GLOWING tributes to the Her Grace Duchess of Abercorn, OBE, who sadly passed away in the early hours of Monday, have been led by Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant of County Tyrone, Robert Scott OBE, who described her as "a very warm-hearted individual who will be remembered with much affection for many years".
Alexandra Hamilton, known as Sacha, Duchess of Abercorn, was 72. Born in Arizona in the US, she lived at Baronscourt near Newtownstewart. She died following an illness during the early hours of Monday at the home of her sister, Natalia Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster.
A private funeral service will take place at Baronscourt Parish Church next week with a public memorial service taking place in the Spring.
The Duchess came to live in Ireland when she married James Hamilton, then MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, in 1966. Her first child, James, Marquess of Hamilton, was born in 1969, her daughter, Lady Sophie, in 1973 and her younger son, Lord Nicholas Hamilton, in 1979. She also has six grandchildren. Her husband succeeded his father as Duke of Abercorn in 1979.
The late Duchess is descended, through her maternal line, from the Romanovs and from Natalya, the youngest daughter of Russian Alexander Pushkin.
During the mid-1970s, she trained as a professional counsellor in transpersonal and depth psychology.
Living through the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland made the Duchess increasingly aware of the trauma sustained by children in the province. She also became aware of their urgent need to express their thoughts, their feelings, their inner worlds – to find a ‘voice’ of their own, and to find means whereby that ‘voice’ could be heard. This led to the establishment of the Pushkin Prizes in 1987.
After the Omagh bomb in 1998, the Duchess became a trustee of the then Northern Ireland Centre for Trauma and Transformation as well as the patron of the Omagh Community Youth Choir, which was also founded in the aftermath of the same atrocity. Both she and the Duke offered much comfort and solace to the bereaved and injured.
The Duchess was also the House Patron of Abercorn House at Cambridge House Grammar School, Ballymena, County Antrim.
In 2003, the Duchess received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster. In the same year, she published a volume of prose poems, Feather from the Firebird. In 2006, the Ireland Fund of Monaco presented her with the Princess Grace Humanitarian Award and she was also awarded the OBE in 2008 for her services to charity.