The DEMOCRAT

Obituary

Marie Gilda

Business person, mentor, hostess and counsellor

Gilda Marie (obituary by Bill Heaney)

Born on June 25, 1944, in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire

Died on December 30, 2017, in Cape Town, South Africa

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Marie Gilda, who has died in South Africa, aged 73, was an astute business person who acted as mentor and counsellor to her husband, Brian, owner of the Peoples Motor Group with dealerships in Edinburgh, Falkirk, Livingston along with Liverpool, Speke and Prescot on Merseyside.

She was also a much admired and attractive hostess who worked with and supported her husband through 46 years of marriage and partnership, building a hugely successful business and raising a family.

Marie’s great strength was her capacity to develop skills beyond her early responsibilities as a wife and mother of three daughters.

She was a calm, confident and articulate communicator whose sage counselling on career paths and          advocacy for Brian matched his determination to succeed in the tough business of retailing cars and vans.

The earliest example of this was in 1982 when Brian required Marie’s patient understanding as they risked every asset from their home to the clothes they stood up in to start Peoples.

It took Brian eleven months to complete the complicated transaction during which he was unemployed for nine of those months, but Marie’s support never wavered.

As the company prospered and the business expanded, acquisitions followed in tandem with Marie’s support.

This happened with the notable exception of one occasion when an opportunity arose to expand into London.

Mrs Gilda felt certain this would be a bridge too far.

Stern words were exchanged, the opportunity lapsed and the eventual owners went into administration two years later.

Brian said: “The words ‘I told you so’ were never mentioned. This year, 2018, will be Peoples’ 35th year of trading.”

With the success of Peoples came the benefits, and the Gildas travelled the world taking in private invitations, including one to the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

On one memorable trip, they were taken to the Taj Mahal in rickshaws by drivers dressed in Ford motor company t-shirts.

They also took part in many pilgrimages to the Holy Land under the auspices of both the Lord Provost of Glasgow and Archbishop of Glasgow and made lasting friendships in Bethlehem.

With Brian, who was a director of Amnesty International, Marie took great interest in the complexities of the political situation in Palestine, and the West Bank in particular.

Much as she disliked going through the Wall from the West Bank into Israel, she found Jerusalem one of the most fascinating places in the world.

Walking the Via Dolorosa, and assisting in carrying the cross of Christ in a procession to the Hill of Calvary, was a most spiritually uplifting experience for her.

The Gildas loved the theatre and enjoyed West End productions in London. Closer to home they were enthusiastic supporters of The Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow.

Marie was particularly interested in the development of the never-ending stream of talented students.

Some six years ago, Stephanie the family’s youngest daughter moved to Cape Town.

Marie’s initial trepidation about security in South Africa gradually changed as she and Brian began to spend more time there.

They purchased a residential property in a desirable location in Camps Bay, outside Cape Town.

The property included a beautiful home formerly owned by the actor Richard E Grant.

Marie made it her business to transfer smoothly into this impressive property, so different from Inverleven, their grey sandstone mansion on the banks of the River Clyde at Dumbarton. It became the Gilda family’s home from home.

Young local artists and designers were commissioned to bring colour and style to the residence whilst at the same time not interfering with the feeling of the house being a home.

Marie had a reputation for entertaining at home in Dumbarton and guests there were from a wide range of backgrounds, from politics to sport and stage.

Jack McConnell, the former First Minister; Lord Alcluith, former chairman of the Treasury Select Committee; Old Firm managers Walter Smith and Tommy Burns; former Scotland and Partick Thistle goalkeeper Alan Rough; actor-writer and television personality Tony Roper and their various wives and partners often danced the night away at the Gilda house.

Marie celebrated her 70th birthday at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire where Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia Pipe Band, which is sponsored by Peoples, serenaded Marie on the lawn.

It was no surprise then that there were similar remarkable social occasions which Marie hosted in South Africa.

They became friends with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, or Toots as Gilda daughter Stephanie called him.

In a meeting with Archbishop Tutu in London for dinner he was asked to add a name in the Xhosa language to Ethan, who was the Gildas’ newest grandson at that time.

He considered if for a moment before suggesting Thando, which he explained meant love.

Marie was greatly amused at the prospect of having to go out from the house in Dumbarton and call Thando in for his tea.

The intention was always for both Marie and Brian to spend more time in Camps Bay, where they enjoyed a wide circle of friends.

However, when she was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in the spring of 2017, it then became important to plan for special events.

One of these was Stephanie’s wedding in Camps Bay on December 23, celebrating Christmas with the children and grandchildren there and then returning home to Scotland in early January.

Tragically the cancer overwhelmed her and she passed away on December 30, having achieved two out of three of her priorities.

However, the blessing or “the gift,” as Archbishop Tutu would call it, was in making, celebrating and enjoying the wedding and Christmas with her husband and family.

Marie Gilda, nee Rundle, was born in Airthrey Castle, Bridge of Allan, which was the maternity hospital where expectant mothers were sent from Clydeside for safety following the Clydebank Blitz.

Her late parents were James (Jimmy) Rundle and Mary Rundle, who met at Blackburn Aircraft Factory in Dumbarton, where they worked during World War II.

Jimmy Rundle later became foreman painter at the Singer factory in Clydebank and worked in Ideal Timber, Dumbarton. Mary Rundle worked in various shops in Dumbarton. She was well known in the community and was a familiar, friendly face in Willie Harkins’ fishmonger’s in Glasgow Road.

Marie’s only brother, Michael Rundle, is a former principal teacher of Guidance at St Columba’s High School, Clydebank.

Her own education was at Notre Dame Primary School followed by Notre Dame High School in Dumbarton followed by Lennox Technical College in College Park Street, where she gained secretarial qualifications before going on to work at Crozier Solicitors in High Street.

She moved into the local Ford car dealership in Milton, Dumbarton, which was then Watkinson’s and later became Skelly’s, where she was the administration manager and where she and her husband met. They were married on August 28, 1978, in Glasgow

Marie is survived by her husband, Brian, daughters, Nicola Gilda, Jocelyn Gilda O’Hagan, Stephanie Gilda Todd and grandsons Patrick (six), Ethan five5) and Matthew (three) and her brother, Michael.

Her funeral Mass took place in Cape Town at Church of the Good Shepherd in Bishopscourt. The celebrant was the Rev Jerome Francis, a personal friend of Brian and Marie, who was introduced to them by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

A Requiem Mass and Memorial Service to be held in St Patrick’s, Dumbarton, celebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti, will take place this Thursday, January 18, at 12 noon.

BILL HEANEY

 

 

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