Lord Hugh Douglas-Hamilton

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LORD Hugh Douglas-Hamilton, brother of Scotland's premier peer, the Duke of Hamilton and of Scottish Office Minister Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, died early yesterday [21 June 1995] from a suspected heart attack.

His wife, Sheilagh, was present when he collapsed after getting up around 3am to go to the bathroom.

An ambulance crew and a local doctor were called to their home at Begbie Farmhouse, Haddington, East Lothian, but efforts to revive him failed.

The death of Lord Hugh, 48, is the latest in a series of misfortunes which have dogged the descendants of the 14th Duke of Hamilton and Brandon (family motto: Never Behind).

Three of the 14th duke's five sons, Hugh, Patrick, and Angus, who succeeded to the title as 15th duke in 1973, have had much publicised drink-driving convictions in recent years, when courts have also been told of a series of family break-ups.

The youngest is David. James is the best known, as the Minister. Last year, he renounced his claim to the title of Earl of Selkirk to remain as MP for Edinburgh West but he is currently involved on behalf of his son in a tussle with his cousin, Alasdair Douglas-Hamilton, over the inheritance.

Lord Hugh had suffered from a depressive illness for many years and, in February 1993, was fined £400 and banned for 18 months for driving with more than twice the legal limit of alcohol. He had been on his way to Herdmanflatt Hospital for urgent treatment.

His personal life was at times headline grabbing. In 1971, he shocked his Presbyterian family by converting to Roman Catholicism in order to marry his first wife, June, a barmaid.

That marriage over, in 1990 he announced his intention to marry an Anglican divorcee, Ms Heather Smith, then 37. At the last minute, the wedding was called off because of ''technical religious difficulties''.  Ms Smith said Lord Hugh had been unable to get a dispensation from the Roman Catholic Church; Lord Hugh later said he had been jilted.

Two years later, he announced plans to wed an Edinburgh journalist, Ms Penny Haywood, then 45, after meeting her at a party. Again, that marriage was called off.

Finally, in May last year, he married in secret Sheilagh Ellis, a Presbyterian, in the crypt of Westminster Cathedral in front of four guests. Lady Sheilagh, a textile sales representative, was back at work two days later.

Lord Hugh demonstrated a willing capacity to help others. For some time, he cut an unlikely figure as the only Etonian aristocrat among the volunteers serving up at an Edinburgh soup kitchen for homeless people.

In 1993, he took over as honorary secretary for the Jericho House appeal for day-care facilities for the homeless. It is now within a whisker of reaching its #100,000 target.

Last night, the project administrator, Mr Alan McHattie, said: ''He did a lot of good work for us and only a few days ago was sending out letters on behalf of the appeal.''

In another incident, Lord Hugh caught a thief and made a citizen's arrest while a psychiatric patient in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. The thief, Alexander McKillop, had been befriended by Lord Hugh in hospital after he had asked the aristocrat for a couple of fivers.

In the early 1980s, Lord Hugh took great interest in Tory Island off
the Donegal coast and by organising exhibitions of the Tory Island School of Painters in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland was instrumental in saving the island from evacuation.

Lord Hugh came from one of Scotland's illustrious families. The Douglas-Hamiltons have held their title since 1643 and maintain links with the royal family. Lord Hugh's brother, Lord Patrick, holds the title of Hereditary Keeper of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's residence in Scotland.

The family were immortalised in history books after one of the more bizarre incidents of the Second World War, when Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess, parachuted into a field close to the estate of the Douglas-Hamiltons estate in East Lothian.

Hess was on a mission to meet Lord James's father, himself a distinguished pilot, in the mistaken belief that, with his help, a peace settlement between the Allies and Germany could be negotiated.  Thirty years after the event, Lord James described the ill-fated flight in a book, Motive for a Mission: The Story Behind Hess's Flight to Britain.

Paying tribute to his younger brother, Lord James said yesterday:

''Hugh had a great appreciation and love of all things to do with Scotland. He was a larger-than-life figure and will be greatly missed by his family and friends.''

Lord Hugh is survived by his son Brendan and daughter Kitty from his first marriage to June Curtis in 1971.

Lord Hugh Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton
               Born 22 August 1946 North Berwick
               Died 21 June 1995
               Married (1) 1971 Annulled 1991  June Mary Curtis
               Married (2) 1994  Sheilagh Ellis




Sources for this article include:
  • The Glasgow Herald

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