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Morag Nimmo McAlpine Gray

Librarian and wife of Alasdair Gray

Librarian and wife of Alasdair Gray

Born: November 26, 1949; Died: May 15, 2014

MORAG McAlpine, who has died aged 64, was a librarian, a compiler of crosswords and the wife of the novelist, artist, playwright, teacher and poet Alasdair Gray.

Gray, whose most famous work is his first novel, Lanark, which was published in 1981, was working in the Hillhead area of Glasgow as a painter and writer when he met Ms McAlpine in the late 1960s. He and Ms McAlpine, who was a librarian in the University of Glasgow, first met in the Ubiquitous Chip, the Glasgow restaurant, which houses one of Gray's most famous murals, and socialised in the bookshops, coffee houses and taverns in the area.

Ms McAlpine was brought up in a council house in Castlehill, Dumbarton, by her father who was a socialist and trade unionist. She was later a bookseller who compiled extremely popular weekly crosswords for her home town newspaper, The Lennox Herald in Dumbarton.

In an interview published 10 years ago, the couple spoke of their similarities, with Ms McAlpine saying: "I think we probably had quite lonely times before we met. And we now know the value of being together."

Gray confirmed this in the short eulogy he gave at Ms McAlpine's funeral when he said they had got together almost 25 years ago and had never a moment of doubt they were ideally matched.

They had lived happily together, he said. "We had our 23rd wedding anniversary recently," he said, "and we had been living together a year before we were married."

A spokesman for Cargo, Alasdair Gray's publisher, said: "Over the course of our association with Alasdair, we got to know Morag well. We remember her tremendous spirit, her warmth and her passion."

Gray said that his wife had done much to hide the fact that she was ill and had been only recently hospitalised. He had left several works of art to her in his will, but will now be offering them to Glasgow art galleries in her name.

Ms McAlpine accompanied Gray to his many literary and art events, and was known to counsel the artist and writer on his work.

She also accompanied the writer on many walks in the hills of Loch Lomondside which she loved and a recording of the Glasgow Phoenix Choir singing Loch Lomond was played at her funeral service.

Also played - and sung with dignified vigour by the gathered mourners - was Scots Wha Hae.

Ms McAlpine's private funeral took place at Cardross Cemetery overlooking the River Clyde in her beloved Dunbartonshire. This followed a brief service conducted by her husband in a funeral parlour near their home in the west end of Glasgow.

Amongst the mourners were a number of Scottish artists and writers and relatives and friends of the well known couple. Their close friends, the Irish author Bernard McLaverty and his wife, Madeline, were present at the graveside, as was Nicholas Wheatley, who worked recently with Gray on a huge mural at Hillhead underground station.

Present too were Glasgow west end art gallery owner Joe Mulholland and David and Rose Harvie, parents of the Green Party MSP leader, Patrick Harvie.

Rose Harvie had been involved with the couple in a campaign to save Knowetop Community Farm in Castlehill, Dumbarton, where Morag was brought up.

Colin Beattie, owner of the Oran Mor in Hillhead, which both Gray and Ms McAlpine loved, was also present amongst the mourners. Gray produced the ceiling mural for the auditorium in the imposing former church building and it is one of the largest works of art in Scotland.

These and many other bars were amongst the favourite places which the couple used to socialise.

Ms McAlpine became seriously ill with cancer a month ago and died peacefully in Glasgow Western Infirmary. She is survived by her husband and her elder sister, Pat.

She always loved poetry and Gray's parting words to her at the graveside were from The Fascination of What's Difficult by William Butler Yeats:

"The fascination of what's difficult

Has dried the sap out of my veins, and rent

Spontaneous joy and natural content

Out of my heart."

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