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OBITUARY - Sir Hew Fleetwood Hamilton-Dalrymple

OBITUARY - Sir Hew Fleetwood Hamilton-Dalrymple

Laird who witnessed decline of British Empire

Lying off the coast of North Berwick is Bass Rock, an uninhabited volcanic island that was the last place in Britain to fly the Jacobite flag and is today home to a large Atlantic colony of gannets. Sometimes known as the “Scottish Alcatraz”, the rock was ideal for holding 17th-century political and religious prisoners. Mentioned in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Catriona (1893), Bass Rock was acquired by Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple’s forebears in 1706 and has remained in the family ever since, although the majority of visitors today are bird watchers. Hamilton-Dalrymple was enormously fond of the rock, often being rowed the 2km over by Fred Marr, a local boat owner who ran fishing trips and who is remembered by a plaque in North Berwick.

Hamilton-Dalrymple, a collateral descendant of John Dalrymple, the first Earl of Stair, who ordered the massacre of Glencoe in 1692 after the Jacobite uprising, was a witness to three seminal moments in the decline of the British Empire: in 1947 he was aide-de-camp to General Sir Frank Messervy, the first commander-in-chief of the Pakistan army at partition, and witnessed the raising of Pakistan’s flag; the following year he was in Palestine at the time of the British Mandate, later recalling how he found weapons belonging to Jewish terrorist groups stored inside a children’s roundabout on a kibbutz; and in 1956, as the Suez crisis erupted, he was flown to Cyprus in preparation for deployment. His military career was not all about retreats: he also shot quail with the Wali of Swat.

Sir Hew Fleetwood HamiltonDalrymple was born at North Berwick in 1926, the third of four children of Sir Hew Clifford Hamilton-Dalrymple — the 9th baronet who had worked as a forester in Canada until inheriting the family estates in 1920 — and his wife, Ann, née Thorne. A brother, John, known as Jock, was a parish priest in Edinburgh and the founder of Martin House, a refuge for homeless mothers and children. The baronetcy was created in 1697 for Hew Dalrymple, a Scottish judge and politician, and Hamilton was added to the family name by the fourth baronet in 1800.

Young Hew was educated at home until the age of nine and then sent to Ampleforth College, North Yorkshire. In 1944, having won the sword of honour at Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards. Ten years later he married Lady Anne-Louise Keppel, daughter of the 9th Earl of Albemarle, whom he met on the doorstep of a mutual god-daughter’s home; they were engaged within three weeks. The couple settled at Leuchie House, his 18th-century ancestral seat near North Berwick, but soon built a modernist house in the walled garden.

Leuchie House was leased to nuns from the Servite Order who ran it as a respite home for people with multiple sclerosis. Today it is an independent charity offering respite breaks for people with long-term conditions.

Having served as adjutant of the Grenadier Guards, been promoted to major and attended Staff College, Camberley, Hamilton-Dalrymple could have remained in the army. He had succeeded to the baronetcy in 1959, however, and had the responsibility of running the family estates.

He retired from the forces in 1962 but retained his military connection as captain-general of the Royal Company of Archers, the Queen’s bodyguard for Scotland. He was also lord-lieutenant of East Lothian, 1987-2001.

Hamilton-Dalrymple took his duties as “laird” seriously, including supporting the Catholic church in North Berwick and, with his wife, crowning more than 50 lifeboat queens for the local branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. He was also a director of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries from 1967 to 1986 and the Scottish American Investment Company from 1967 to 1993. In 1974 he was the victim of a practical joke played by Sir John Swinton (obituary, October 9, 2018), an old friend. The children’s nanny received a telephone call to the effect that Hamilton-Dalrymple was being recalled to active service because of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. As a result, his wife called him over the loudspeaker at Bristol station, he contacted Sir William Younger, who called Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the former foreign secretary, and by midday news of an impending “mobilisation” was being broken to the cabinet.

Anne-Louise died in 2017. Hamilton-Dalrymple is survived by their sons: Hew, a management consultant who becomes the 11th baronet; John, a priest; Robert, a typographer; and William, a historian and author. The drawing room of their home, was the centrepiece of family life and where Hamilton-Dalrymple enjoyed the company of his 11 grandchildren and three great grandchildren, the youngest of whom was born on the day he died.

He was a keen photographer, documenting his children’s achievements, “every race and every prize”, said William. He added that one of his father’s favourite sayings was a line from The Gospel According to Matthew: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”

Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, Bt, GCVO, land owner and lord-lieutenant of East Lothian, 1987-2001, was born on April 9, 1926. He died from heart failure on December 26, 2018, aged 92

Owner/SourceThe Times
Date5 Jan 2019
Linked toHew Fleetwood Hamilton-Dalrymple, 10th Bt.

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