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Mary Graham

Citizens Advice Bureau organiser.

An Appreciation

Born: December 12, 1923; Died: January 26, 2014

Mary Davidson Strachan Graham, who has died age 90, was a lady of many parts who spent years as a Citizens Advice Bureau organiser in Lanarkshire and was active in the Glasgow antiques trade.

She was born into the close-knit community of East Kilbride and lived her entire life in the burgh, so witnessing its expansion from small village to booming new town.

Her father, Robert Kirkwood, died when she was only five-years-old as a result of gas damage he had sustained to his lungs while serving as a Royal Flying Corps balloon observer in the First World War. Her mother Jessie raised Mary and older brother Douglas to value hard work and education while instilling self-reliance and a sense of duty.

She won a scholarship to Hutchesons' Girls' Grammar School in Glasgow and report cards show her to have been a most able, if strong-willed, child. She left with a certificate of General Excellence.

On the outbreak of war, she joined the Wrens and in later years delighted her grandchildren with outrageously naughty tales of her wartime experiences.

Her village sweetheart, and later husband of 54 years, Robert Graham, was invalided out of the Scots Guards in 1943 and Mary sought leave from the Wrens to care for him.

It was only the intervention of Sir Alec Douglas Home, who had been local MP and was to become Prime Minister, that permitted her to leave the service with an honourable discharge.

Robert was given only months to live after leaving the army but confounded doctors until 1999, and the two formed a durable and lively partnership.

Children followed the end of the war, and she settled to raise Douglas born in 1946 and Mhairi in 1949.

However, her lust for life drove Mary to keep her mind engaged and she was an enthusiastic player on the local bridge circuit. She was also a member of the amateur dramatics group at the town's West Kirk and enjoyed penning her own verse, often of the bawdy variety. For a time she was active in the local Conservative and Unionist Party.

With Robert she enjoyed foreign travel and Aigua Blava on the Costa Brava held a very dear place in their hearts.

A genial host and stylish lady of great taste, she was the proprietor of an antiques shop in the old village area of East Kilbride for some years, and later ran a similar venture in Glasgow's Bath Street with daughter Mhairi.

As CAB organiser for East Kilbride and Hamilton, she displayed supreme organisational and people skills. She was popular with her staff and counted many of them as friends for life.

Her independent spirit was perfectly illustrated by a steadfast refusal to give up smoking until her 89th year and a persistent belief in the curative powers of a wee dram.

One of her daily highlights was the delivery of The Herald and she enjoyed beating all her friends and family in completing the crossword, even until the week of her passing.

She is survived by son Douglas, daughter Mhairi, grandchildren Anna, Graham, Jamie and Alex and great-grandchildren Estelle, Thomas, Daniel, Archie, Eva, Louis, Freya, Fraser, Mara and Harry.

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