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Obituary: Lady Acland, model

  • by ALASDAIR STEVEN
 

Born: 29 July, 1928, in Ayr. Died: 15 December, 2013, in South Africa, aged 85

Myrtle Crawford was spotted by a fashion editor at a Glasgow fashion show dressed in a comfortable tweed suit with smart and stylish accessories. In fact, the clothes were all made by Homespuns – a firm that specialised in weaving tweed and woollen textiles which was run by her resourceful mother. Crawford, with her ease in front of the camera along with her handsome appearance and ravishing beauty, was propelled to fame. Her grace and warm personality made her as popular on the Paris catwalk as on the family farm in Dorset.

Crawford’s face became instantly recognisable on the covers of leading magazines and her slim figure, glorious eyes and flowing locks made her ideal to model the day dresses and sensational gowns of Paris and London. The top designers of the era concentrated their designs on models with hour-glass figures (30-19-36) and Crawford fitted their demands ideally.

Crawford recently received much attention when there was publicity surrounding the Aero girls who advertised the chocolate bar in the 1950s (“The milk chocolate that’s different”).

Crawford was featured on Channel 4 News as she had been one of the original Aero girls and the programme reunited her with the artist Frederick Deane. Crawford, still glamorous, posed beside a photograph of the original portrait and had a delightful Skype interview on Channel 4.

Myrtle Christian Euing Crawford was the middle of three children and daughter of a brigadier in the Royal Scots Greys. She spent much of her childhood on the family estate at Auchentroig outside Bucklyvie near Stirling. Five years before she was born the family home had been gutted by fire but by 1930 the Crawfords had built another substantial home. During the war the house was used as a hospital for Polish soldiers. The family eventually sold the estate in the 1960s.

Crawford first attended Killearn School near Loch Lomond and then Roedean, which had been evacuated to the Lake District during the Second World War. She then studied at the London School of Architecture, which she partly funded by modelling her mother’s clothes.

But after the Glasgow incident she went to London and found instant fame. Crawford was on the covers of glossy magazines wearing the very latest in fashion and became one of the highest paid models – earning £5 a day.

Crawford spoke excellent French and was much in demand by such leading Paris houses as Christian Dior, Jean Patou, Jacques Heim, Elsa Schiaparelli and Jacques Fath. Crawford led a glamorous life, living in smart Paris hotels, dining in elegant restaurants and being wooed by handsome and wealthy suitors.

In London her life was socially hectic as her workload increased. As well as the Aero commission Crawford was snapped up to star in high profile advertising campaigns for fashion and domestic products.

Her face was splashed across billboards nationwide when she became a poster-girl of Lux soap. The catchy slogan read “Screen stars use Lux soap”.

Amidst the frantic social life Crawford met, in the mid-1950s, Captain John Acland (later Major-General, of the Scots Guards) and gave up her modelling career. It was something of a whirlwind romance as the young captain had come to Crawford’s flat to take out her flatmate. Acland said that it was love at first sight and rang Crawford repeatedly for a date.

Once he arrived at her flat with some lacklustre flowers to find two more senior officers at the door with fresh roses. Undaunted, he persisted and they were married in 1953, and the Aclands were posted to various areas of political unrest.

He had a clear vision as to what was needed doing in an emergency – qualities much needed when he commanded the Commonweath Force in Rhodesia from 1979 to 1980, which helped to oversee the transition of power in Zimbabwe. Lady Acland provided vital support and encouragement to army wives and also gained a pilot’s license.

They also saw service in Germany and Cyprus. At the latter he was appointed Commander of the Land Forces. On his retirement in 1981 he was knighted and the family moved to his family home near Honiton in Devon where they farmed.

Lady Acland studied painting at the Reading School of Art and within a few years had works exhibited at the West of England Academy and the Westminster Galleries in London. She was a passionate angler all her life and returned to Scotland to fish various rivers where her casting and fly-fishing were much admired by her Scottish ghillies.

Myrtle Acland’s husband died in 2006, and she is survived by their son Peter, who was also in the Scots Guards, and Victoria, a magazine editor in South Africa.

 

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