Obituary: Shirley Gibb, 69

Shirley Gibb. Picture: Contributed
Shirley Gibb. Picture: Contributed
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A teacher, writer, political candidate, campaigner, mother and grandmother, Shirley Gibb, who died at the age of 69, lived a life which touched many in Edinburgh.

From writing to prisoners, to marching against the Iraq war, adopting a child as well as having five of her own, teaching special needs children and authoring books on their educational needs – even filing feature articles for the Evening News – yet always had time for others.

Perhaps it was due to the timing of her birth – in the middle of the Second World War – and growing up in its aftermath that made her a fervent believer in peace and a socialist society. Perhaps it was living in a house which included her parents’ Mardale Dance Studio which gave her such immense energy. For Shirley life was not about being a spectator, but a fully paid-up participant.

Born Shirley Norval, raised in Merchiston and a pupil at Mary Erskine’s, her dance studio home was the place to be in south Edinburgh in the 1950s.

“Things were very different back then, there were no clubs or discos for young people, so dancing was very popular,” she once recalled.

Unsurprisingly, Shirley became a good dancer – winning numerous awards with her dance partner David Campbell (now a renowned Scottish storyteller). Her parents also took in lodgers which is how she met a young man called David Gibb.

While both trained as teachers and moved to Newington, when Shirley had their first daughter Abigail in 1971 her teaching career was put on hold. Three more daughters followed – Caroline, and twins Emily and Rosalind, then there was a son, Alex. And that was before she and David adopted a teenager, Tony, who sadly died in his 20s. But, in addition to being a stay-at-home mum, Shirley took to her typewriter, carving out an on-off career as a journalist, writing feature articles for various newspapers and, much later, helping to establish the online quarterly magazine The Point (

Shirley eventually returned to teaching, giving her all to children with special needs. Her political involvement also grew and although a long-term supporter of Scottish independence, she left the SNP to join the Scottish Socialist Party, standing as a Lothians list candidate in the Scottish Parliament elections in 2003. She went on to work in the Parliament offices for the SSP MSPs, however when the party became wracked with internal division, she left and joined Solidarity. Earlier this year she left the party, keen to concentrate on the Yes campaign. Sadly in 2006 she was disgnosed with bowel cancer, and had her first of four operations, the last of which was in late 2012, and from which she never fully recovered.

Shirley is survived by her husband, David, children Abigail, Caroline, Emily, Rosalind, Alex, and grandchildren Leo, Sol, Poppy, Albie, Doris, Anthony and Louise.