Northern Ireland

Duchess of Abercorn included in new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

The late Sacha Hamilton, who founded the Pushkin Trust in 1987
The late Sacha Hamilton, who founded the Pushkin Trust in 1987

A DUCHESS who organised poetry competitions in primary schools in Northern Ireland during the Troubles is among 243 people who have been added to the new edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Sacha Hamilton, the Duchess of Abercorn, lived at Baronscourt in Co Tyrone from the mid-1970s.

She died in London in December 2018, aged 72, following a long illness.

The duchess was a descendant of famed Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and was also related to the Romanov dynasty.

A god-daughter of Lord Mountbatten, and wife of former Ulster Unionist MP James Hamilton, she set up the Pushkin Trust in 1987.

The trust, which gained the support of poets including Seamus Heaney, sought to bridge the divide between Catholic and Protestant children and between the north and south by organising poetry competitions in primary schools.

The trust's activities later extended to drama, music and art, and organised Pushkin-themed trips for schoolchildren to Russia.

The new edition of the dictionary also includes an entry about Derry-born Dame Beulah Bewley.

Qualifying as a doctor at Trinity College, Dublin, she carried out pioneering studies of smoking in childhood.

She later had a distinguished career in academic public health and was a leading figure in the Medical Women’s Federation.

Ballycastle-born Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who rose to be leader of the Catholic church in Scotland but was later forced to step down amid allegations he had made sexual advances towards young priests, is also featured in the new edition.

Other prominent figures in the new edition include theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who made important advances in the understanding of black holes; Nobel prize-winner Sir V.S. Naipaul and politician Paddy Ashdown.