Born: March 15, 1966; Died: June 13, 2012.
Maureen Murphy, who has died of cancer aged 46, was a woman who tackled life head on, whatever it threw at her.
The proverbial life and soul of the party, she was a self-made, Govan-born businesswoman who overcame a spell in a Nazareth House orphanage to go on to co-found a string of travel enterprises, including the no-frills carrier Air Scotland.
A superb administrator and organiser, nothing ever fazed her and, though she had no knowledge of the business when she and her husband first launched Bearsden Travel Services Ltd, she was a fast learner. Within three months she was practically running the place, her easy manner, patient personality and likeability factor pulling in customers.
She was, said her husband, the "centre of gravity" for everything in which she became involved.
The penultimate child of a family of 10 – one of her bingo signatures was "Nine of Ten" – she was only a toddler when her mother Edith was involved in a serious car accident. All the girls of the family went into the care of Nazareth House, while the boys ended up in Lasswade.
After an 18-month separation while their mother recovered, the children were eventually returned home and young Maureen began her education at Govan's St Saviour's Primary School. She left Lourdes Secondary School at 16, having already started working a few years earlier on an ice cream van in Dormanside Road.
Her first full-time job was in the office of Solripe Vending and she swiftly became independent, leaving home to live in her own flat.
She was 19 when she met her future husband, Iraqi-born PhD student Dhia Al-Ani. Their romance began in the Pitt Street nightclub then known as Cardinal Follies when Dhia, whom she described as her knight in shining armour, "saved" her from an over-enthusiastic young suitor and escorted her home.
The pair became inseparable and secretly married three months later, on December 19, 1985, her family only discovering they were husband and wife a couple of weeks after the wedding.
They settled in Bearsden with Maureen becoming her new husband's PA as he completed his PhD in tourism. She would type as he dictated but the subject matter was often not inspiring enough for the bubbly young wife who had been known to nod off mid-flow, her head slumped on the desk.
When Bearsden Cross was being redeveloped he suggested opening a travel business and she fully supported him. They set up Bearsden Travel Services Ltd, operating as a franchise of Exchange Travel, in 1987, going independent three years later as the Bearsden Travel Centre.
Initially she knew nothing about the industry but was soon in great demand with customers, who would queue up for her knowledgeable, personable service. The couple then founded Scotland's first travel call centre, Discount Holidays, in Glasgow's Elderslie Street, later expanding over three floors in Sauchiehall Street and featuring on national Teletext pages.
By 1999 there was a short-lived merger with Travel City before the couple took over Viva Holidays, based in Stockport. And by 2001 they had become tour operators, with two brands, Viva and Discount Holidays. A partner and director in all the ventures, she fulfilled the role of administrator, her cool-headed and calm approach vital assets behind the scenes.
They established Air Scotland, with its Saltire on the tailfin, in 2002 and began flying in March the following year. Its website had 30,000 hits in the first five minutes of its launch and the couple featured in a documentary on the business. But the enterprise had a chequered history. It later operated under Greece Airways before ownership was transferred to a Spanish hotel group. The couple's involvement with the budget airline lasted until October 2005.
After reappraising their life, they took over a handmade soap business, Bute Soaps, which allowed her to use her creative skills making up gift baskets as well as meeting and chatting to customers.
Outwith her business interests, family ties remained close to her heart and she was always at the centre of her large, extended family's life, offering straight-talking advice and answers to any dilemma.
She was an avid reader, with books stationed all round the house, and had a good singing voice which made her a keen karaoke fan. When, on her last visit to family in Ireland, the bar's karaoke machine broke down, her solution was simply to lead the revellers, unaccompanied, in communal singing all night long.
Her passion was always people for whom she had great empathy and understanding. Latterly she had hoped to use her experience by establishing a fund to make a difference to those struggling to set up in business themselves. Her illness, diagnosed last year, meant she ran out of time to make that dream a reality.
However she planned her own farewell as meticulously as she organised everything else, requesting family and friends wear bright colours, no black, to her funeral and celebrate her life with a party and karaoke.
She is survived by her husband, their sons, Omar and Yousif, and her brothers and sisters, John, Joseph, Michael, Veronica, Peter, Andrew Murphy and Margaret MacDonald, Frances Hyvart and Anne Wilson.
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