Tribute to former Winter Gardens musical director ‘The Music Man’ Gil Martin

Gil Martin - 'The Music Man'

A celebration of the life of musician and for Winter Gardens musical director Gilbert Alexander Martin will be held at the Walpole Bay Hotel.

Gil peacefully passed away in his sleep at the age of 92 in Sandwich Bay Ward at the QEQM Hospital Margate on Wednesday 29th May.

The family would like to thank all the staff who made his last days comfortable.

Gil is survived by his wife Yvonne, his ex-wife Freda (aged 96) and leaves behind two daughters, Gillian and Susan, three grandchildren, Emily, Daniel and Robert, and two doting great grandsons, Justin and Joel.

Gil was born on September 10, 1931 and brought up in Glasgow and, after a brief stint in the National Service, studied at the Royal Academy of Music in Glasgow where he achieved a music degree which was to set him up for his musical career throughout his life. He was a lifelong member and supporter of the Musician’s Union and fought to keep music live!

Gil married Freda in 1957 and they lived in Bushey Heath Hertfordshire where he played at a variety of London venues, including The Savoy Hotel. They moved to Thanet in 1963 when Gil became the Musical Director of the Winter Gardens Margate for 25 years.

He worked with many famous stars of the day such as Bruce Forsyth, Mike Yarwood, Morecombe and Wise, Roy Hudd, Ronnie Corbett, Val Doonican, Lonnie Donegan and Danny La Rue to name but a few. One of Gil’s claims to fame was that he was said to have signed up The Beatles to play at the Winter Gardens in 1963 before they became world famous!

Courtesy MWG

“Gil Martin and his Music” regularly entertained audiences during the 60s, 70s and 80s at the Queens Hall and the opening number for the popular Club Night performances was an original composition written by Gil himself.

The Gil Martin Trio/Quartet regularly performed at the national talent contests, accompanying a variety of performers and acts for adults and children to compete in.

The Gil Martin Quartet

Gil was renowned locally as a very accomplished musician, often playing the piano at many Thanet hotels such as the Ivyside, Walpole Bay, Castle Keep, Glenwood Hotel as well as venues like the Dreamland Ballroom, Broadstairs Pavilion and those further afield like the Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall and Grove Ferry.

Even in his last days in hospital, Gil was recognised by staff and patients, which greatly amused him and made his family feel proud.

During the 1960s and 70s, Gil was the secretary of the Westgate and Birchington Rotary Club and championed six years of fundraising which led to the building and opening of the Westgate Community Centre in 1975.

He was also a school governor at St. Crispin’s School in Westgate for many years as he always supported the education system and even played at annual Arts Weeks organised by his daughter Gillian when she was a teacher at Dame Janet Infants School in Ramsgate.

Gil’s 90th birthday

Being a true Scotsman, Gil was always available to lead the celebrations for Burns Night Events and Hogmanay. Although he officially retired from performing at the age of 65, he continued to play the piano into his 90s for private functions and charity events such as the 60th D Day celebrations at the Royal British Legion Maurice House and for family occasions, much to the delight of his family.

Gil is a legend in their eyes and will always be fondly remembered as “The Music Man” who played the Grand Piano.

There will not be a funeral as Gil chose to donate his body to medical research.

However, the family will be celebrating his life at an afternoon tea with piano accompaniment at the Walpole Bay Hotel, Cliftonville as a tribute to a very musical life.

If anyone who knew Gil would like to join the family, please contact Gillian 07543 942 245 for further details.

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