Morag Gilmartin: Political activist and veteran of the CND movement

In the early 1960s Morag Gilmartin was active in the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Govan and Gorbals Young Socialists when Paul Foot and Gus MacDonald held sway.

She was involved in the earliest demonstrations against the Polaris nuclear submarine base on The Holy Loch and was among the first Aldermaston marchers. Gilmartin was one of the Scottish Committee of 100 along with Stuart Christie and fellow Paisley buddy, Danny Kyle. She retained her radical spirit and in later years was at Grosvenor Square in 1968 and, despite illness, the big anti-Iraq war demonstration in 2003.

Gilmartin was a popular figure in and around the Glasgow and Paisley folk song scene, contemporaneous with Norman and Janey Buchan, Danny Kyle, Archie Fisher, Josh MacRae and Billy Connolly among others.

Gilmartin and her sister Mary shared many a youthful adventure as they engaged with left-wing politics in Glasgow. Mary described Gilmartin as a "...beautiful person...inside and out. Whenever out with the girls, Morag rarely escaped notice. She was witty and kind and good looking and we used her, unashamedly, to attract attention, pushing her ahead of us through pub doors and crowding in behind as heads turned."

Sarah Gilmartin (known always as Morag) was born in Paisley on the eve of the Second World War. Her father, John, was a steam valve engineer at John Brown & Company, Clydebank and was seconded to war work with the Royal Navy. Gilmartin grew to be the big sister in a family of six. Her mother, Sarah, was a strong character and a passionate debater on the issues of the day. She had a fierce temper, but the children always knew that they were the most important thing in their parents' lives. Gilmartin attended St. Margaret's Convent School in Paisley. She worked at J & P Coats' Anchor Cotton Thread Mill and was a regular at Paisley ice rink for the skating and ice hockey in the mid 1950s.

By the time the USS Proteus arrived at The Holy Loch in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis moved the Cold War to the brink of catastrophe, Gilmartin was a regular on the cold roadways of the sit-down protests. But following the tragic death to cancer of her young sister, Kathleen, Gilmartin left Paisley in 1967 to join friends in London for a fresh start. She met and married the musician Gerry Wood in West Kensington. Wood will always remember his first sight of Gilmartin strolling along, a picture of nonchalant beauty. When he came to know her sense of humour, intelligence, boldness and underlying vulnerability, the game was up for the next 45 years.

Together with Wood, she hitchhiked across France and Spain to Morocco, and worked in south Devon. Their first child, Martin, was born in 1969 and within the next six years, Aram and then Magda were born also.

In west London Gilmartin was able to be a full-time mother for several years. Her knitting was always much sought after and she made jewellery and pottery and developed her interest in mythology. In addition to her generosity and warmth, Martin, Aram and Magda felt that she always kept her own "child-like" sensibility, allowing them and their friends to "be children". She had an "open door" play policy and the climbing frame and den in the back garden were invariably busy with the play of her children and their friends and neighbours.

But she wasn't a soft touch. Once, faced with a cheeky rebellion after telling the children to stop sliding down the stairs on a bunk-bed mattress, she quickly took a broom to them and they ran as if for their lives.

Magda remembers Gilmartin quietly slipping pocket money to penniless friends. "She was a mother who held your torch when you couldn't hold it yourself. She had faith in every one of us, family or not."

In recent years, Gilmartin retired early from the Plant Records Office at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, and returned regularly to Paisley to help nurse her ailing mother. Following her own diagnosis of secondary terminal cancer in June of this year, Gilmartin was herself nursed at home in Brentford. She died surrounded by her family and was buried in a woodland on a glorious autumn day. As testimony to her lifelong kindness, caring and courage, family and friends from across the years turned out in numbers.

Morag (Sarah) Wood, political activist, mother, craftswoman: born Paisley 12 August 1939; Married 1969 Gerry Wood (two sons, one daughter); died Brentford, Middlesex 5 October 2011.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice