Yorkshire Olympian Keith Schellenberg who once owned his own remote Scottish island has died aged 91

An eccentric sportsman from Richmond who became the controversial laird of an island in the Inner Hebrides has passed away.

Keith Schellenberg
Keith Schellenberg

Keith Schellenberg had four wives and represented Great Britain at the Winter Olympics during his colourful life.

This is why Hudswell has been named the best village in YorkshireThe son of a wealthy Middlesbrough industrialist, he died at his home in Richmond on October 28, aged 91. He had stood for election as the town's Liberal candidate in 1964.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He owned Teesside cattle company Cleveland and Highland Holdings, and captained Yorkshire at rugby.

At the 1956 Winter Olympics, he captained the GB bobsleigh team and also competed in the luge. His other sporting interests included motorsport and powerboat racing.

In 1975, he purchased a small island in the Inner Hebrides called Eigg, which had just 39 occupants. Previous lairds of the island had evicted villagers to make way for sheep farming, but Schellenberg pledged to conserve the natural environment and restore Eigg's heritage.

Bid to save hidden Whitby chapel with its own secret cellarHowever, Schellenberg's arrival proved controversial - during the 1990s, a fire in a shed on the pier destroyed his classic 1920s Rolls-Royce and arson was suspected. Islanders claimed that he had closed the community hall and restricted leases, although he retorted by saying the closure of the facility was only during the evening and that only one lease had been terminated. He had done good things for the island, ending commercial shooting (he was a vegetarian), renovating buildings as holiday cottages, opening nature reserves and introducing new boat services which brought tourists to Eigg.

However, tourism later declined and relations with residents did not recover, leading him to sell up in 1995. Eigg is now owned by a community trust and the population has gradually begun to increase.

Following the trail of the Railway King: George Hudson's legacy in YorkshireIn 2001, Schellenberg bought St Nicholas, one of the oldest properties in Richmond, which overlooks the River Swale and which is renowned for its stunning gardens. He and his fourth wife, Jillian, opened the grounds to the public but put the house on the market in 2017.

He is survived by his Jillian, who was his fourth wife, his five children and 10 grandchildren.