Choreographer and keep fit instructor

Choreographer and keep fit instructor

Born: April 1918 Died: June 25, 2014

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MARGARET Gow, who has died aged 96, was a choreographer and keep fit instructor. She was known throughout Moray and Banffshire for her work, latterly with the elderly and those suffering from back pain and strokes. She was also known for her teaching of physical education in many primary and secondary schools from Kinloss to Portessie and from Lossiemouth to Keith.

She will also be well remembered for her involvement in the Fochabers community in the 1950s, her work with the YWCA and as the producer of many Elgin pantomimes. She was with the Elgin Operatic Society and The Moray Youth Theatre as their choreographer for many years and was a volunteer guide at both Darnaway and Brodie castles.

She was born in Airdrie in April 1918, during what has come to be known as the great flu pandemic of that year. Glasgow, which was only 15 miles away, was the first British city to be affected by this pandemic which killed over a quarter of a million people in Britain. It was said that even those who were hale and hearty at breakfast could be dead by teatime. It is, therefore, no surprise that her mother, in a weakened state, succumbed to pneumonia and died only two days after Margaret was born. She was brought up by her grandmother and an aunt and spent most of her childhood surrounded by her cousins in Airdrie and her summers with her great aunt in Blair Atholl where she met her future husband Ian Gow.

After her schooling at Airdrie Academy, she went on to work with The Glasgow Herald as a Burroughs machine operator in the accounts department. Always a daredevil and game for any challenge she was the guinea pig in the Herald's new fire escape hoist system, installed in the late thirties, which involved her being lowered down the outside of the Herald building now known as The Lighthouse. At that time the Herald occupied buildings across a gap but to get to the canteen, from Margaret's office which was in the building on the other side, you had to walk down several flights of stairs then up again on the other side. Not acceptable for our super fit and sporty Margaret, she was known to regularly jump across the gap from roof to roof saving her much valuable lunchtime in the canteen.

During the Second World War, she trained as a keep fit leader with the Scottish Women's Keep Fit Association and worked with the Bevin Boys. It was also while in Glasgow that she developed her love for dance, theatre and ballet. She trained under the famous Meg Morris whose dancers often featured in the paintings of the Scottish colourist JD Fergusson.

She was married in the winter of 1942 to Captain Ian Gow of the Cameron Highlanders, whom she had met during her summers in Blair Atholl. At the end of the war, he became a teacher and was appointed to Milne's High School in Fochabers as a technical teacher. She threw herself into the vibrant Fochabers community as a dancer with a travelling concert party and as choreographer and producer of the Gala Show. Sport was always predominant in her life and she was often seen on the tennis courts as Gordon Baxter's doubles partner. Fochabers and its people were always close to her heart.

In 1956, Captain Gow was appointed head of department at Elgin Academy and his wife, who was always game for a challenge, joined the YWCA as a senior organiser where she started her keep fit classes and got the young ladies of Elgin involved in theatre. Both she and her husband were often seen at the numerous dances in and around the town.

As her three children grew up, she became a peripatetic PE teacher in schools around Moray and Banffshire until 1965 when the General Teaching Council of Scotland deemed that all teachers had to be registered. Teachers were given the opportunity to qualify and register but many within the art, physical education and music fields thought it an imposition too far and left the profession.

She joined the sales department of Elgin Central Engineers and when the company diversified into oil rig fabrication work, she was known to write little poems mentioning those who had worked on the construction which were then painted onto the rig legs before being sunk to the seabed.

This first lady of theatre never forgot her former colleagues and would often remind everyone of her notable successes, which included teaching the actor Kevin McKidd to dance in the productions of Bugsy Malone and Anne of Green Gables in Elgin and at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness. She suffered her first stroke in 2010 from which she made a remarkable recovery. During her convalescence she started knitting and crocheting blankets for Africa in support of several local churches. She did not retire as a keep fit instructor until she was 89 years old. She is survived two sons and a daughter, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild as well as a multitude of friends, neighbours and carers whose support has been constant.