Obituary: Lady Margaret Morris of Balgonie and Eddergoll

Born: 10 February, 1938. Died: 1 August, 2014, aged 76

Lady Margaret Morris of Balgonie: Pillar of the community with a passion for theatre, baking and restoration

Margaret Newton Stuart was born in Crombie, Fife, the only child of James CB Stuart and his wife Mary, née Couper. Shortly afterwards the family moved to Langlees, a smallholding just outside Dunfermline. One of her earliest memories was of a German plane flying over the village, firing on the school, before being shot down. She said it was so low that she could remember seeing the pilot.

Margaret attended Milesmark Primary School and then Queen Anne High School. Holidays were often spent with Belford relatives in Kirriemuir, and through them she was related to Bon Scott of the band AC/DC fame. After the war, her family moved to Crossford where her mother ran a grocery shop. Margaret was one of the participants at the first ever Crossford Children’s Gala and, decades later, she was delighted to attend the 50th Crossford Children’s Gala. It was also in Crossford that she joined the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes (SWRI), an organisation that she would be a member of for 60 years. A great one for family, she was proud that her grandfather, who had served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War, was one of the models for the Royal Artillery plaque in the National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle.

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As a girl Margaret went to dance classes which began a lifelong passion for the theatre. She qualified to teach Scottish country dancing and was a member of Dunfermline Light Opera. In later life she delighted visitors by telling them that she had sung and danced at Carnegie Hall, mischievously failing to point out that is was the one in Dunfermline, not New York. She loved going to see amateur and professional performances with equal delight, particularly her annual trip to the Pitlochry Theatre.

After school, Margaret attended the Lawers Agricultural School, outside Comrie, and then went on to the East of Scotland College of Agriculture, part of Edinburgh University, to study horticulture. It was here she was to meet her future husband, Raymond Morris, who was studying agriculture, sometimes attending the same classes. Margaret went on to work in the local nursery as a rose grower before moving on to Pitencrieff Park in Dunfermline, known locally as “the glen”.

Margaret and Raymond were married at St Andrews Church, Dunfermline in 1961. They caused a stir in the town by walking up the High Street to their reception – making the local newspaper.

Married life began at the Monument, outside Monikie in Angus. From there they moved to Acharn on the south shore of Loch Tay. In 1965 their son, Stuart, was born, with Raymond helping with the delivery due to the doctor being late.

They both threw themselves in to local community life by getting involved in lots of different areas and helping many people. Margaret later went on to become the President of the Kenmore and District SWRI and in 1976-77 was a member of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Committee for Perthshire.

In 1968 they bought the derelict 15th century mill in the village and carried out an extensive restoration to turn it in to a very comfortable home with a craft shop in the old kiln. Margaret helped to mix hundreds of tonnes of concrete to form the ground floor, which was used as a workshop.

The fuel shortage in the early 1970s and the three-day working week made it difficult for local people to travel all the way to Aberfeldy to get their hair cut. The Morrises arranged for the hairdresser to come to the mill; men and boys had their’s cut in the workshop, whilst the ladies had their hair done in the more comfortable livingroom.

This was so popular that it carried on until the Morris family left Loch Tay in 1977. They had also transformed half an acre of ground that had been used as a rubbish dump, in to a garden which was open to the public for charity. An old garden shed was transformed in to an aviary for budgerigars, the offspring of which could be found in almost every house in the village.

In 1977 the Morris family moved to Cupar in Margaret’s native kingdom of Fife, where they gradually restored a Georgian merchant’s townhouse. The outbuilding of this was probably the oldest domestic building in the burgh, being the medieval merchant’s house. This building was restored and used as a workshop and craftshop. As there was no SWRI in the burgh, Margaret joined the branch at Dairsie.

Whilst in Cupar, she developed her craft work, particularly her metal thread embroidery and tapestry weaving. She was invited to join the Edinburgh Guild of Weavers and exhibited nationally. She held several one woman exhibitions, notably the one in the Town House at Culross. She also lectured in tapestry weaving at Elmwood College.

The family’s final move was in 1985 when they relocated to Balgonie Castle in central Fife. Thus began the very slow restoration of this very important piece of Scotland’s architectural heritage. At the same time Margaret carried on her life with the SWRI by becoming the President of the Milton of Balgonie branch and then joining Coaltown of Balgonie.

In 1989 the castle’s chapel was finally restored and the very first wedding took place on 12 August – the “Glorious Twelfth”. She loved to see all the people enjoying themselves at Balgonie and she had her favourite corner where she would watch each wedding and chat to friends and strangers alike. It was poignant that her funeral took place there on the 25th anniversary of the first wedding at Balgonie.

The most frequently used words at her funeral were hospitality and baking. Margaret was a fantastic cook and baker – her cakes were renowned. One friend, who was on his way from South Africa to a conference in Finland, visited whilst doing some family research. He was particularly taken with her chocolate cake. A week later he made a surprise visit on his way back to South Africa, and asked if there was any chocolate cake. An hour or so later he had a chocolate cake in front of him, albeit a rather warm one.

Margaret was renowned for throwing a few ingredients in a bowl and producing a cake, and at the drop of a hat she could provide a three course meal. She was also renowned for her tablet, having won the British Sugar Council’s Silver Spoon award for her tablet twice.

It is also 25 years since the family started to host their monthly chapel service, a friendly songs of praise style meeting. Margaret’s baking was always to the fore and people often jested that they only came for the baking.

Margaret was always the backbone of the family, quiet, dignified and helpful. She was proud of her family and was delighted to finally be able to stand in front of the memorial to the victims of the Tay Rail Bridge disaster – the memorial was the brainchild of her son Stuart – and be able to point out her great, great, grandmother, Elizabeth Mann, the disaster’s oldest victim, and Elizabeth’s granddaughter Elizabeth “Lizzie” Brown.

Margaret died at Balgonie Castle on 1 August following a short illness.

She leaves her husband Raymond, son Stuart, daughter-in-law Kelly, step-grand children Robbie, Katy, Jennifer, Chandra and Derrik Logan, Lexie, Anthony, Jace, Olivia, Rowan.