Lady Gilmour killed in Sutherland fire tragedy

At the height of the fire 19 crew and four appliances were involved in the operation. Picture: Andrew Stuart

At the height of the fire 19 crew and four appliances were involved in the operation. Picture: Andrew Stuart

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THE widow of a war hero and former Lord Lieutenant of Sutherland has died in a house fire in the Highlands.

Lady Jean Gilmour OBE was killed in a devastating blaze at her home, Invernauld House, near Rosehall, Lairg, in Sutherland, aged 93.

Her 62-year-old carer managed to escape as flames consumed the rural two-and-a-half storey detached property on Saturday night. It is understood that she suffered burns to her face and a hand and is being treated in hospital.

Dave Goulder, who lives near the Gilmour family home, said: “There have been a number of carers from an agency looking after Lady Jean. I do not know who the carer was that was with her, but we have heard she made brave attempts to rescue her. She must have a heart the size of a tractor and we all wish her a speedy recovery.

“Lady Jean may have been in a wheelchair but she was still very much with it. It is like a light going out in this area. It is such a tragedy that she should be claimed this way after living such a long and full life. Everyone in the village is stunned.”

An investigation is under way into the cause of the fire but it is understood the focus is on a possible power surge.

Lady Jean was very popular in the area and served as a director with the Sutherland Tourist Board.

Her late husband, Colonel Sir Allan Gilmour won the Military Cross for his heroism in the Battle of Alamein with the Seaforth Highlanders. He was also a Highland Regional councillor from 1972 to 1991. Born in Rosehall, he died in 2003 aged 86. The couple married in 1941 and had three daughters and a son.

The Gilmour family could not be contacted yesterday.

Appliances from all over the Highlands battled the blaze overnight, only getting it under control 12 hours after it broke out at around 9pm on Saturday. A water carrier had to be brought from Inverness because of a shortage in the remote area.

At its height, 28 personnel from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service were in attendance as the fire raged. Units from Inverness Fortrose, Lairg, Bonar, Dornoch, Tain, Golspie, Invergordon and Ullapool all fought the fire.

On arrival firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the property to try to prevent the fire spreading to the adjoining rooms and floors, however, they were withdrawn when possible asbestos slates were found in the roof and water supplies were interrupted.

A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “An investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing with Police Scotland and SFRS making enquires as to the full circumstances of the incident. This task is currently being hampered by the unstable structure of the building and the possible involvement of asbestos slates.

“It is too early to state the cause of the fire at this time, but a full investigation will be carried out by fire and police when the incident comes to a close.”

The Rosehall Estate was the romantic hideout for fashion designer Coco Chanel during her decade-long affair with the 2nd Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor.

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