Surrogate 'granny’ is painting sensation

A 95-year-old South Lanarkshire pensioner has painted over 350 dazzling masterpieces, despite being registered blind.

Margaret McNeil, who has lived at Bield’s Fife Court in Bothwell for 26 years, is known for her rugged landscapes and animal portraits, with many of her finished pieces hanging in homes around the globe.

Since being registered blind three years ago, the former House of Fraser dress fitter has relied on both her sense of touch and memories to bring her paintings to life. 

Margaret says: “I’ve always painted. When we used to go up north in a tent I had watercolours and oil paints, and used to get the big stones from the beach, paint them all and give them to people as door stops. I had never had any training.

“I remember when my husband George took ill and we had to come back home, and sadly he died. 

“I was out a walk with my Labrador one night and a friend stopped her car and said she was picking me up tomorrow night and taking me to an arts and crafts class. Everyone was so nice but I felt that I was so heartbroken that I never enjoyed myself. A note about evening classes came round but I couldn’t make the time. 

“So I went to tap dancing instead. I got talking to the leaders about art and they took me round to Duncan Brown - an art teacher at the town hall. Before I left I had been enrolled in Wednesday and Thursday art classes.  

“I did around 221 big paintings until my sight got so bad that I thought I would need to give up. Duncan wouldn’t let me leave. So I have to do it all by memory. It is hard, but I get there.”

When not creating strokes of genius, the grandmother of three spends most of her time baking. 
Renowned locally for both her lemon and coffee and walnut cakes, many believe that she could give Mary Berry a run for her money.

Margaret adds: “Well, I make around 20 cakes on a normal day, and another 12 for church on Sunday - half cakes for couples and quarters for single people. 

“The dentist and the doctor’s surgeries get one each every week, and one goes to the police department and the bank. 

“It gives me a purpose in life. Why would you get up in the morning and think poor old me? With nothing to do until lunch time then tea time – that’s an empty life. 

“It’s nice to know that you have given someone a wee bit of pleasure, and I have always said to have a friend you’ve to be one yourself because so many people want to take and don’t want to give of themselves.

“I’m not talking about presents, I’m talking about time and interest. I just happen to like people. Maybe that’s why people refer to me as their ‘surrogate granny’. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

 

 

 

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