Sheena Hilleary, who died on 13 December at the age of 90, was a double Olympic skier (as Sheena Mackintosh) competing in the 1948 and 1952 winter Olympic Games, and was also British Ladies Ski Champion in 1951. She became the great matriarch of the extended Douglas-Hamilton and Mackintosh families.
Sheena was part of the remarkable Mackintosh ski-ing family. Her younger sister Vora and her two brothers, Douglas and Charlach, all skied for Great Britain in the Olympics.
Her father Chris Mackintosh was not only a legendary figure in the early days of ski-racing, he also competed in the 1924 Summer Olympics, coming sixth in the long jump, as well as playing rugby for Scotland. Her mother, Lady Jean Douglas-Hamilton (daughter of the 14th Duke of Hamilton), was the first lady winner of a point-to-point horse race, and did so riding side-saddle!
Sheena finished 24th in the Combined Results in the 1948 Winter Olympics in St Moritz, and 26th in the Downhill in the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, where she also captained the British Ladies Team.
She and her sister Vora were the only lady competitors in the 1947 Inferno race, the longest ski race in the world at the time (won by their father in 1930).
After marrying Ruaraidh Hilleary in 1952, they lived near Horsham for five years before moving to Sanquhar House, Forres, Morayshire in 1960. They bought Logie Farm, Glenferness, in 1974, where she founded her famous riding school and inspired generations of children and adults to love horses and equestrian sports.
She was a leading figure in the Moray & Nairn Branch of the Pony Club, becoming both Chief Instructor and District Commissioner, and in recognition received a Cubitt Award in 1991.
Sheena was a remarkably talented actress, featuring prominently in local dramatic productions.
Her Isadora Duncan with the Clifton Players is still fondly remembered, particularly by those who met her declaiming her lines while walking the dogs in the nearby woods. She wrote many notable tunes for Scottish reels which she dedicated to family members including Awa’ to St Petersburg and The Potato Harvest jig, many of which are often played at Highland Balls.
She was also an accomplished artist and inspired many friends and family by organising her popular annual painting parties, which travelled around Europe and the UK.
She continued to ski well into her eighties, and was at her happiest taking an enormous group of friends to take over an entire hotel in her beloved Alpenrose in Wengen or Les Flocons in Courchevel.
A series of (not necessarily well-trained!) English bull terriers were her constant companions.
She was devoted to the wider family. At the great gathering of Hamilton relations in 2012 she held an audience of 120 of all ages spellbound with her reminiscences of far off days as a young niece in the Duke’s household at Ferne House in Dorset, all delivered without a note.
Her joie de vivre was epitomised by fun and laughter, and she remained hugely positive in her approach to life in spite of some very difficult times and the tragic loss of her youngest daughter Iona. Latterly she found great happiness in the companionship of Patrick Gordon-Duff- Pennington.
She is survived by her daughter Dhileas, her sons Alasdair and Duncan, and her much-loved ten grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.