colour co-ordinated, and never once scruffy in the least. She will be so very much missed by us all – something that I think she would be surprised and embarrassed to know.

Jess was very proud of all her family, and if we ever had a spare moment she would speak of them all with such affection, – and it was clear they thought highly of her too from all the close contact they maintained. Our thoughts are very much with them all as they deal with this great loss.

Artmap Argyll

Jess was an avid supporter and enthusiastic champion of the local and regional arts and culture sectors in Argyll.

As a former student of Glasgow School of Art, she took a proactive role – and was instrumental – in bringing together professionals, semi-professionals, volunteers and helpers on many valuable and worthwhile community and public sector arts projects.

As a director of Blarbuie Woodland, and friend of Artmap Argyll, she was regularly at meetings with clinicians, clinical directors, architects, environmentalists, biologists, scientists, artists. Such was her capacity to instigate, question and compel – a driver of ideas and influencer to startling degree.

She would turn out to local art groups as a voluntary model. These portrait drawing sessions gave her opportunity to show us her quintessential style. At one class she wore a retro-style 1930s cloche plus accessories, all from her own wardrobe.

She will be dearly missed by the rank & file of art enthusiasts as well as the art groups, galleries, art studios and outdoor exhibition spaces in Argyll & beyond.

Ayefyne Group

Jess has always believed strongly in Scottish independence. She respected other peoples views on this, was happy to listen, but she would then lucidly explain her views. Jess was a founder member of the local Ayefyne group, and enthusiastically supported their many initiatives.