Obituary: Margaret Gardiner, 85

Margaret Gardiner
Margaret Gardiner
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Margaret Gardiner, an Edinburgh-born caterer and homemaker, has died in the United States, aged 85.

She was born Margaret Brodie in the Royal Maternity Hospital on May 25, 1927. Her father, James Grant, who fought with the Highland light infantry in the First World War, was – like his father, several uncles and cousins – a house painter and decorator.

He made a dollhouse and all its furnishings for his daughter that was the envy of all her friends. Her mother, Minnie Rogers, was a native of Somerset and a woman of great faith.

Margaret lived with her parents and older brothers, and later her younger sister, in a Georgian tenement close to Edinburgh University’s main buildings.

When the Second World War started, Margaret’s family moved to a new housing development in Craigmillar, and became accustomed to near-nightly visits to the air raid shelter and to wartime rationing.

At the age of 14, in 1941, she left Niddrie Marischal School to work as a sales girl for Young Brothers’ Bakery, where she stayed for two years before going to work at Mackie’s restaurant and coffee shop in Princes Street.

At a supervisor’s urging, Margaret trained to be a hostess in the catering business, and thereafter became a member of Mackie’s catering team. She never forgot the day at Mackie’s when she was waiting for a lift, the doors opened and there stood Sir Laurence Olivier and his then-wife, Vivien Leigh.

Nor did she forget the day when she was watching a dogfight overhead between a British and a German pilot and received a piece of shrapnel in her leg as a permanent souvenir of the war.

Margaret wanted to do her part in the war effort and she and her cousin, Ella Grant, decided they would enlist in the Women’s Royal Naval Service when they turned 18 in 1945, but VE Day occurred 17 days before Margaret’s birthday.

After the war she met Raymond Gardiner, an American serviceman from Kansas, at a Red Cross-sponsored dance and emigrated to the United States in January 1948 to marry him.

They renovated a farmhouse on his father’s farm and lived there for the next 45 years. Due to a heart condition, Raymond was forced into early retirement, then became interested in breaking and training mini mules, and for the next 12 years they were on the show circuit every weekend, with Raymond eventually winning more than 100 first prize awards and the grand championships of several states.

When the time came to retire, they auctioned off the farm and settled into retirement in Kansas. After Raymond’s death in 2003, Margaret and daughter Jan moved to live closer to son Allen in the San Francisco area. She passed away on April 8 at Midland Hospice Care Centre in Kansas after a brief illness.