Kay Kellard: tribute to a remarkable woman

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KAY KELLARD burst through the glass ceiling in several places before the expression ‘glass ceiling’ had even been invented.

She was the first female general insurance inspector in the Royal Insurance Company in Scotland, the first female President of Bearsden Ski Club and the first female President of the Scottish National Ski Council from March 27, 1938 to April 14 this year. She was also the first female honorary Vice-President of Snowsport Scotland, a position she held until her death just two weeks after her 74th birthday.

Born in Edinburgh, Kathleen Maryon Imrie moved to Glasgow at the age of 11 with her parents, James and Janie, and sister Nicky and was educated at Hillhead High School.

After a couple of years working in the Prudential Assurance Company, she joined the Royal Insurance Group in Buchanan Street, Glasgow.

There she spent a number of years in the cash department, before she went on to become the company’s first female inspector in Scotland and develop an enviable network of clients, many of whom she was still looking after until her retirement in 1995.

Away from work, sport was Kay’s main interest in life.

She played tennis at Western as a youngster and tried sailing at Bardowie Loch, but skiing became her passion. She started skiing with friends on an ad hoc basis and then, having moved to Milngavie, joined Bearsden Ski Club shortly after it came into being in 1963.

Enthusiasm and commitment were but two of Kay’s qualities and they were both used to the full as she served on many of the club’s committees before being elected President in 1974.

That led to her representing the club on the Scottish National Ski Council, and she went on to serve as the first female chairman and Vice-President of the SNSC during the second half of the 1970s, before being elected President in 1979, a post she held for the next four years.

She was Vice-President of the British Ski Federation from 1981 to 1985 and also served as a member of the International Ski Federation for several years.

During her years as chair and then President of the SNSC, Kay did a huge amount of work to raise sponsorship funding for skiing in Scotland, work which helped and encouraged many young people to access the sport. Sponsors have always wanted as much exposure as possible and that naturally led her to explore the possibility of the BBC televising some events.

So in 1980 Malcolm Kellard, Head of Sport in BBC Scotland, was invited to Aviemore to meet the President of the SNSC so that she and her colleagues could sell him the idea of putting Scottish skiing on the screen.

I’m sure the skiing was discussed in great detail, but the critical happening at that first meeting was a veritable ‘coup de foudre’ for both of them.

Malcolm and Kay quickly developed a very strong, loving relationship and they eventually became husband and wife in December 1983.

Over many very happy years together, their shared love of sport took them to Murrayfield, Lansdowne Road, Open Championships, the Ryder Cup and the annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards night to name but a few.

Malcolm was not a skier, but together they developed a love of golf which provided another outlet for Kay’s naturally competitive instincts.

They became members of Gleddoch and after being elected as Ladies Captain in 1996, Kay subsequently served as Treasurer from 1997 to 2005.

On the Sunday evening after they had watched together as Tiger Woods won the 2000 Open at St Andrews, Malcolm suffered a severe stroke which left him paralysed on his left side.

It was obviously a life-changing event for both of them, but Kay met all the challenges it presented head on and cared for him lovingly and selflessly until his death seven years later.

Sadly, it was only a couple of years after Malcolm’s death that Kay was first diagnosed with cancer.

That also brought her incredible determination and competitive nature to the fore and she fought a long, dignified and courageous battle before it finally got the better of her.

Kay will be long remembered as someone of great charm, who made many, many friends and appreciated them all. She was a wonderful hostess, had a great sense of humour, always enjoyed the company of others and literally brightened up a room when she entered it.

Her deep love for Malcolm quickly extended to his children, Lynne and Michael, and their families, as it was shared with her sister Nicky and brother-in-law Colin, her nieces Deborah and Jennifer and their families.

Having inherited her mother’s strong unionist and royalist views, and being prepared to defend them whenever she felt it necessary, it seemed somehow appropriate that the conclusion of Kay’s committal service should be accompanied by 21-gun salutes across the United Kingdom to mark the Queen’s 86th birthday.