Obituary: Liz-Anne Campbell; energetic, eccentric bon viveur who directed an addiction support project in Orkney

Born: 29 July, 1941, in Glasgow. Died: 20 January, 2012, in Glasgow, aged 70.

Liz-Anne Campbell, who has died at the age of 70, was an inspirational Edinburgh eccentric who lived her life at full throttle, and whose funeral at the Warriston Crematorium provoked comment after she insisted on being carried into the chapel in a purple dress with some of the material flowing over the edges of the closed coffin.

She also specifically asked for her friends to be rude about her during the service, and to have fun in their grieving.

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From a professional point of view her greatest contribution was when she was the pioneering director of a social work innovation in the Orkney islands that went on to be known as the Drink-wise Orkney initiative. This was an exciting project that approached addiction problems with the kind of energetic verve and imagination that was always Liz-Anne’s trademark.

She was also deeply involved with public housing and in the eighties became the chair of The Orkney Housing Association at the time of Margaret Thatcher’s radical initiatives on housing.

In her private life Liz-Anne brought up four children, was married to two interesting and challenging men, became a Glasgow society hostess and was an enlivening influence on a wide circle of friends.

To all these parts of her life she brought a sometimes frighteningly energetic approach, being vivacious, controlling, amusing, inspirational and downright impossible, often in the same five minutes.

She was born in Glasgow in 1941, the only child of two keen Anthroposophists who moved through to Edinburgh when she was five.

Her formal education was briefer than she later wished, quite possibly because of the trauma of her mother dying when Liz-Anne was only 11. She would claim, with no justification whatsoever, that she was the only person ever to have been expelled from a Rudolf Steiner school. The legend involves an incident revolving around a hurled ink well, a ducking class mate and a fair affronted teacher who suddenly decided that she had finally had enough.

Conversely, in later days she would say that it was only her Steiner education that prevented her from turning to crime.

They say that she had her first proposal of marriage when she was 16. This is quite possible because as well as being vivacious and fun she was also something of a stunner.

Her second engagement was when she was 19 and working in Jenners. She become betrothed to a young Scotsman journalist, David Rose, who went on to make a name for himself as a reporter on ITN news.

Sadly, the highly creative couple were probably too young for such commitment and after three years, and the birth of two sons, she and David were to split and she headed, still only aged 22, for a year of colourful living in Spain, returning with a very beautiful flamenco guitarist in tow.

This did not go unnoticed, or unenvied, in Edinburgh’s New Town. This was probably the moment when she finally took a tumble to herself.

Her work over the years included being a fashion buyer for Jenners, a dress maker in Rose Street, house cleaner, hostess for John Player cigarettes, founder of Scotland’s first ever dating agency for gay and lesbian people, haute cuisine cook as well as a senior adviser on drink, drugs and housing.

However, it was when she married businessman John Winters in 1969 and moved to Orkney in 1975 that she really started to fulfil her potential.

Soon she had added two girls to the two boys she already had, but her four kids were only the start of her achievements and she became busy with church work as well as her professional obligations.

Living in a Kenwood House in Stromness – an appropriate name, she would say, for such a good mixer – she made few allowances for the sensitivities that are more usually associated with island life, but after 15 hectic years on the islands there were few that were not sad to see her leave.

Her latter years were spent in Glasgow, where her home became a Mecca for artists, writers and innovative social workers from many fields. Her hospitality was legendary, her clothes outrageous, her jewellery flamboyant, her recipes stratospheric in their ambition. One of her most famed chicken dishes took a week to prepare.

She was cremated in a purple dress with leg of mutton sleeves. Her tongue-in-cheek suggestion of a rolling funeral in a large number of different locations across Britain over a protracted season of grief was laughingly over-ruled as impractical by her family, but the wake was remarkable if only for its considerable length.

She is survived by three of her children, her first husband, two grandchildren and an inspired group of friends whose season of grief will indeed be protracted. Liz-Anne Campbell didn’t die wondering.

MAXWELL MacLEOD