Born: February 19, 1953

Died: February 2, 2021.


DAVID Houldsworth was ten years old when the two most important men in his life – his father, Ian, and his grandfather, Brigadier Sir Henry – died within three months of each other. His father’s death stemmed from a wound he had suffered during the Second World War,

Their passing meant that, at a tender age, David became heir to the Dallas estate, the family estate in Morayshire.

The Dallas moorland and farm holdings had been in the Houldsworth family since 1907. David’s widowed mother, Clodagh, moved with her five children, of whom David was the eldest, into Dallas Lodge, a beautiful house dating back to the late 17th century, with an idyllic garden. The lodge was made into a much-loved family home.

David himself would in time become a respected lawyer, combining a career as a solicitor in Edinburgh with the custody and management of the estate, which fostered in him a charming and touching sense of responsibility that he never quite lost.

He also gave his time freely to conservation and community causes.

David Henry Houldsworth was born in February 19, 1953, into a family that is said to be able to trace its descent from King Charles II and Nell Gwynn, via their son, the Duke of St Albans.

David was educated at Belhaven School in East Lothian, and then at Eton College. After studying Scots Law at Edinburgh University he joined the prominent Edinburgh law firm, Brodies, where, in 1979, he qualified as a Writer to the Signet, or W.S.

He became the partner in charge of the Estates and Agricultural section of their Private Client Department. His work covered many large estates throughout Scotland and he was much respected by his clients who appreciated his integrity and wisdom and first-hand experience of many of the issues they themselves faced.

He enjoyed the outdoors, and was a natural countryman. He developed a keen interest in the estate, its moorland, hill farms, woodland and wildlife.

Under the careful eye of the legendary head keeper, Angus Mackinnon, he became a skilled shot and he also learned to cast a good line on the Spey at neighbouring Knockando.

But it was the Dallas garden, with its attractive loch and large variety of trees and shrubs, which gave him the greatest pleasure. He developed a considerable knowledge of trees, introducing many new species which he planted himself. Latterly, he derived great satisfaction from rebuilding the dry stone walls.

He always felt a very keen sense of responsibility towards the local community. Over time, this expanded to encompass several other Scottish estates of which he was asked to be trustee.

His passionate interest in wildlife and conservation led to appointments as director of The Cairngorm Mountain Trust and trustee of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, the Findhorn and Lossie Rivers Trust and the recently reclaimed Japanese Gardens at Cowden, near Dollar.

He guided each of these with his customary light touch and easy sense of humour.

Sarah Stewart, Chairwoman of the Japanese Garden, said: “The best decision I ever made was to ask David to be a trustee. His ability to slice through potential obstacles with undimmed positivity ensured the project never faltered.

“ He was a brilliant communicator and his initiatives were enthusiastically adhered to without the team realising that their workload had increased.

“Passionate about gardens, he recognised the joy they can offer all ages. He even supported reinstating the arched and zigzag bridges – a health and safety nightmare to a lawyer by trade”.

The Rivers Trust said: “His knowledge and understanding of rivers, and everybody and everything to do with fish and fishing was unsurpassed”.

David’s interest in younger people resulted in an invitation to join The Prince Philip Gordonstoun Foundation, which raises and manages funds to be applied as bursaries, enabling the school to attract pupils with a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities.

He was chairman of the Gordonstoun Foundation from 2010 to 2020, chairman of the New Club in Edinburgh between 2012 and 2014, and from 1983 he served as a member of The Queen’s Body Guard for Scotland, the Royal Company of Archers.

Richard Devey, Head of Senior School at Gordonstoun, said David’s sterling work at the foundation, enabled many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to have access to a top-class education which had a transformational effect on their lives.

“He loved nothing more than knowing that, through his work with the Foundation, he had opened doors to young people that might otherwise have been closed, and there are many young people from across the UK and Europe that have really benefitted from his work with Gordonstoun”.

David Houldsworth died from a rare and aggressive thyroid cancer after an eight-month-long battle, bravely fought. He never complained and was determined to the end.

He is survived by Poppy, their daughter Romilly, and his sister Joanna Clodagh Houldsworth, who is the dowager marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair.