Readers of The Scottish Farmer throughout the world will learn with profound regret that “Margaret” (formerly “Gretchen”), the writer of our “Household” column, has passed away.
Miss Shanks had been confined to a nursing establishment since October last. She underwent a serious operation, but recovery appeared to be slow. A few weeks ago, she resumed the work in which she delighted, the articles from her pen showing intellectual power undiminished.
It appears, however, that in the course of doing that work, she had contracted a chill and, in a postcard received from her no later than Friday, 27th ult., she spoke of retarded recovery. She passed away, if not suddenly, rather unexpectedly at 4.15 on Sabbath morning. She was 62 years of age.
Her funeral took place from Gosforth (Cumberland) to Egremont Cemetery on Wednesday. On account of engagements during the current week, the Editor was personally unable to attend, but the staff of this paper was represented by Miss F.A. MacNeilage. A common sentiment of profound sorrow pervades our office.
“Margaret was the daughter of James and Margaret Shanks, of Woodend, Bigrigg, Cumberland. Her father was a member of the well-known family of engineers in Barrhead and he followed the same profession. Her mother was a native of Kilmaurs Parish, Ayrshire, and much of the girlhood of “Margaret” was spent in the western shire, where she had many relatives.
It was through her brother “Robertus” who first began to send communications that we became acquainted with Miss Shanks. From that time forwards , with seldom a week’s intermission until her illness began in October last, “Margaret” addressed her weekly message to an ever-widening circle of readers. We gladly acknowledge that her contributions in no small degree were responsible for the ever increasing circulation of this journal.
We understand Miss Shanks was one of the most brilliant female students of her time. Her enfeebled health was in measure due to a nervous breakdown on the eve of graduation. It is unnecessary to tell our readers how facile was her pen, how sound her judgement, how encyclopaedic her knowledge and how exalted were her ideals.
Her moral and intellectual equipment was an enviable blend of that which is best in the traditional culture of Scotland, with the polish and refinement which come from fellowship with the masterpieces of English literature. Her thinking was accurate and her powers of mental analysis curiously acute.
Household details became beatified as they passed through the crucible of her mind. Everything about which she wrote acquired a fresh attractiveness and she excelled in reading and reproducing the mentality of the child.
Margaret had quite unusual powers as a lecturer. Twice she delivered addressses to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Agricultural Discussion Society. On both occasions she had bumper audiences. She early identified herself with the Women’s Rural Institute movement and frequently addressed institute meetings.
During the war she broke up her little home and took up duty in connection with the efforts of women to do the actual work of the farm. As has been the case with many others who excel and have excelled in literature, it cannot be claimed that Miss Shanks was equally supreme in organisation.
But,taken all in all, she served her generation more than well. She lived a life of gracious activity, toiling incessantly for the public weal and she has passed hence accompanied by the grief and regret of her bereaved relatives and a wide circle of sorrowing friends. This office mourns.