'Lady Myrtle Acland née Myrtle Christian Euing Crawford was born in 1928 in Ayr in Scotland and during her early years the family lived in various places, including Tidworth Army Garrison, following her father who was in the Scots Greys. In 1936 they moved to the family home Auchentroig, a large Scottish estate near Stirling.
Myrtle went to boarding school in Killearne, and then much to her chagrin, as she loved being in Scotland, she was sent to Roedean which had been evacuated to the Lake District for the duration the War. During this time her mother ran Auchentroig as a hospital for wounded soldiers.
After Myrtle left school, and already a very beautiful young woman, she took herself to London and enrolled at the London School of Architecture, taking modelling classes at the same time. She says that she became so thin at that time because her father, who was very well off, gave her such a mean allowance that she couldn't afford to feed herself properly. She started modelling in a small way, including doing a fashion show for her mother's tweed company in Glasgow. It was here that she was spotted by an editor from Vogue who gave her her first proper modelling assignment. She then joined the Jean Bell modelling agency.
Myrtle Crawford, as she was then known, became a leading model in the late 1940s and early 1950s, appearing on the front covers of Vogue and Harpers Bazaar and working with many renowned photographers including John French and Norman Parkinson. When people first met her they often found her rather austere and intimidating, but despite her success she was actually extremely shy. She modelled for Christian Dior and other famous fashion houses on the Paris Catwalks. Along with Elizabeth Taylor and other beautiful women of the time, her profile was used for Lux soap.'
- Victoria Goddard, Daughter
Acland was just 20 years old, living in Chelsea, when her portrait was painted for the Aero Girls campaign by artist Frederick Deane circa 1950 at the Royal Academy studios in London. Deane was still a young art student at the time of the commission. Acland was chosen for the campaign by her agent, Jean Bell, who was approached by the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson (JWT). It is believed that the portrait was never actually published, and the only existing record of the work is a black and white photograph kept by Deane.
'When she married Captain John Acland in 1953, Myrtle had to give up her modelling career but having trained as an architect and being a talented artist, she took up painting with a passion. She went on to become a well-known local artist in Devon and her work has been exhibited at the West of England Academy at the Westminster Galleries in London.
During her time as an army wife, Myrtle lived in Germany three times, Kenya and Cyprus as well as numerous army camps around England. She was always looking for new adventures and while in Kenya, she learned to fly and spent as much of her spare time as possible up in the air and kept up her hours for many years after she returned to England. In Cyprus as the wife of the Commander of the Land Forces living in Flagstaff House, she had to entertain many prestigious guests including Princess Margaret and numerous politicians.
After a distinguished career, the highlight of which was when he commanded the monitoring force which oversaw the transition of power in Rhodesia (for which he was knighted), John left the army and they moved to his family home of Feniton Court near Honiton in East Devon where Myrtle took up painting again, as well as becoming an expert gardener and experimental cook.
John died in 2006 and a few years later, despite being in her 80s, Myrtle made the brave decision to move to South Africa for the majority of the year to be near her daughter Victoria. Until her untimely death, following an illness bravely borne, she divided her time between her home there and her cottage in Devon with frequent visits to Virginia, USA where her son Peter lived, making a diverse group of friends in each place. She was much adored by her seven grandchildren and one greatgrandchild.'
Words by Victoria Goddard, daughter of Myrtle Acland. Edited by Kerstin Doble.