With much of the news throughout Covid-19 focusing on the vulnerabilities of pensioners and senior citizens, Dundee Volunteer and Voluntary Action has decided to celebrate the city’s elderly population by launching its own Year of the Older Person.
For the past 40 years Sheena Wellington has travelled all over the world performing traditional Scottish music.
But with Covid-19 effectively cancelling live entertainment across the globe, the 76-year-old is taking a break – for now.
Opportunity to sing in the Library of Congress
“Just before Covid hit I was actually over in Washington DC as part of the James Hogg 250 year celebrations,” she said.
“I have sung in the US capital quite a few times but this was the first that I was singing in the Library of Congress, so it was pretty special.
“Now that we can’t do any live performances I am not doing as much, because while you can do online performances it just isn’t the same not being able to hear everyone else joining in.”
Sheena has been performing since her early 20s, but her defining came came, arguably, in 1999 at the age of 55. At the opening ceremony of the Scottish Parliament, she sang the Robert Burns Poem A Man’s A Man For A’ That from a balcony overlooking the chamber.
“I have been a semi-professional and professional singer for the past 40 years and despite starting in folk clubs in my early 20’s I didn’t actually record anything until I was nearly 40,” she said.
“It was never my intention to make singing my career, it really happened purely by accident and it has now taken me to many places. Although I don’t normally write much of my own music a lot of people know my song The Women of Dundee. However, I often get folk older than me coming up and claiming that their mother used to sing it when they were wee.”
Sheena was born in Temple Lane in Dundee city centre in 1944 and moved around the city as she grew up. However, she considers herself a Lochee lass having spent time there as a child.
She eventually joined the Woman’s Royal Navy Service, where she would meet her future husband Malcolm.
“I met my husband at a party somewhere just outside of Lossiemouth where I was based,” Sheena said.
“I had went to this party with a group and despite sort of being paired up with a different officer I knew from the start I didn’t want to be with him.
“We had all went to the pub afterwards and since the officer found someone else he had his eye on I found myself with no way home. That’s when I saw this sailor with the most gorgeous smile and big brown eyes.
“The first thing I asked him was did he have a car and could he take me home. From then on that was it and we were married six months later. We worked together so we would see each other every day so you grow close quite quickly.”
In 1977 the couple welcomed their only son, Michael. Michael died in February 2019, leaving behind Sheena’s grandson Liam.
Sheena added: “Losing Michael was one of those blows that you just don’t ever expect even though he had been ill for some time.
“As you get older though you realise that it is all just a fact of life and despite losing him he left me with a beautiful grandson and he now has a wee brother too so I have them both to enjoy.”
Despite not performing quite as much as previous years Sheena, who lives in the city centre, is still keeping active in the community as part of the Community Council and is part of the Stobswell Community Forum.
“Despite getting older I still think it is so important to still be involved in the community and to get yourself out and about. I think it has so many benefits especially during these tough and testing times.”