Obituary – Sarah Hol­man

The Oban Times - - Births, Marriages & Deaths - Iain Thorn­ber

SARAH HOL­MAN, who has died aged 65, stood out among a dwin­dling num­ber of High­land landown­ers who hold the view that own­ing an es­tate comes with a duty and re­spon­si­bil­ity to the land and the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

She took an ac­tive part in the life of the vil­lages of Ilm­ing­ton in War­wick­shire and Achar­a­cle, Ar­gyll, where the fam­ily trust made land avail­able for a new pri­mary school, a com­mem­o­ra­tive wood­land-walk and an ex­ten­sion to the grave­yard.

Her great love was stalk­ing on the fam­ily’s Shiel­bridge es­tate, near Achar­a­cle. There was noth­ing she liked bet­ter af­ter a morn­ing swim in the icy At­lantic wa­ters than set­ting out for the high tops, of­ten not re­turn­ing un­til late evening.

Where deer were con­cerned, she was a tra­di­tion­al­ist and up­held all that was best and grand about stalk­ing. Not for her a short walk, an easy beast in the early morn­ing mist or loos­en­ing off a few rounds from an all-terrain ve­hi­cle. She was an ac­com­plished stalker and got in­volved in all as­pects of the day, in­clud­ing the gral­loching, which she once per­formed wear­ing a pair of Marigolds. She treated the deer with dig­nity and re­spect.

Noth­ing an­noyed her more than be­ing told by Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage that a larger cull was needed to make way for yet more trees, even although their num­bers had al­ready been re­duced to an all-time low. She hated the com­mer­cial as­pect of stalk­ing and of deer be­ing treated as pound notes in fur coats. Th­ese were views she made widely known as chair­per­son of the Ard­na­mur­chan Deer Man­age­ment Group and on the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Deer Man­age­ment Groups.

The el­dest of four daugh­ters of Christo­pher Boot Hol­man and his wife Winifred, nee Pon­sonby, Sarah Char­lotte Hol­man was born in Lon­don on July 9, 1951.

Her great-grand­fa­ther was Jesse Boot, the first Lord Trent and founder of Boots the Chemists. In 1930, he had pur­chased the 50,000-acre Ard­na­mur­chan Es­tate from the fa­ther of the art his­to­rian Kenneth Clark. The es­tate com­prised a 70- stag deer for­est and the south bank of the River Shiel, fa­mous for its early run of sea trout and heavy salmon.

She was adored by her sis­ters, neph­ews, nieces and god­chil­dren and wel­comed them to the Old Manse at Achar­a­cle each year. They, in turn, loved her, rel­ish­ing her ec­cen­tric­ity and her at­ti­tude that when things went wrong it didn’t re­ally mat­ter as it was bor­ing to have a day with­out a drama - even when she al­most lost some of them at sea.

Fam­ily gath­er­ings were al­ways, ‘Have you heard about aun­tie? She’s been ar­rested, left Spor­ran (her old Nor­wich ter­rier) at the ferry and got 10 points on her driv­ing li­cence in one jour­ney.’

She de­vel­oped di­a­betes when she was five, but never made a fuss, al­ways telling her fam­ily that she was as fit as a fid­dle, had her di­a­betes un­der con­trol and that her doc­tor had rec­om­mended a bot­tle of red wine a day. A pre­scrip­tion she ad­hered to un­til this year when she an­nounced that she was giv­ing wine up for Lent, though when asked how she would man­age she replied: ‘I’m drink­ing whisky, in­stead.’

De­spair­ing of her ever get­ting mar­ried, her fa­ther asked her to take over the run­ning of the Shiel­bridge es­tate when she was 35. Mov­ing to the Old Manse at Achar­a­cle, she pro­vided gen­er­ous en­ter­tain­ment where du­bi­ous starters of salmon mousse and mushroom and mack­erel pate were washed down with lash­ings of fine red wine. She was a Deputy Lieu­tenant of War­wick­shire and High Sher­iff, as her fa­ther and sev­eral an­ces­tors had been be­fore her. She was al­ways or­gan­is­ing shows and events to raise money for her many char­i­ties. When her bank man­ager asked her what her job was she replied: ‘Com­pul­sive fundraiser.’

For the past 20 years she ran the Chel­tenham Coun­try­side Race Day, rais­ing funds for the Coun­try­side Al­liance and other ru­ral char­i­ties. She raised more than £ 2 mil­lion and brought the at­ten­dance num­bers up from 6,000 when it started to 20,000.

When the com­mit­tee tried to re­tire her, giv­ing her a huge farewell lunch, she took ab­so­lutely no no­tice and car­ried on the next year rais­ing a record amount.

Sarah Hol­man had no airs and graces.

At a very smart char­ity lunch in Glouces­ter­shire last year, where ev­ery­one was vy­ing to im­press ev­ery­one else with their guest list, she in­vited Steve her chippy, her gar­dener, her plumber, Barry her lo­cal taxi man, and her friend the rat catcher and had the most fun of all the ta­bles there.

A woman of forth­right views, de­scribed by a friend as ‘ 95 per cent won­der­ful and five per cent mad­den­ing’, Sarah Hol­man lost her keys, wal­let and tele­phone on a monthly ba­sis and was obliv­i­ous to any rules that didn’t suit her.

On one oc­ca­sion, rush­ing back to her home in War­wick­shire at high speed late at night, she was pulled over by the po­lice. She ex­plained that she had been play­ing the part of a tart in the vil­lage play and when she saw the lights of a car be­hind ap­par­ently giv­ing chase, she was ter­ri­fied that she was be­ing pur­sued by two men in the au­di­ence who had been eye­ing her up. The po­lice­men were so im­pressed by her de­fence that they sent her on her way.

On an­other oc­ca­sion, ar­riv­ing at the air­port checkin desk and find­ing her­self barred from her hol­i­day flight since she had an out- of- date pass­port, she de­manded to speak to the pi­lot.

Sarah Hol­man was un­mar­ried, ex­plain­ing that she had two lovely pro­pos­als when she was younger, but had turned them down, as ‘things were great as they were’.

She is sur­vived by Cor­rie her beloved Nor­wich ter­rier.

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