Businesswoman known for leading Scottish motor group

Born: June 25, 1944;

Died: December 30, 2017

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MARIE Gilda, who has died of lung cancer in South Africa aged 73, was a businesswoman who acted as mentor and counsellor to her husband, Brian, the owner of the Peoples Motor Group, which has dealerships in Edinburgh, Falkirk, Livingston along with Liverpool, Speke and Prescot on Merseyside.

Mrs Gilda was a calm, confident and articulate communicator who, like Brian, was determined that they would succeed in the tough business of retailing cars and vans. In the early 1980s, they risked every asset, from their home to the clothes they stood up in, to start Peoples.

Over the following years, the company prospered and expanded, always with Marie's support. One notable exception was when an opportunity arose to expand into London. Mrs Gilda felt certain this would be a bridge too far. Stern words were exchanged, the opportunity lapsed and the eventual owners went into administration two years later.

"The words 'I told you so' were never mentioned," said Brian. "This year, 2018, will be Peoples' 35th year of trading."

With the success of Peoples came the benefits, and the Gildas travelled the world taking in private invitations, including one to the Sistine Chapel in Rome. They also took part in many pilgrimages to the Holy Land under the auspices of both the Lord Provost of Glasgow and Archbishop of Glasgow and made lasting friendships in Bethlehem.

Some six years ago, Stephanie, the family's youngest daughter, moved to Cape Town. Mrs Gilda's initial trepidation about security in South Africa gradually changed as she and Brian began to spend more time there. They purchased a house in a desirable location in Camps Bay, outside Cape Town.

Mrs Gilda had a reputation for entertaining at home in Dumbarton and guests there came from a wide range of backgrounds, from politics to sport and stage and it was no surprise that Mrs Gilda also hosted many events in South Africa.

They became friends with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, or Toots as Stephanie Gilda called him.

In a meeting with Archbishop Tutu in London for dinner he was asked to add a name in the Xhosa language to Ethan, who was the Gildas' newest grandson at that time. He considered if for a moment before suggesting Thando, which he explained meant love.

Marie Gilda, nee Rundle, was born in Bridge of Allan. Her late parents were James (Jimmy) Rundle and Mary Rundle, who met at Blackburn Aircraft Factory in Dumbarton, where they worked during the Second World War.

She was educated at Notre Dame Primary School followed by Notre Dame High School in Dumbarton and Lennox Technical College in College Park Street, where she gained secretarial qualifications before going on to work at Crozier solicitors in High Street.

She moved into the local Ford car dealership in Milton, Dumbarton, which was then Watkinson's and later became Skelly's, where she was the administration manager and where she and her husband met. They were married on August 28, 1978, in Glasgow.

Marie Gilda is survived by her husband Brian, daughters Nicola, Jocelyn and Stephanie, and grandsons Patrick, Ethan, and Matthew, and her brother Michael.

Her funeral mass took place in Cape Town at Church of the Good Shepherd in Bishopscourt. The celebrant was the Rev Jerome Francis, a personal friend of Brian and Marie, who was introduced to them by Desmond Tutu.

BILL HEANEY