Artist and teacher;
Born: December 1919; Died: October 13, 2012;
MARY MacIver, who has died aged 92, was an accomplished painter whose artistic talent only blossomed after her retirement from the teaching profession.
The widow of the writer, reviewer and poet Hector MacIver, she moved in the most exalted literary and cultural circles, counting the likes of Louis MacNeice and Hugh MacDiarmid as friends.
For almost 40 years she was an inspirational teacher of English at Portobello High School and then, when that part of her life was over, she seamlessly moved, first into music and then into the visual arts. She excelled in the latter, her visionary paintings winning the praise of fellow artists including Richard Demarco and Sandy Moffat, the former head of painting at Glasgow School of Art.
She was born Mary Brown in what was then the miners' village of Gorebridge, outside Edinburgh. Her father John worked down the pits. One of her earliest memories was the General Strike of 1926 when, aged just six, she had to queue in the school playground every day for a bowl of thin pea soup and a slice of bread and margarine.
Though her family was far from wealthy, she was able to go to Edinburgh University where, after four years of study, she graduated with an MA Hons in English literature.
She then gained a Diploma in Education from Moray House and embarked upon a 39-year career in teaching, mostly at Portobello High where she was head of the English department. With her great love of literature and drama she was an inspiration to several generations of pupils.
As an educator she had a somewhat eccentric approach, not so much to teaching, but more to punishment in the classroom. Rather than use the belt she would make recalcitrant pupils learn 10 lines from Tam O'Shanter. Then, every time they subsequently misbehaved, they'd have to learn another 10 lines, reciting the poem from the start on each occasion.
It was while she was a teacher at Portobello she met her husband Hector MacIver, at the time head of English at the Royal High School in Edinburgh.
The couple lived for 20 years in the Midlothian village of Temple (close to where she was raised) where their next-door neighbour was the painter Sir William Gillies.
The couple became a familiar fixture in the capital's artistic and cultural scene. Hector wrote regularly in the Scotsman and was a highly respected tutor to young poets. The couple were often to be found enjoying the company of Edinburgh's leading literary figures in Milne's Bar and the Abbotsford.
He was a great influence on her life. A native Gaelic speaker, he sang old Gaelic folk songs and together they enjoyed the company of poets, actors, musicians and artists, leading her to believe in "the spiritual side of life and the symbolic". Many years later she wrote a book, Pilgrim Souls, about her life with her poet husband.
After her retirement from teaching in the early 1980s she gained a Diploma in music before, at the age of 62, taking a special course at Edinburgh College of Art from 1981 till 1985.
When she emerged from college painting had become a means of expression for her and her style was heavily influenced by events in her life and a keen knowledge of poetry, myth and legend. Her exploration of art was infused by her wide knowledge of literature, legends, Border ballads and the countryside.
Her work has won widespread praise and has been exhibited in galleries through the United Kingdom, including the Scottish Gallery.
She travelled widely over the years and her paintings were often inspired by personal experiences in places as far afield as Sarajevo, Nevada, the Himalayas, Ireland and Arran.
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