A memorial service for the late Countess of Erroll, wife of the Chief of Clan Hay, was held in the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London, on Wednesday 4 March. The Countess died on 13 January 2020, aged only 64.
Many hundreds of friends and family attended: the Guards Chapel seats 500, and there were many more standing in the aisles. A moving service was led by the Rev John Vincent, Senior Chaplain to the Household Division, accompanied by the wonderful choir of the Guards Chapel. The Rt Rev Richard Atkinson, the Bishop of Bedford and a family friend who conducted Isabelle’s funeral service in her home parish of Everton and who recently officiated at the wedding of her daughter, Lady Laline Hay, preached the sermon. Readings were given by Isabelle’s two sons, Lord Hay and the Hon Richard Astell. The Hon Jocelyn Carnegie, the Earl of Erroll’s half-brother and a fine piper, played that great pipe lament, Highland Cathedral, as a recessional.
Long time family friend Peter Dalby gave the eulogy. He spoke movingly of Isabelle’s business acumen, of her catering business she launched early in her career, and her two estates which she managed herself; of her extensive charitable work, and of her efforts to rescue historic properties at risk of crumbling; and of her commitment to Clan Hay and her support for her husband’s duties as Lord High Constable and Chief of Clan Hay. There was laughter among the tears, as Peter went on to describe her mild eccentricities. He began with her uncertain timekeeping, with which all present were familiar; the fact that she apparently never went to bed; “who here,” he asked, “has not received emails at 3.00 or 4.00 am?” He spoke of Isabelle’s energy and dynamism, of her constant working activity, apparently sustained by a diet of only cigarettes and coke.
Isabelle loved a party and the service was followed by a huge gathering in a marquee pitched on the parade ground. Champagne flowed well into the night, accompanied by a never ending finger buffet of canapes and burgers. Merlin and their children did a sterling job of ensuring everybody received a personal welcome, as happy memories of Isabelle were shared. It was a very happy celebration of a wonderful life.