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Farewell to artist and teacher who had life-long love for Glenlivet

By Lorna Thompson

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GLENLIVET has lost one of its most colourful characters – an artist who inspired many through her work and teaching.

Doreen Cannavan (née Turner) was the second of six daughters of war hero Alexander Turner MM, who had served with the Scots Guards during World War Two.

Although she spent much of her life in Edinburgh and Aberdeenshire, at heart the artist never left Glenlivet.

Doreen was born at The Farm, Tomnavoulin, on a snowy New Year’s Day in 1946.

She died on February 14 in Edinburgh after a brief illness. She was 75.

The former Aberdeenshire art teacher was a frequent visitor through the years to her holiday home near The Glenlivet Distillery, and was seldom to be seen without her trademark pink lipstick, pearls and beret – even on a walk in the Glenlivet hills.

Her popular outdoor art classes over the years took in Glenlivet locations such as The Scalan and Blairfindie Castle.

Doreen spent the first five years of her life in the Braes of Glenlivet before the family moved to Edinburgh when her father joined Edinburgh City Police.

After her mother, Margaret, died in 1957 aged 43, Doreen took on the role of mother figure to her four younger siblings.

Despite her extra responsibilities, Doreen's artistic talent shone through at Holy Cross Academy, Edinburgh, and she earned a place at Edinburgh College of Art.

However, her real passion was for teaching and, on leaving art college, Doreen completed her teaching certificate at Craiglockhart College of Education.

There, Doreen’s mentor, college vice-principal Sister Mary Ellen Macpherson, who also came from Glenlivet, drew her attention to a teaching job at Inverurie Academy. In 1969, Doreen decided on this fresh start and put everything into her teaching in Inverurie and as visiting art teacher in primary schools around Aberdeenshire, living in Aberdeen and Inverurie.

Artist and teacher Doreen Cannavan sketching at Glenlivet, surrounded by some of her own artwork.
Artist and teacher Doreen Cannavan sketching at Glenlivet, surrounded by some of her own artwork.

Keen to keep up her own art practice, she enrolled in classes at Aberdeen's Gray’s School of Art, where she met her future husband, John Cannavan.

At weekends, the couple would visit Doreen’s grandmother at Millbank, in the Braes of Glenlivet, where cooking was on the fire and lighting by Tilley lamps.

The two moved to Edinburgh after John's graduation where both taught art at Holy Rood High School.

They were married at Chapeltown, Glenlivet, in 1974 and, after the birth of their son and daughter, Doreen took up a teaching post at Telford College, in Edinburgh.

Despite developing rheumatoid arthritis at age 20, Doreen never let any hand mobility difficulties interfere with making art.

Doreen's elder sister, Helena Turner, said: "In her presence you were surrounded by colour, particularly all shades of pink, composed with her artist’s eye for detail.

"Friends would say they could always spot Doreen coming with that inimitable style in bright, life-enhancing colours."

She added: "She would always give straight advice – even if it was not particularly what one wanted to hear."

Doreen’s greatest joy in life was spending time with her family, loving nothing more than picnics and sausage sizzles with them all by the river in Glenlivet.

Helena added: "She was a sensitive, caring and loving person; a brilliant artist and inspirational teacher. She enriched many lives."

Doreen is survived by her husband, John, son Paul, daughter Paula, grandchildren Lilia and Marcus, and five sisters Helena, Margaret, Mary, Elizabeth and Ann, who all have homes in Glenlivet.

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