Funeral held in Lanark for French schoolgirl spy

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The funeral has taken place of a Scottish grandmother who played a vital role as a schoolgirl resistance fighter in occupied France during World War II.

Family and friends gathered at St Nicholas Parish Church in Lanark to remember Marguerite Garden.

In 2003 she was awarded the Legion d'Honneur for her services to the French resistance.

She married a Scottish doctor and settled in Scotland after the war. She died in hospital last week, aged 84.

Born in 1926 in Plomodiern, Finistere, Ms Garden was brought up in the coastal area of Brittany as one of nine children.

During the Nazi occupation, her father, a local doctor, played a crucial role in the resistance movement and helped organise the evacuation of young French men from the region.

Young Marguerite Vourc'h, as she was then, went to school just outside Paris and helped organise escape routes for hundreds of people who faced arrest.

The schoolgirl spy used her text books to smuggle messages and documents between her home in Brittany and the capital.

Aged just 14, she was the perfect courier and also went unnoticed as she cycled the coastline checking for mines and helping to ensure Allied maps were accurate.

Speaking to BBC Scotland in 2003 she said it was hard to keep her role as a resistance fighter from her classmates.

"The most difficult thing was to be completely silent," she recalled.

"I could not let them know what I was doing. It was a matter of life or death. But there was no reason to suspect me.

"I was a young girl travelling to school and I was never arrested."

As the war progressed, she became involved in helping Allied servicemen evade capture by arranging their escape on fishing boats.

After the war she met her future husband, Dr James Garden, a Scottish orthopaedic surgeon who was visiting Paris.

She followed him to Scotland and the couple set up home in Carluke and then later Lanark.

Her husband died in 1992. She is survived by her seven children, 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Her son, Professor James Garden, said: "My mother said she was over five feet tall - we as children doubted that, but she punched well above her weight.

"She was somebody who was quite prepared to stand by he principles and I guess brought a certain colour and charm to life in Lanarkshire.

"At the funeral we are going to have family members there from France - we will be looking at the full spectrum of the family and celebrating her life and achievements.

The Reverend Alison Meikle, who conducted the funeral service, said: "Lots of people knew her in the town because of the way she championed many causes.

"She was always at remembrance services each year and she was always collecting for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

"It was an upbeat service as well as an emotional one. One of her sons spoke and one of her granddaughters sang."

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