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Fundraiser honoured for 102 years' service to church

Sheila Wyles from Perth first attended Sunday school at the age of two in 1916.

A woman who first attended Sunday school at the age of two and has raised thousands for charity has been recognised for 102 years of service to the church.

Sheila Wyles has been closely associated with the Kirk family in Perth and Kinross ever since being taken as a child by her parents in 1916.

The 104-year-old, the oldest active Church of Scotland Guild member in the country, was described as "inspirational" as she was presented with a special long-service award.

She said it was an "honour and a pleasure" to be given a certificate from the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev Susan Brown.

"I am very proud to receive this long-service certificate from the Moderator, I never thought I would reach this milestone," said Sheila.

"I first went to Sunday school in Methven when I was two and when I was 14, my mother took me to Guild work party meetings.

"I have been involved with the Guild since then and have enjoyed it very much - it is a way of life and a big support in times of difficulty."

Rev Brown, who presented Ms Wyles with her certificate, added: "It was so lovely to meet Sheila at the Guild annual gathering and to chat about the big part faith and the Church has played in her life.

"She is an amazing lady, a true inspiration and she has touched so many over so many years."

Mrs Wyles was born on July 6, 1914 - eight days after Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was shot dead in Sarajevo.

His assassination is said to have sparked the First World War, which will be marked later this year with the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.

Known as the Grand Old Dame of the Guild, Mrs Wyles, who was widowed nearly 60 years ago and still lives in her own home, joined the organisation when she was 14.

Sheila and husband Albert on their wedding day
Sheila and husband Albert on their wedding day Church of Scotland

Mrs Wyles' driving force has been service to others - an outlook shaped by her experiences with the Guild, which raised £725,000 between 2015 and 2018 for six life-changing projects in Scotland and across the world.

"The Guild has been an irreplaceable part of my life and if I have been able to help people in any way, it has been my privilege," she said.

Mrs Wyles, who grew up in Methven outside Perth and served in the Home Guard Auxiliary during the Second World War, only stopped baking pancakes for Guild events two years ago.

After the Second World War, she helped make 3000 layettes - newborn baby clothes - that the Guild sent to mothers in Germany as part of the reconciliation process.

Mrs Wyles credits living such a long life to her strong Christian faith and supportive friends and family.

But her life has not been without heartache and struggles.

Her father John Cameron died when she was seven months old, her husband Albert passed away in the early 1960s and their daughter Rachel died of Lupus in 2001 at the age of 51.

Not much was known was about the autoimmune disease when her daughter was diagnosed so Mrs Wyles threw herself into fundraising for research, raising thousands of pounds over the years.

"The Guild has been an irreplaceable part of my life and if I have been able to help people in any way, it has been my privilege."
Sheila Wyles

When she turned 100 in 2014, she asked guests to her birthday party to donate money to St Thomas' Lupus Trust, raising more than £1000.

In her younger days, Mrs Wyles worked in children's homes in East Lothian before taking a job with the council in Perthshire.

She was responsible for the introduction of school meals and retired when she was 65.

Mrs Wyles, who used to sing in the church choir and played the organ, said: "I do not think I would have survived without the church.

"I have had a very happy life," she added.

"There have been ups and downs but more happy times than sad times. I have a lot to be thankful for.

"My faith has kept me going, along with my three families - my nieces, Morag and Kathleen, my Perth North church family and my Guild family.

"I would never have managed to live this long without assistance from other people.

"Everyone has been so helpful to allow me to be what I am."

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