Scottish aristocrat and cousin of The Queen

Born: May 2, 1930;

Died: November 1, 2017

DAVINA Dalrymple, Countess of Stair, who has died aged 87, was the daughter of Sir David Bowes-Lyon, brother of the late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, and therefore a first cousin of The Queen.

In 1960 when the future Lady Stair married John Aymer Dalrymple, 13th Earl of Stair and head of the Dalrymple family, both The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret were in the congregation, and Lady Stair remained on excellent terms with various generations of the family. She was devoted to her aunt, the Queen Mother, remarking after her death in 2002: “She had a great way with people.”

In 2002 Lady Stair and other members of the Bowes-Lyon family attended the funeral of The Queen Mother in Westminster Abbey.

Davina Katherine Bowes-Lyon as a ten-year-old was posted with her brother Simon to Virginia in America where she was educated. Her father was seconded to serve with the secret Department of Political Warfare in Washington.

After their marriage the couple lived in the family estate at Lochinch Castle near Stranraer. Lord Stair was the Lord Lieutenant of Wigtownshire and his wife fulfilled her duties with enthusiasm and in a gracious style.

Throughout her many years in Wigtownshire Lady Stair was much involved in community affairs, serving as a county councillor from 1960-75 and as a district councillor from 1975-96. Her dedication and commitment to rural affairs was total. Amongst other community appointments Lady Stair acted as Vice Lord Lieutenant.

The grounds of Castle Kennedy and the adjoining Lochinch Castle, east of Stranraer, are famous for rhododendrons, magnolias and azaleas and has been described as one of the showpieces of Galloway. The gardens are situated on an isthmus between two natural lochs - the Black and the White - and provide a superb vista of the surrounding landscape.

The Stair family have been associated with the area since 1677. Lady Stair worked throughout her time as chatelaine to make the gardens horticulturally important, supervising the planting of many rare shrubs and trees. Since she came to Lochinch she has been part of the ‘Gardening Team’ and remained much involved in the day-to-day running of the estate.

Lady Stair created a new private garden which opens by arrangement to visitors in the summer months. "I have lived in this lovely place for nearly 55 years,” she once commented. “It has been very rewarding reviving several areas of the Castle Kennedy Gardens which had become overgrown. I loved the challenge to develop the walled garden.”

Lady Stair created the magnificent walled garden, which had previously been the kitchen garden, with a dedicated zeal. It now complements the entire gardens and greatly enhances the general appearance of the grounds. The long panoramic views, the avenues of ancient trees and colourful terraces all fit naturally into the glorious Wigtownshire countryside. The setting and gardens reflect the more naturalistic landscape style which was made famous by the English landscape architect Capability Brown.

Another significant achievement was the Garden Centre at Castle Kennedy. Lady Stair not only introduced rare plants but ensured all the pot plants were of the highest quality – many from cuttings she herself had propagated.

The work Lady Stair has done over many years was recognised in 1985 when Lochinch was designated Heritage Status in recognition of its outstanding scenic, scientific, historic and architectural values.

She was a keen horse woman with an interest in hunting. Lady Stair was master of the Wigtownshire Hunt in 1973 and a member of the Master of Fox Hound Association until 1991.

Another passion was carriage driving and Lady Stair had been a member of the Wigtownshire Driving Club since 1989. Sue Munroe, its secretary commented, “She went to the South West Scotland Driving Trials often because she liked to compete at speed and at that time we were a non-competitive group. She also did the long distance driving.”

Lady Beverley Vaux confirms Lady Stair was an enthusiastic and first-class carriage rider. She told The Herald, “Davina was a very passionate horse lady. We schooled a pony for her called Sparky - she was Sparky by name and sparky by nature - and not at all easy to handle. Davina coped magnificently with her and often drove him at events. She was endlessly patient with Sparky and rarely had an accident.

“I did a lot of driving with Davina and she was always competitive, courageous, tremendous company and thoroughly charming.”

Her husband, the 13th Earl, died in 1996. She is survived by her three sons, the eldest, Jamie, is the 14th Earl of Stair.