Friends, community host ‘unforgettable’ birthday bash

Community COVID-19 Featured

“Unforgettable.”

That was the one word Pictou’s Helen Scammell used to describe her ‘surprise’ 85th birthday bash last week.

Many people turned up on her lawn on July 22 to celebrate Scammell on her birthday.

The event was planned by friends in the Pictou and Area Garden Club and included fellow garden club members, friends and neighbours. Also attending were past recipients of Scammell Bursaries and members of First Presbyterian Church where Scammell was baptized.

The group gathered at the Pictou rink grounds and lined up in decorated vehicles to deliver a drive-by birthday greeting, in keeping with provincial health regulations surrounding safe social distancing due to COVID-19.

Well-known county piper Robbie MacInnis assembled a band of pipers and drummers who marched to Scammell’s house and then entertained on Prince Street.

“I went to bed humming Highland Cathedral,” Scammell smiled. “I love Highland Cathedral” which the band played in her honour.

Scammell moved to Pictou 10 years ago and since then has become welcomed and woven into the fabric of Pictou town and county. After last week’s party Scammell quipped about her adopted community, “They have to keep me now.”

Pictou has always held a special place in her heart.

“I’ve been coming to Pictou County since the time I was a child, mainly with my Westville grandparents. A lot of my childhood was spent roaming around Westville,” she explained.

Scammell’s grandfather, John Scammell, moved to Pictou so his son Harold could attend Pictou schools. Harold went on to become a doctor in Halifax, where Helen was raised. Her mother was originally from Westville.

Friend, Beth Henderson, says Scammell’s friends went to great lengths to honour their friend because of “her quiet generosity to the community.”

An example of that can be seen in the Scammell Bursaries she has provided to graduating students at Pictou Academy since 2008. This year alone Scammell provided $30,000 in bursaries to two PA students.

The crowd gathered on Scammell’s lawn, appropriately distanced, along with 85 pink flamingos and heard remarks from Pictou’s Sandy Mackay who led the pipe band to Scammell’s back yard.

A childhood friend, Elspeth Kroon who lives in Ontario and who could not be with Scammell on her special day, arranged for a yellow rose to be presented on her behalf.

Henderson said during these days of COVID-19 and health restrictions, “This was a lesson that we don’t always have to do things the same, but we can spread the same good will in a different way.”


Sandy MacKay addressed those gathered on the lawn and on the street to celebrate Helen Scammell, centre, on her 85th birthday. At right is Beth Henderson, a friend of Scammell’s and fellow member of the Pictou and Area Garden Club. (Jardine photo)