Obituary: Lilian Dent MBE
Lilian Dent MBE had a great love of Galloway and was a significant figure, much loved in her turn, in the small burgh of Gatehouse of Fleet and in the lives of her many close friends.
She was born on the December 4, 1928 at Calow, near Chesterfield in Derbyshire, and throughout her life maintained strong connections with the area.
Her father John died tragically in an industrial accident when she was very young and her mother Nellie was profoundly deaf. In 1946, Lilian went to teachers’training college in Lincoln from which she graduated in 1948, initially teaching in primary schools in Chesterfield.
She married James (Jimmy) Dent, then a senior agricultural officer in the Colonial service, in 1958. After they had married, Jimmy took her to Sierra Leone inWest Africa.
Her time there was clearly one of the major influences of her life – she taught initially at the hill station where Jimmy was based, and latterly at the International School in Freetown – and she became outspoken in her support for African and other third world causes.
When Jimmy, by then director of agriculture in Sierra Leone, retired from the colonial service in 1962, the year after Sierra Leone became independent, they set up home in Galloway. Lilian came to love Gatehouse and its people and on her letters, her address was always just one word –“paradise”.
Lilian soon became a central figure there. She ran the gift shop for many years, with flair and imagination, and she was a leading figure in the project to restore the Mill on the Fleet which helped cement Gatehouse’s place as a key holiday destination in Galloway.
She was a founding member of the Drystane Dyking Association and, with Jimmy, was a formidable rally driver on the quiet 1960s roads of Galloway.
Lilian was also for many years the local lead organiser of theWRVS in Galloway. In December 1988, when the Lockerbie disaster took place, Lilian immediately gathered a team from theWRVS who played a massively important role in feeding and supporting the hundreds of police and young soldiers carrying out the grim role of clearing up.
It was clearly a traumatic time and for her contribution she was awarded an MBE. Lilian accepted it only on the understanding that it should be seen as recognition for the work done by all theWRVS volunteers.
Lilian was a regular and intrepid traveller. She went to China in the 1970s before few people had any thought of visiting there. She also went to Albania before the end of communist dictatorship and to many other places around the world.
Everywhere she went she made friends irrespective of the political circumstances. She once said that she wanted to write a travel book, but this was not going to be an ordinary travel book.
She said someone needed to write about how the different peoples of the world were addressing their same basic impulses – their search for shelter, food and companionship. Sadly, that book remains to be written.
Lilian and Jimmy were never able to have children of their own but she more than made up for that in the lives of many young people to whom she brought her energy, enthusiasm and open, outward looking approach to life.
She believed that trying was as important as success and that even failures were sometimes something to be proud of. She maintained her positive view of life, regularly stating that she saw stars in puddles, until almost the very end of her own life.
Lilian died at Merse House, Kirkcudbright on April 28, 2018. She will be very fondly remembered by many.
Beautiful The garden at Glenlivet