In memory of Margaret Gilbert

Margaret (Riley) was born in Killamarsh in Derbyshire in a tight-knit mining community. The eldest of four children, her musical talent was clear and she left to take up a place at the Royal Academy of Music, to study piano, at the age of seventeen. She was the first member of her family to be able to go on to further education. An exceptional student, she graduated as LRAM and ARCM (Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music, and Associate of the Royal College of Music). Meanwhile, on a visit to a fellow-student's family in Ireland, she had met John Gilbert. John accepted a post in Venezuela with Shell as an accountant in the early 1950s, and on Boxing Day 1955 Margaret boarded a boat to Venezuela to sail out to marry him - which she did on 6th January 1956.  


They had a number of Shell postings in Venezuela until, on the birth of their daughter Fiona, they decided that the political situation in Venezuela (plus ça change) was not the right one in which to bring up a child, and John left Shell. The family moved briefly to Ireland and then to the UK, where they bought a house in the Cotswolds which they gradually renovated while John set up a (finally successful) business manufacturing electrified portable sheep fencing. Supporting John in his work and the family business left little chance for Margaret's own career to prosper, but she continued to play, and was always in demand for chamber music and as an accompanist, as well as for occasional solo performances. Many in Javea will be familiar with her work.


John and Margaret decided to sell their business in the mid-eighties and to move to Spain (the Hispanic connection had remained strong); their frequent visits to their friends from Venezuela, Jane and Jeffrey Matthew, already living in Javea, led them to make the decision to settle here, and, apart from a year in Sacramento in California (a three-way house swap) and many long-haul holidays,

Javea became their home for over 25 years. They enjoyed an active busy life, always participating in local festivities, and many book-club members will have visited their house, where they were charming and generous hosts.

When John passed away in 2012, Margaret continued to live in Javea, but ill health meant that she moved to live with her daughter in Avila, first sharing her home there (Fiona is married to Alonso, from Segovia, and they have two children, Cosme and Telmo, now aged 18 and 16), and finally moving into a residential care home which could provide the help and support she needed. 


Margaret was an avid reader all her life, as witness the fact that their house was overflowing with books, and she was a go-to source for reading recommendations. Indeed, she and John were active members of our Book Circle for many years always contributing to our meetings and making many friends there. Margaret was a fine cook, making all her many guests feel welcome, and enjoyed good conversation, where her keen sense of humour was evident. She never lost interest in learning, and loved biography and historical fiction. She was always a great letter-writer, and was thus able to keep in touch with friends all around the world. Margaret will be remembered as a very special person, wise, hard-working and disciplined in the way she lived her personal life and kind, generous and loyal to the people who entered it. 


She had wished, like John, to donate her body to medical science, but circumstances did not allow this, so she was cremated, and her ashes will be scattered in the Gredos Mountains, where she loved to walk. A keen birdwatcher and animal lover, any donations in her memory should be made to appropriate charities such as SEO Birdlife, or local rescue homes. 

Fiona, Margaret’s daughter, has said that she is happy for anyone to contact her by email.

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