TRIBUTES have been paid to Garelochhead’s “guiding light”, Mary Gray, who died at the age of 89 last week.

Her family confirmed on Saturday evening that the popular pensioner had passed away on Monday, September 14 while recovering from hip surgery at the Vale of Leven Hospital.

Born in Bolton, Mary moved to London with her work in a medical laboratory before meeting late husband Jim through mutual friends and settling in Garelochhead in 1975 with their three children, Alex, Susan and John.

A champion of local causes, Mary served on the village’s community council and also acted as chair of the Gibson Hall community centre’s committee.

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She has been described as a “lovely lady” who will be “remembered fondly but sadly missed”.

A message from Mary’s family last weekend read: “If you are reading this, like us you knew and loved our mother Mary.

“Even at the ripe old age of 89, she had much more she could have given if things had worked out differently.

“Sadly last Monday evening she died unexpectedly of a heart attack. She was, mercifully, comfortable and in good cheer, wowing the doctors and nurses with her stories and her spirit.

“As much as she was proud of her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandson, her nephews and nieces and their children and grandchildren, not to mention so many others that she supported as family over the years, she could not have been more proud than we were of her.

“Needless to say, she leaves her spirit alive in all of us.”

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A funeral service, held in private, took place on Tuesday with friends and neighbours paying their respects online due to continued restrictions around social gatherings.

Jim Auld, who conducted the service, said Mary’s passing was a “huge loss for Garelochhead and the wider community”, adding: “I will always remember her with a smile.”

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A post shared on the Gibson Hall’s Facebook page said: “As most of you will be aware, we lost our most avid, hardworking and inimitable former chair, Mary Gray, last week.

“For the last (nearly) 30 years, Mary - along with various committees, including her late husband Jim, continually went above and beyond in her efforts to save, improve and sustain the Gibson Hall.

“We are grateful beyond words for her input, and things here will never be quite the same without her guidance.”

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Watson Robinson, convenor of Garelochhead Community Council, said: “Mary joined our community council some years back, she was an extremely proactive member with great experience and knowledge.

“She brought both charm and humour to our meetings but above all she was a guiding light who could recollect information with ease.

“Earlier this year we introduced a helpline for members of the community to contact if they required help or advice during lockdown. Mary being Mary very quickly took responsibility for the task which she will have done flawlessly.

“Mary will be fondly remembered but sadly missed.”

Fellow community councillor, Martin Croft, added: “During my time with the community council Mary was one of the most supportive members of the village.

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“She has over the years been involved with many of the village groups, residents’ association, ladies’ groups and of course she was instrumental in running the Gibson Hall. The Gibson Hall would not be functioning today without her efforts over the years.

“A wonderful lady, loved and respected by all in the village and she will be sadly missed.”

Laura Cameron, who replaced Mary as the chair of the Gibson Hall committee, said: “Mary and her late husband Jim worked tirelessly to save, retain and improve the hall after its threatened closure.

“For 28 years, Mary has remained a fixture on the hall committee, and up until the lockdown, still took on duties welcoming hirers and helping with maintenance projects.

“Her dedication led to her travelling to headquarters all over the country to discuss funding in person; attending many various meetings, training courses and conferences, and of course long hours spent with practical work in the hall building.

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“The extension works in 1999 were only as successful due to the Grays’ efforts after a grant was withdrawn, and they took extra measures to ensure that the project didn’t fall through.

“She has always had a strong committee beside her, but without her leadership, we would not be in the place we are.

“Her input to the Friends of the Linn Gardens, and involvement in the search for Jamie Taggart when he disappeared in Vietnam, also marked her passion for the horticultural. A member of the Helensburgh Horticultural Society, rhododendron societies and rock garden club, she was a fixture at their events, meetings and trips, even long after she had stopped opening her garden to raise funds for the Red Cross, and this year she was thrilled to be asked to help behind the scenes with the horticultural society’s annual show.

“Mary’s presence will also be missed at the SWI in Garelochhead, and her many attempts at competitive projects gave her hours of enjoyment.”

Mary, described as “very family oriented”, had six grandchildren.

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