Champion of Charles Rennie Mackintosh;

Born: September 30,1930;

Died: August 29, 2016

PATRICIA Douglas, who has died aged 85, was a housewife at a loose end when a part-time job ignited a passion for architecture that reinvented her as a crusading champion of one of Scotland’s most influential figures.

While working at the New Glasgow Society, an amenity group founded to safeguard the city’s built heritage, she became interested in the work of architect, artist and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Over the next 40 years that initial interest burgeoned into a ceaseless quest to promote and protect his legacy, resulting in an MBE for services to preserving his architecture.

She became the dynamic honorary secretary and, later, director of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, now housed in Glasgow’s Mackintosh Queen Cross where she typically worked 13-hour days as a volunteer, liaising with fellow enthusiasts and scholars worldwide and helping to deliver important initiatives highlighting the designer’s achievements.

Her own roots, however, were in London where she was born a Cockney, within the sound of St Mary-le-Bow church bells, to parents Bob Shiers, a civil defence officer, and his wife Laura. Educated at Leyton High School, a lifetime love of sport began when she learned to swim in the River Loddon, a tributary of the Thames, and she went on to take part in the first televised swimming gala, receiving a medal from Prince Philip.

To avoid the London blitz during the Second World War she stayed with her grandparents near Reading and attended Woking Grammar School, excelling both in the water and on the hockey pitch. From there she went to study fashion design at Walthamstow Polytechnic and designed and made many of her own clothes.

Then in 1950 she secured her first job, as a secretary and then PA at Balfour Beattie civil engineers, where she met her future husband, Tom Douglas, a consultant civil engineer. They became engaged a couple of years later and brought their wedding forward when Tom was asked to look after some projects in East Africa.

A few weeks after marrying, at Bethnal Green in June 1952, she followed her husband to Kenya. The country was in the grip of the Mau Mau uprising and when she became pregnant and worried for her safety, she wrote to her father asking him to post her a gun. He was now a policeman and somehow managed to send a .38 revolver for self-defence. She gave birth to her first son, Antony, to the sound of distant gunfire as the unrest continued.

They returned to Scotland in 1955 and their second son, Gavin, was born the following year. It was in the 1960s, with both boys growing up, that she found herself with time on her hands and took a small, part-time secretarial job with the recently-founded New Glasgow Society (NGS)

The M8 motorway was then being constructed through the city centre and one of the buildings in its path, earmarked to go, was the Martyrs’ Public School in Parson Street, designed by Mackintosh and built on the street where he was born. The NGS was credited with saving it, a triumph that marked its first big success.

Mrs Douglas was now working increasingly long hours, but still only taking a part-time wage, and a sub-committee of the society was being formed for those particularly interested in Mackintosh. In 1973 the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society (CRMS) emerged from that committee and Mrs Douglas became honorary secretary until 1985, before serving two spells as director from then until 1998 and again from 2000-2001.

The society moved in 1977 from the NGS offices to the Mackintosh Church at Queen’s Cross which became its headquarters. The only church built to Mackintosh’s design, the last congregation had worshipped there the previous year and in 1999 the society was able to buy the premises.

During her long and exceptionally industrious service to the charity she achieved a phenomenal amount – including organising city bus tours of Mackintosh architecture during which she arranged the transport, sold the tickets and gave the tour commentary.

Society members are scattered worldwide, from Japan to the US, but she knew them all and regularly visited branches in London, Bath and Harrogate. Her success lay in people and events and she forged friendships with leading figures from the world of curation and academia. She managed society tours and visits at home and abroad, helped to deliver international conferences in Glasgow, including during Glasgow’s year as European City of Culture, and was made an MBE for her work in 1991.

She was also chair and secretary of the Mackintosh Heritage Group and a founding trustee of 78 Derngate Trust, an initiative in Northampton to restore Mackintosh’s last major design commission, for which she helped to raise £1million. It is now a multi award-winning visitor attraction celebrating his talent.

Efficient, confident and a woman who knew how to get things done – "you don’t advertise, you do" she expounded recently – she lived life in top gear. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, she was treasurer of the Glasgow Society of Women Artists and a board member of the National Trust for Scotland. She also chaired the local Conservative and Unionist Party branch when she lived in Killearn and had published three books, including one of a relative’s wild flower illustrations.

She was only halted in her tracks five years ago by a stroke, from which she never fully recovered, and is survived by her husband, their sons, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.