|The Scottish Bahá’í, No.37 – Autumn, 2004||obituary|
| • HOME
> SBN INDEX > CONTENTS > OBITUARY •
|Lilian Jean McKay|
10th February 1929 – 11th July 2004
Lilian McKay, the first native Shetlander to become a Bahá’í, passed away peacefully on Sunday morning the 11th of July aged 75.
Lilian was taught the Bahá’í Faith by the Knight of Bahá’u’lláh for Shetland, Brigitte Hasselblatt, an Estonian nurse who, in 1953, responding to the call of the Guardian in the Ten year Crusade, pioneered to Shetland.
Lilian met Brigitte in the local maternity ward whilst pregnant with her second child, Jane. She was particularly impressed by Brigitte’s thoroughness and diligence in her work as a midwife. Brigitte delivered many children in Lerwick, each blessed with a Bahá’í prayer on arrival.
Lilian was first attracted to the Faith through reading an advert for a meeting placed in the local newspaper; but it was Brigitte’s radiance after her return from meeting the Guardian during Pilgrimage that fully kindled Lilian’s desire to learn more. She was drawn to its spirit and teachings and came to recognize that this was the fulfilment of her wish to “find a Faith she could believe in.” Over the next few months she spent time with Brigitte studying the Writings and discussing the Faith. She declared on the 9th September 1956 at the first Bahá’í Weekend School held in Shetland after which the Guardian sent a telegram saying “HEARTFELT CONGRATULATIONS ASSURE LOVING FERVENT PRAYERS.” Marion and David Hofman were the speakers on that occasion. Also present was Lilian’s three year old daughter Audrey.
In July 1958, together with Brigitte, Lilian attended the Intercontinental Conference held in Frankfurt, Germany, where they were able to see plans and a model of the future House of Worship to be built in nearby Langenhain.
Brigitte left Shetland in autumn 1959 and for a period of 3 years Lilian was the sole Bahá’í on Shetland. She was greatly heartened when in early 1963 fellow Shetlanders Charles and Lottie Duncan declared.
Later, in that same year she attended the historic first Bahá’í World Congress held in the Albert hall, London.
In 1965 Lilian’s husband Alex, who supported and encouraged her commitment to the Faith from the outset, declared. Many Bahá’ís visited during this period including several Hands of the Cause of God.
In the early seventies, in recognition of the importance of the Islands, a number of Pioneers came to Shetland enabling the formation of the first Local Spiritual Assembly in 1972 of which Lilian was a member. She served on it for more than 20 years. In 1991, Lilian accompanied by her son Alan, went on pilgrimage, an experience which she loved. She said she felt transported to another world.
Last August, Lilian was able to participate in Shetland’s Golden Jubilee celebrations held in Lerwick Town Hall – an event that brought great joy to her, heightened by a reunion with Brigitte who returned from Estonia as the guest of honour at the celebrations.
Even in her passing, Lilian lead the way as this was the first Bahá’í funeral to take place in Shetland. Her funeral service held at the Town Hall was attended by family, friends and fellow Bahá’ís including representatives from the National Spiritual Assembly and the Bahá’í Council for Scotland.
It was a very uplifting programme with beautiful Bahá’í prayers and readings, much live music, singing and soul stirring chanting.
Brigitte, on hearing of Lilian’s passing was moved to write this poem:
Lilian, my dearest Lilian,
You became my close companion,
My loving friend and strong support.
How clearly did you see the Truth!
How wide was your vision!
How strong your faith!
How bravely you defended it,
How steadfastly you taught it!
You’ve passed it on to your family,
You’ve left your mark on our island!
Freed from this world you winged your flight
To dwell forever in the realms above,
In all eternity blessed and beloved.
Your radiant spirit guides and illumines,
Those friends who labour for His Faith.
And through the ages in the annals of the islands
Will live your name, my Lilian, my dearest, forever on.
All Lilian’s three children accepted the Faith and now have families of their own. She felt very grateful for this and much enjoyed visits from her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Although suffering ill-health over a prolonged period of time her spirit always shone through. Widowed in 1977 she often said how she longed to see her husband Alex who was the first Bahá’í to be buried in Aberdeen having passed away there in hospital. Now she is re-united.
Lilian’s independence of mind, adventurous spirit and love of things new were all qualities that combined to give her the courage to break with tradition and take the bold step of becoming the first native Bahá’í in all of the Scottish islands. Through both the good and hard times in her life, she relied on Bahá’u’lláh and always felt assured that He brought love to the world.
Lilian was genuinely interested in people, was a constant source of encouragement and understanding and all who knew her remarked that she had a wonderful spirit.