Lilias, Countess of Cromartie 1918-2013

Lilias, Countess of Cromartie

Lilias, Countess of Cromartie

A much-loved and respected pillar of the North Highlands community and wife of the late chief of Clan Mackenzie has died. Lilias, Countess of Cromartie, passed away peacefully on 11th October 2013 at her home Dower House in the clan seat of Castle Leod at Strathpeffer.

Born on the 25th March 1918, Lilias Janet Garvie MacLeod was the eldest of seven children to James Walter MacLeod, Professor of Bacteriology at Leeds University, and Jean Garvie, who were both immensely proud of their Scottish heritage. She grew up in Leeds and later went to boarding school at Esdaile School in Edinburgh. A gifted pianist, Lilias chose to study medicine, enrolling at Leeds University as one of the only female students there at the time.

She married her first husband Dick Richard in 1940, and during the war years worked in London as a medical officer, running family and children’s clinics in Marylebone. Following the break up her marriage, she joined the Strathpeffer Medical Practice where she became a much respected doctor in the tight-knit community, covering a scattered rural area and driving an average of 100 miles a day. It was here she met Roderick MacKenzie, 4th Earl of Cromartie and Caberfeidh Chief of Clan Mackenzie. They married in 1962 and the Countess adapted to the role of chief’s wife with great tact and commitment, bringing Castle Leod back to life as a family home and focal point in the local community, a venue for concerts and charitable fundraising activities.

Castle Leod, seat of Clan Mackenzie

Castle Leod, seat of Clan Mackenzie

The Earl and the Countess enjoyed 27 happy years of marriage together before the Earl passed away in 1989. In 2000 Lilias visited members of the MacKenzie clan in New Zealand, who spoke very highly if her visit. She was equally impressed with the clan society there.

The Countess had a wide-ranging interest in art and music, supporting the Strathpeffer Pavilion and Eden Court Theatre, performing in the Strathpeffer Amateur Operatic Society and was the first president of the National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies.

Although after her second marriage she felt the roles of Countess, wife of the Mackenzie Clan Chief and continued GP practice to be incompatible, she put her medical background, intelligence and commonsense to good use providing wise leadership for many years on the Highland Hospital Board, as president of the Ross and Cromarty Red Cross and of the District Nurses.

The Countess leaves behind a wide circle of friends and admirers of diverse ages and backgrounds. She is survived by her two sons, Nigel and Roderick, by five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The current chief is John Ruaridh Grant Mackenzie, 5th Earl of Cromartie (1948). He is the son of Roderick, 4th Earl of Cromartie and his first wife Olga Laurence.


About Nadine Lee

Originally from New Zealand, Nadine is a documentary researcher now based in the north east of Scotland.

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