On January 14th of this year Lady Malcolm Douglas Hamilton died at the incredible age of 103.
Along with her husband, Lord Hamilton she helped set up the American Scottish Foundation which has over the years been a cornerstone in building relationships between Scotland and America.
Born in Cohasset, Massachusetts, to Major Nathaniel B Wales and his wife Enid Scarritt, Natalie Scarritt Wales was a quite remarkable woman; A New York socialite, more often that not seen in the pages of Vogue or society magazines. When war broke out she learned of the hardships of people in Britain during the blitz and called Winston Churchill to ask how she could help. His typically dry response was that the sailors on the Atlantic convoys could do with some warm balaclavas! In response to this she set up the ‘Bundles for Britain’ campaign. collecting warm woollens not only for the sailors but for victims of the Luftwaffe bombings of London and Coventry. The response to her campaign was huge and she was deluged by offers of support including armies of American ladies knitting for the British! As a result of this she was awarded an honorary CBE.
In 1951 she met Lord Douglas-Hamilton, son of the 13th Duke of Hamilton and a former Second World War Mosquito fighter pilot. He was already married to Pamela Bowes Lyon, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother but was divorced not long after meeting Natalie, she was clearly a very persuasive woman!
Initially the pair lived in London and Scotland and it was during this time they set up the ‘Highland Fund’ a philanthropic enterprise designed to offer loans to crofters, fisherman and other small highland based businesses. It is a testament to the Highland Fund that many small highland enterprises still going today were set up with loans from The Highland Fund.
In 1956 they moved to New York and set up The American Scottish Foundation. The aim of the foundation was to strengthen the historic ties between Scotland and the United States in all areas — educational, cultural, social, genealogical, philanthropic, scientific and economic. Over the years the foundation grew strong. Sadly Lord Malcolm was killed in a plane crash in 1964 but Lady Malcolm carried on the work of the foundation and was able to initiate Tartan Week and the New York Tartan Day parade.
Lady Malcolm was particularly enthusiastic about creating Scotland House, a special dream of Lord Malcolm’s, to be a central gathering place for American Scots, visiting Scots, students, people seeking their Scottish roots–a place for all. The first Scotland House was opened in the mid-70s at 124 East 39th Street by New York City Mayor Abraham Beame, and was an instant success. Lectures, movies, seminars, ceilidhs, dances and teas were held in a comfortable atmosphere with a large Scottish-American library, and Scottish products such as sweaters, tweeds, jewelry and china were for sale. A later Scotland House was on Fifth Avenue in the 80s and of course the present Scotland House at 575 Madison Avenue.
She is survived by her daughter Mimi, six grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. Her other daughter, Natalie “Bubbles” Wales, who was wife of Lieutenant-Colonel George P Burnett of the Scots Guards, died in 1988.