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Sheelin Knollys

Viscountess Knollys DL OBE, an IWA Vice President since 2004, died at the age of 84 on 26th September.  Sheelin Knollys (prounounced noʊlz) was best known for her public service in Norfolk, where she was an elected councillor for South Norfolk District Council for over 20 years from 1983, the final year (1996) as chair.  This led to her appointment as the Council’s nominee to the Broads Authority, in which she took great interest, eventually being appointed deputy chair of the Authority, and then chair from 1997 to 2003.  Her knowledge and support for The Broads was instrumental in her appointment by Government as chair of the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council in February 1997, a role in which she served with distinction for nine years (the maximum permitted) until 2006, overseeing its reformation and relaunch as the Inland Waterways Advisory Council.

Born Sheelin Maxwell in December 1937, her father Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon Somerset Arthur Maxwell (MP for Kings Lynn and Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of War) was killed in the Battle of Allamein in December 1942, and her mother died in April 1953 in a plane crash along with other members of her wider family when Sheelin was only 15.  She married the Hon David Knollys in October 1959, who succeeded his father as the 3rd Viscount Knollys in December 1966.


[The photo, left, shows Sheelin at IWA North West Region’s 2005 AGM.]

Sheelin was a member of the council of the University of East Anglia, a council member of the Norfolk and Waveney Council of Commerce, chair to The English Rural Housing Association and the Norwich Area Tourism Agency, and a director of Visit Norfolk from 2004 to 2012. Planning and Tourism provided a focus for much of her valuable work within the county.  In 2011, she had the honour of being created an Honorary Alderman and for nine years Lady Knollys was a member of the Norfolk Health Authority.  She was also Norfolk President of Arthritis Care for forty years.  Viscountess Knollys DL was awarded an OBE for Outstanding Services to the Community in 2004. In the same year she was invited to become Vice Lord-Lieutenant for Norfolk, a position she held until 2012.

Sheelin’s vice presidency of IWA was perhaps one of her minor roles, but she attended to it with great conscience and enthusiasm, often travelling the breadth of the country and back in a day to chair a conference or an Annual Meeting for some part of the Association.  She was the perfect diplomat, a well-organised and knowledgeable chair who did much to promote the waterways and wasn’t afraid of tough talking with Government departments.  Her gracious manner, along with her steeliness, meant that even the most hard-bitten – especially politicians – found it almost impossible to disagree with her; and with that graciousness, she achieved so much more than any confrontational protagonist could have done.


[The photo, right, shows Sheelin with former IWA national chairman John Fletcher at IWA 2006 national AGM]