Remarkable 98-year-old piano player from Skye is raising money and lifting spirits

Rebecca Parker at the piano

A 98-year-old woman, raising money for the NHS by playing the piano every day for 100 days, first honed her musical talent as a little girl growing up on Skye.

When Rebecca Parker was featured on BBC Reporting Scotland last week, her accent immediately hinted at an island link – and sure enough the resident of McClymont House care home in Lanark was raised in Broadford.

Mrs Parker has been entertaining the residents by playing a selection of tunes on the baby grand piano every day.

She was inspired by Captain Tom Moore who raised nearly £33 million for NHS Charities Together by walking 100 lengths of his garden.

Mrs Parker told the Free Press that her mother, Isabella, encouraged her music, and she received lessons each Saturday morning from a teacher in Portree.

Although arthritis affects her hands, her regular renditions of Highland songs and reels have brought a smile to the faces of residents and staff, and captured the imagination far and wide.

“The first tune is always for the staff here as I’m so well looked after and get a good night’s sleep,” said the former school-teacher, whose mind remains razor sharp.

She had the idea to dedicate tunes every day as she wanted to contribute to efforts to tackle coronavirus, as well as to a local project to help those with dementia.

Recalling her time on Skye, Mrs Parker’s parents were Donald and Isabella MacLennan, and the family ran a local merchant’s shop, which retained the name until relatively recently.

Rebecca as a child, with mother Isabella

Her brother Haig was a doctor who returned to live on the island, and nephew Donald and his family still live in Broadford.

Mrs Parker’s early schooling was in Broadford, and she attended secondary at Inverness Royal Academy. Much of her adult life was spent in Lanarkshire, though she remained a frequent visitor to Skye, and was last on the island just three years ago.

She said she continued to keep up with events in Skye by reading the West Highland Free Press every week.

Mrs Parker’s son, Phil Dibdin, said his mother’s piano playing had lifted everyone’s spirits in the home.

“They are really well looked after in there. There was always something going on like bingo, quizzes, visits from school children and church services.

“Now all of that has stopped because of the virus, and visits are restricted to talking through the window.

“It’s been a great thing to see her at the piano.”

Charles Delaney, manager of McClymont House, said Mrs Parker’s piano playing was a “great news story” at a time when many care homes are in the spotlight for much more sombre reasons.

 “She is a remarkable, inspiring woman who offers hope,” he added. “She is showing that older people in care homes still have life in them, and they can still make a contribution for their families and for the wider community as well.”

Money raised by Mrs Parker will be given to the Lanarkshire Health Board Endowment Fund which invests donations to improve patient’s health.

So far her efforts have raised just shy of £3000. Contributions can be made at the just giving link here