THE parents of one's closest friends often become like surrogate parents or, as we used to say at one time, aunts and uncles. Their death can cause as great a loss as any member of your own family. Last Friday Gilbert Marshall, Barbra Marshall's father, died in Son Dureta hospital after a two months' struggle which had not originally given any indication of the sad end. Most of Barbra's countless friends on the island via her job at the Academy and her theatrical activities knew Gil and he was much loved.
But during his 81 years of active life he gained the love and admiration of many people in his own right yet not all knew of his bravery.
Gil was born in Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1921, the son of a doctor who was a Lieutenant Colonel and had participated in both world wars.
At school he was always a leader in sports activities and was certainly not handicapped by the loss of four fingers on his left hand, the result of his own imprudence with an industrial bread slicer at the tender age of five. Ten years of his youth were spent in New Zealand where his father had become the medical officer for mental health. Gil attended the Wanganui Collegiate, later to be graced by the presence of Prince Edward as a junior house master, where he became an outstanding sportsman. Once more in Northern Ireland and at the start of the war, when he was 17 he tried to enlist in the air force lying about his age but was refused because of his hand. His father marched him down to the army recruitment centre insisting that he was declared A1 and so he became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Irish Fusiliers. He went on to become a paratrooper and was a major by the time he was 21 in the Special Forces attached to the Baluchi Regiment in the North West Frontier. These soldiers were trained specially to mingle unobserved with native Indians and Gil learnt to speak and write Urdu and gained a lot of respect from the different tribes. However he was a very modest person and never glorified his own wartime exploits.
He met his wife Jane in India during the war where she was a nurse and they were eventually married in Rawalpindi in 1946.
By the time he had spent five war years in India he had fallen in love with the country and so when a job opportunity to work in tea came up, he grabbed it with both hands. He spent a further 20 years there as a tea planter and was respected by all his workers as he was, according to Barbra “the most unbigoted and non racist person one could imagine.” On retiring from the Assam Tea plantations, he and Jane settled for a few years in Scotland but eventually moved to Sant Agustin on Majorca in 1988.
He ably looked after his wife in her last years of illness and had been planning to revisit India with Barbra, a dream which unfortunately will not be realised. Instead his gentle, friendly memory will remain with all those who have had the privilege of knowing him.


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