Born: December 27, 1929;

Died: October 23, 2021.

LADY Bette Stone, who has died, aged 91, at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, was a former model, society hostess and philanthropist, and the widow of Sir Alexander Stone, the renowned banker.

When they married, on May 26, 1987, she was 58, he 80. At the wedding he joked he had been so busy he had not previously had the time to get married, and that he now would have to consider moving house to be ‘’nearer the schools’’.

Lady Bette was larger than life and very much her own woman. She was also glamorous, and with a past shrouded in a little bit of mystery.

Phyllis Bette Fenton was born in Stretford, Cheshire, in 1929. She was brought up as a Quaker and was regarded as somewhat of a rebel in her younger years. Her statuesque beauty led her to a career in modelling. She appeared in many fashion magazines, and also made regular trips to Paris on order to model for Dior.

On her marriage to her first husband, English businessman, Myer Stone (no relation), she converted to Judaism. After his death, she married a Glaswegian, Saul Harris. She arrived into the life of the late Sir Alexander Stone in the early 1980s, following the death of Harris, who had been one of his close friends.

At that time she was the embodiment of contemporary London living, with a mews cottage in Mayfair, and with Harrods as her corner shop and Richoux as her go-to tearoom.

Alex Stone was then a confirmed bachelor, self-made and committed to a succession of successful careers, first as a lawyer, then as a banker and finally as a philanthropist. Despite his subsequent claim that he had not had the time to get married, he was beguiled by her. She brought a joy to his life that had been missing.

Where many around him were slightly in awe and perhaps even sycophantic, Bette teased a lightness out of him that had before seemed dormant or obscured. She could respond to what she referred wittily as his “smart Alex” quips with forthrightness and humour.

She became his consort, muse and companion.

Upon her marriage to Sir Alexander, Bette moved to Glasgow and proceeded to transform Alex’s house in Sherbrooke Avenue, Pollokshields. No interior designers or contractors were engaged. Rather, she did it all herself. Sitting at a sewing machine working into the wee small hours, she created miles of curtains and acres of ruched cloth. She climbed up ladders to staple fabric to the walls – always, of course, immaculately dressed and coiffed.

Bette was also a hostess par excellence. She and Alex were big supporters of the Conservative Party, throwing lavish fundraising parties at their home. On one occasion she nearly caused the caterer to walk out when she would not allow him to make the desserts, insisting instead she do so herself. The puddings were wonderful.

She was a passionate animal lover. Her devotion to their dog, Arran, extended to her arranging for Alex, on his flights back from London to Glasgow, to transport suitcases full of bones from Fortnum & Mason. On one occasion, a piece of luggage got mixed up at Glasgow Airport, resulting in a big surprise for someone else.

But the quality for which she will be remembered most is her generosity. Following Sir Alexander Stone’s death in March 1998, she devoted herself to emulating his philanthropic endeavours. As a trustee of the Alexander Stone Foundation, she supported diverse charities, particularly in the field of education, including the University of Glasgow, the University of Strathclyde and Hutchesons’ Grammar School, as well as in the Jewish community. Over the years, the foundation distributed more than £2.5 million to numerous charities.

Bette’s generosity extended beyond charitable giving. She never forgot others’ birthdays. Like clockwork, friends and family would receive envelopes with cash or a bag of jewellery accompanied by an affectionate card delivered by her trusty chauffeur.

Among the tributes paid to her after her death was one from the artist John McKerrell, who wrote: “Bette and Sir Alexander awarded me the Alexander Stone Award 1988 at the Royal Glasgow Institute of The Fine Arts for a painting called Mist Troon Harbour. This encouragement was life-changing. Thank you Bette”.

Another, from Isobel Dawson, said Lady Bette was admired and remembered with affection and thankfulness by Mearns Kirk Helping Hands, having shown a great interest in, and support for its lunch and social club for people with dementia.

Forthright in her views, Bette, who had no children, was never shy of telling people what she thought. Pulling no punches, she expressed her views in her no-nonsense Northern accent, generally preceded by a “Darling” to soften the blow.

She was simultaneously a socialite and a recluse, one moment surrounded by her wide social circle, the next being happily cosseted at home with her beloved Burmese cats.

Philip Rodney