Janet, sometimes known as Jeannie, was born in Broughty Ferry, daughter of John Isles, upholsterer and Janet Thorburn, hairdresser. In July 1928 she married a stoker from Glasgow, Thomas Miller Denny. They had a son named Alexander, who had profound learning difficulties, and the marriage broke up shortly afterwards.
Move forward to 1982: Ron Stenberg, who taught art at Duncan of Jordanstone College, painted a picture in oils of which he was very proud, called “Two Auld Wifies, Dundee” showing two ‘women’ sitting gossiping on a bench at the corner of Reform Street. But no! The woman on the left of the picture, not grandly dressed at all, is Janet, one of Dundee’s wealthiest citizens, and the one on the right is her much-loved son Alexander. He is wearing not a skirt but regulation pyjamas from Royal Dundee Liff Hospital where he stayed. You can see her love in her eyes, and her enjoyment of their regular Friday outing. It’s said he’s wearing his mother’s spectacles. Janet owned a parrot, which she left at the office of Lindsays, her solicitors, while she enjoyed her Friday afternoons. Ron Stenberg donated the painting to the McManus Gallery and it is currently (2015) on show in the Victoria Gallery – it’s a painting that makes you smile. Alexander died a few years after the painting was made, but Janet lived to be 101. The Janet T. Isles-Denny Trust, to which she left her money, is one of Dundee’s biggest trusts, with an annual income of over £100,000; it gives grants to help ‘the arts and the needy’.