Nearly a century ago, in fact 99 years to be exact, Peggy Bryson was born in a small village near Glasgow in Scotland. Happily growing up in the bosom of a warm, boisterous family, and then later bringing up a family of her own, little did she imagine that she would be living half way across the world as the 2lst century was welcomed in. But fate had plans for Peggy.
Life begins at 50 when children become independent and parents have some freedom or so the magazines inform us. In her early 50s that is how it seemed to Peggy until she was dealt some bitter blows. Her husband died, followed by her mother and then one of her sons decided to emigrate to South Africa. She already had one daughter living in Toronto, Canada who begged her mother to visit for a much needed vacation. So Peggy decided it was time to take her first trip in one of those daunting airplanes!! Once she reached Toronto she fell in love with the hustle and bustle of the city and decided that it was time to start her life anew. So at age 60 Peggy returned to Glasgow to pack up her belongings, say her goodbyes and with oldest son Jack in tow she flew back over the pond.
Arriving in Toronto on the Tuesday, determined to be independent, she had a job by the Thursday working in East Toronto General Hospital where she stayed for nine years making deserts in the cafeteria --- no wonder the patients didn't want to go home! Forced to leave the hospital because they reckoned it was time for Peggy to retire, she was soon working again after some "little white lies" about her age and she continued working until she was 77.
As you now must realize how active and open to new experiences she was, you will not be surprised when I tell you how Peggy first entered the line dancing world at the age of 83. As she told me, "I popped out to the shop to buy some carrots for soup and bumped into my friend, Katie. She told me she was off to do some line dancing and why didn't I go. I had a quick look at myself, reckoned I was quite presentable, and off we went ... the soup could wait!" Peggy didn't look back. It seemed there were seven other Scots in the class and gurgling with laughter Peggy recounted, "We were so dumb, we just kept bumping into each other and there was so much laughter and fun!" Peggy is a wonderful walking archive of the history of line dancing in Toronto. I was astounded to think of line dancing here as long as 16 years ago but, in fact, it was a popular activity and Peggy can remember many of the instructors and dances that they used to do at that time and spoke very fondly of one particular instructor, Pat Corrigan, who she danced with for many years. According to Peggy Pat was an extremely good instructor and a great entertainer. He was from a ballroom background and was always "doing a turn" as well as organizing sing-alongs.
You probably have a picture of Peggy in your mind by now but let me tell how she looks at 99. A very tiny woman with short thick, wavy white hair, a lovely amazingly smooth tanned skin, bright blue eyes twinkling behind her glasses and a wide smile. An air of mischievousness surrounds her. Peggy draws people to her like a magnet and they bask in her warmth and delight in her gentle teasing and quick sense of humour. She still dances three afternoons a week although she can't quite manage the turns any more. I met her at her Thursday afternoon class out on the Danforth which was packed with dancing seniors whom Peggy calls the "Youngsters"! The class is led by her favourite instructor, popular Fred Buckley. As far as Peggy is concerned, Fred has the main qualities needed for an excellent instructor ... great rhythm and personality in spades. He and his wife Eddie are good friends with Peggy and have enjoyed some delicious three course dinners at her home. Peggy does the cooking and her son Jack, 75, is responsible for the washing up!
But Peggy's line dancing has not all been smooth sailing. At age 90 she had a hip replacement and the doctors told her she would not be able to line dance again. With determination in every pore, Peggy would sing herself through the pain of physiotherapy and exercise and, to the astonishment of her medical advisors, she was back on the dance floor within four months and hasn't left since.
As you can imagine, there was cause for rejoicing and celebration when Peggy turned 99 this past summer. She was determined that she would host the event herself. As a result, the party took place in her garden although there were so many people who came that the next door neighbour opened his garden as well! There was a wonderful cake, entertainment, singing and, of course, line dancing. Peggy insisted that she did not want presents or cards but if people wished they could donate to the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children and to her joy $600 was raised.
The dancers are already talking about next year's celebration for her 100th and as Peggy says, "God Willing, I look forward to being around to enjoy it and kick up my heels." So not only does Canada lay claim to the world's oldest line dancer but, more importantly, we are privileged and blessed to have Peggy Bryson, at 99 years of age, still in our midst to bring us so much delight, fun and laughter on the dance floor.