POLITICIANS were shocked and saddened yesterday by the suicide of Labour MP Gordon McMaster, 37, and the death of Lord Goold, 63, former Scottish Conservative Party chairman.

Mr McMaster had become deeply depressed by a debilitating viral illness and by a malicious whispering campaign surrounding his ill-health.

His body was discovered in the garage of his home by his elderly father William.

Lord Goold chaired his party north of the Border from 1983 to 1989 during one of its most turbulent periods. He is thought to have died from lung cancer.

A former chairman of the CBI in Scotland, he also headed a major Glasgow building firm and was prominent in several areas of Scottish public life. He had been Lord Lieutenant of Renfrewshire since 1994.

Mr McMaster, a well-respected politician, was known for his good humour and deep interest in the area he represented.

However, he faced a severe challenge when a viral complaint made it difficult for him to work properly. He was eventually diagnosed as suffering from ME, chronic fatigue syndrome.

Mr McMaster had been in pain for the past 18 months because of the illness, which he believed he could have acquired from his long exposure to organophosphate chemicals when he worked as a gardener in his early life.

His symptoms were similar to those that affected Gulf war troops who complained about exhaustion, depression, and 'flu-like illnesses after exposure to chemicals.

''There have been some very dark days when I wondered when this would end,'' he said in an interview this year.

''I had a combination of constant tiredness, muscle pains, 'flu-like symptoms and insomnia. Sometimes, especially in the morning, I found it really difficult to move,'' he said. He added: ''I was depressed, and a darkness seemed to have entered my life.''

He recalled that as an apprentice gardener he often did not bother wearing protective clothing when working with organophosphates.

Persistent rumours about the cause of the bachelor's ill-health had circulated since last year, his Labour colleague and friend Mrs Irene Adams said last night.

Mrs Adams, the MP for Paisley North, said: ''There was a lot of ignorant people who spread a lot of terrible stories during that period.

''Some were malicious and Gordon was aware of them. It made him very, very upset. I do not want to add to them because I can assure you they were totally untrue and totally without foundation.''

A police officer stood guard outside Mr McMaster's home in Hagg Crescent, Johnstone, Renfrewshire, throughout yesterday as officers continued their inquiries. It is believed he left a lengthy letter and a will, but the contents were not divulged.

A police lorry removed a large, shrouded object, thought to be Mr McMaster's car, from the garage.

Concerned colleagues watched his mood swings, and at times he did seem better. However, last month he was attacked outside his South London flat, almost losing a finger when he fell heavily against a railing. He then had to go through a series of painful operations on his hand. The attack appeared to set back his recovery.

His elder brother, Kenneth, travelled to Scotland from Leicester yesterday to be with his parents, who live one street away from the MP's home.

Ms Barbara Gemmell, secretary for Mrs Adams, said Mr McMaster's parents William and Alison were ''upset and in shock''.

Mr McMaster's former neighbour, Mr Grant McLeod, described the MP as ''very down-to-earth.'' He said: ''Gordon was more like the punters than your average politician. If you ever needed to see him about anything, he found the time.''

The MP had moved to a larger home a few years ago in anticipation of his parents joining him, but he spent the last few weeks of his life being cared for by his parents at their home.

''Just before the election, my father told me Gordon's dad had said he was going to chuck politics because he was so ill. But he always put a brave face on things and I suppose he decided to carry on,'' said Mr McLeod.

Mrs Adams, visibly upset at the death, paid a heartfelt tribute to Mr McMaster.

She said: ''He was a man who put more into life than he took from it.

''He gave his whole life to the people of his constituency. He was a workaholic who very rarely took a holiday, but he was also the very best kind of friend.

''This community has lost a great servant in Gordon McMaster. He was a politician with great ability and a tremendous future in front of him.''

Mrs Adams said she last saw Mr McMaster at the wedding of her daughter Kirsty three weeks ago.

She added: ''I spoke to him last on Wednesday of last week when he told me he intended to drive down to London and that I would see him in the House of Commons because he wanted to clear a few things up before the summer recess. I still cannot completely comprehend what has happened.''

A spokesman for Strathclyde Police said a full report on the death would be submitted to the procurator-fiscal.

Mr McMaster won the Paisley South seat in 1990 at a by-election. He was returned for a third time in May when he increased his majority to 12,750.

Lord Goold was also a well respected politician.

He was made a Knight Baronet in 1983 for his services to industry and politics and created a life peer four years later.

His close friend and family minister, the Rev Roderick Campbell, last night described him as a ''remarkably unique person.''

He added: ''Lord Goold was greatly respected for his integrity and business acumen. He had an incredible ability for carrying responsibility and making decisions. He had the capacity to get on with people and communicate well with them whether they were porters or peers.''

INSIDE: Vital role as Tory kingmaker - Page 2; A good friend and strong ally - Page 3; Experts puzzle - Page 3