Obit­u­ary: Lil­ian Dent MBE

The Galloway News - - DISTRICT NEWS -

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

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