AN EXTRAORDINARY Alloa woman who saved escaped prisoners of war as an Italian partisan during WWII, before marrying one, celebrated her 100th birthday on Saturday, June 19, some 77 years after she arrived in Scotland on a landing craft, having fled war-torn Italy.
All those decades ago, Grace was helping escaped prisoners of war in Italy’s Abruzzo region as a young woman. That’s when she met her husband to be, Charles Glendinning, who had escaped his captors along with other soldiers.
Grace, or Gracie, was involved in looking after Charles and the men, hiding them and ultimately saving their lives.
It is a tale of bravery and romance worthy of the silver screen, with the climax retold by Grace’s daughter Diana McLean.
Grace said “My father was captured again and he actually jumped from a moving truck with another man to escape because they knew they were going to be shot because they had escaped before.”
“One of the men was shot or beaten to death but my father got away and my mother got the message.
“By this time the Allies were moving north, my father had the opportunity to join with the army.”
“He told his commanding officer what had happened, in the meantime he had married my mother in secret.”
“He told the commanding officer he had a wife and he would go back for her after the war, and the commanding officer told him to take a vehicle and go and bring her back.”
Charles, who was in the Scots Guard when he was captured in Africa before being moved to the Abruzzo region, eventually returned to Scotland with Grace and the pair settled down, starting a family.
Last week, Grace enjoyed a small birthday party organised by friends at Alloa Old People’s Welfare Club.
It was to be a double bill with fellow centenarian Jean Bradley, who was unfortunately unable to attend on the day.
She was also a leading volunteer at Alloa Volunteer Centre and was given a surprise by members of the club as well as by Deputy Lord Lieutenant John MacPherson.
Fr Mike Freyne, her parish priest at St Bernadette’s, Tullibody, said, “Grace comes to church nearly every Saturday morning and Sunday. She actually belongs to St Mungo’s parish but for many, many years come to Mass at St Bernadette’s. It is simply easier for her.”
“She crosses the patch of grass in front of her house and is at the bus stop. She would catch the bus to Tullibody for Mass.”
“Most weekends now her friends pick her up in the car but Grace is still healthy and can be seen in town with her bag on wheels doing her own shopping. Grace has a wonderful smile and is always laughing!
REPORT COURTESY OF THE ALLOA ADVERTISER, June 2021