DIANA, Dowager Lady Ingilby, the widow of Sir Joslan Ingilby of Ripley Castle, has died aged 92 – two hours short of celebrating her 93rd birthday.
She was born Diana Colvin in Edinburgh and, with her older brother Clem, received the kind of upbringing that would raise eyebrows today. In 1921, when she was one, their parents went to India, when their father, Brigadier-General George Lethbridge Colvin was appointed general manager of the East India Railway.
The children were looked after by a succession of nannies, and Diana was sent to West Heath, a boarding school for girls, at the age of four. She saw her parents infrequently, sometimes two years would elapse between visits.
She was 13 when her parents finally returned to England in 1933, and her father, who also served as an ADC to George V for five years, was knighted in the same year. She left school at 16 and spent the summer of 1937 in France in order to improve her French.
Her father ran a finance company in London which raised finance for large scale civil construction projects like the Mersey docks, and she joined the family business as a secretary, working in central London throughout the blitz.
Her brother served in Egypt but developed a serious illness and was evacuated to South Africa. During the long voyage he befriended a fellow Scots Guards officer called Joslan Ingilby. Clem showed him a portrait photograph of his sister and his friend was so enamoured by her looks he persuaded her brother to let him keep the photograph.
After returning to Egypt and following a lightning advance by the Germans, Joslan Ingilby and two other guardsmen were trapped many miles behind enemy lines. At one point, under intense enemy fire a bullet grazed the photograph that Joslan was carrying in his breast pocket, leaving him unharmed.
The couple married in January, 1948, and Joslan left the army to manage the Ripley Castle Estate, succeeding to the baronetcy on the death of his father two years later.
While he immersed himself in the estate and his duties as a Deputy Lieutenant for the West Riding, Lady Ingilby looked after their children and started her long association with several community organisations.
She was elected to Nidderdale Rural District Council and when it was merged into Harrogate Borough Council in 1974 continued for a further 13 years, serving on many committees and sub-committees. Her retirement after a total of more than 25 years service was marked by her nomination as an Honorary Alderman of the Borough of Harrogate.
She was chairman of the board of governors of Ripley CoE Primary School for more than 25 years, was a long-serving governor of Harrogate Ladies College and a very active churchwarden at All Saints Church, Ripley. She chaired the Ripley Parish Meeting and, for seven years, the Harrogate branch of the National Art Collection Fund and the Harrogate Decorative and Fine Arts Group. Her schoolgirl French was dusted off when she became a steward in the Overseas Visitors Pavilion at the Great Yorkshire Show.
She also served the Yorkshire Rural Community Council, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, the Red Cross, the Parkinson’s Society, the Osteoporosis Society and the Scots Guards Association.
As President of Ripley Women’s Institute, she led from the front. One year they staged a fund-raising show in which in one of the acts they would pretend they were a pop group, miming to the audience.
As no-one was sure what a pop group did, they sought inspiration by attending the next concert at the Royal Hall only to find themselves sitting amidst a horde of screaming teenagers as a relatively unknown band called The Beatles performed Love Me Do.
When her husband died suddenly in 1974, aged 67, she faced the daunting challenge of a massive tax bill for death duty. Farms and cottages were sold and the castle, which opened only on Sunday afternoons, had to be opened more often. She set up a café, made sandwiches, home baked scones and cakes, and recruited a team of local students to help serve the visitors. Groups of visiting Americans received a tour of the castle, followed by lunch in the splendour of the dining room. At other times she could be seen, accompanied by her faithful but notoriously fractious corgi, striding through the gardens and park.
When the Falklands War broke out she recalled the hardships of her youth and decided to prepare by amassing a stockpile of life’s necessities in the castle cellar. The cases of gin, cartons of crisps and Smash instant potato that she bought kept her supplied for several years after the Argentine army had surrended.
She was feisty and determined and devoted many years of her life to working for the betterment of Harrogate district and the community of Ripley. She embraced change and if a proposal sounded positive and sensible, she gave it every encouragement.
She is survived by her children, Caroline, Bindy and Thomas, her grandchildren Sally, Jamie, Jos, Ellie, Jack and Richard, and great-grandson, Archie.
Her funeral service will be held at All Saint’s Church, Ripley, at 2pm on Friday, February 8.