FOR someone as passionately nationalist as Muriel Gibson, she nearly hand-picked her birthday to perfection. She was born just the day before St Andrew's Day in 1912 and died in her 93rd year, after a life that embraced Scottish nationalism in a thoroughly international context.

A nationalist from days at the Glasgow High School for Girls, she became involved with the infant grouping in 1932 at the Bannockburn rally of the then National Party of Scotland.

At the conclusion of the meeting, when Wendy Wood led a march on Stirling Castle to haul down the Union flag, a youthful Gibson was there.

If her moral courage was never in doubt, neitherwas her physical.

A short spell with Glasgow Corporation education department at 129 Bath Street was terminated by the outbreak of war and it was when she joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) that her evident enthusiasm for military life showed through.

Gibson was commissioned into the Women's Royal Army Corps and served in Africa, Germany and Italy, being mentioned in dispatches and gaining a reputation for leadership.

Her service occurred in spite of being detained by Glasgow police at the outbreak of war.

Nationalists were seen as enemies of the British state and detention proved a common fate for many Scots.

She rose above what she later described as "small-minded actions of wee folk" and gave unstinting service to the wider UK cause during the war as a serving officer, with 23 years' service to the WRAC before retiring with the substantive rank of lieutenantcolonel. She enjoyed command and was never afraid to speak her mind. At celebrations for her 90th birthday, during which MSP John Swinney made her a presentation, she gave her sincere thanks but also added how the event could have been improved.

Gibson was ever an ideas woman, a manager who thought blue-sky thinking long before the term was invented.

When, in the 1960s, the post of SNP administrative secretary was advertised, this was a bold step for a party still fumbling to find its feet on the political ladder; effectively the nationalists sought a chief executive.

Gibson swept into the SNP like the new broom she was.

She closed down the antiquated headquarters of rooms in Elmbank Street, Glasgow, moving the party to Edinburgh to the seat of government and revising membership recruitment so that not only were new faces brought in but, importantly, old ones were retained.

By comparison, her personal political ambitions were modest, confined largely to a 1970 candidacy in Edinburgh West.

If nationalism was her passion, country dancing and Scottish music held her in lifelong thrall. She was the energetic secretary for many years - and later president - of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society and was ever one for getting to branches worldwide at their celebrations.

At London, Ontario, in 1986, she recalled how that branch had begun in 1961 to the music of Stan Hamilton, Bobby Frew and Bobby Brown.

In 1998, at the 75th anniversary year of the Cambridge branch of the RSCDS, she was a guest of honour along with the Earl of Mansfield and the Hon Peregrine Moncrieffe of Moncrieffe.

As with the earl, she too had a dance tune named in her honour, a strathspey which reflected that, throughout her life, she constantly received mail addressed "Dear Sir". Hence . . . The Colonel Is A Lady, the tune that piped out her coffin at her funeral at St Ninian's Old Kirk, Stirling.

While Muriel Gibson never married, her one love affairwas with Scotland and her long involvement with the St Andrew Society - of which she was past president - typified her interests.

Her internationalism covered the secretaryship of the Russian Ballet Society in Cramond, Edinburgh, and personal friendship with several consuls in Edinburgh, including OlexanderTsvietkov, consul general of Ukraine.

Her judge of character and able organisational skills made her a commercial asset and it was no surprise that, in 1972, she left the professional pay of the SNP to take up a senior personnel post with Ferranti, the Edinburgh defence company.

In 1975, she rejoined the voluntary sector to become director of the Red Cross in Hamilton, with her final post being the organising secretary of the RSCDS.

She died in Edinburgh and is survived by her sister Eunice Bartell.

Lt-Col Muriel Gibson WRAC (retd), soldier, dancer and nationalist; born November 29, 1912, died October 22, 2005.