THE Hon Daphne Lakin has died aged 96 at her Hammerwood home in Iping.
She suffered a stroke two weeks before her death and died peacefully in her sleep.
Daphne was a delightful character. She was great fun and had endless energy and drive.
She was the last surviving sibling of the former Lord Cowdray, the third viscount, the youngest of his five sisters, and aunt of the present Lord Cowdray.
One of the foremost horsewomen of her day, she was the first to play high-goal polo, playing for the Cowdray Park team with her brother and her husband, Col John Lakin, John Cowdray’s best friend whom she married in 1939.
Liz Higgins, press officer for Cowdray Park Polo, interviewed Mrs Lakin for the centenary of Cowdray Park Polo Club in 2010.
She said: “After the war, when John Cowdray was almost single-handedly responsible for the revival of polo in the UK, Daphne and John Lakin were his great supporters. Because of the considerable lack of men playing the sport, women were finally allowed to play in mixed teams and compete alongside the men. The Lakins and John Cowdray all played together in the Cowdray Park polo team, with Daphne being the regular number 1.
“For a while John Lakin was the UK’s only nine-goal player and Daphne herself was considered the best female player in England.
“She recalled a special time in the 1950s when Prince Philip was a regular player for the Cowdray team, having been introduced to the sport by his uncle, Lord Mountbatten.
Daphne said: “During one match, my brother John did a jolly good shot, but unfortunately got me behind the ear and I was pouring with blood. Prince Philip rushed over to try and help. ‘Don’t be nice to her, sir,’ said my brother, ‘she’s just ruined my best shot!’
“Daphne loved recounting the story, demonstrating how tough a female player had to be in those days to withstand the knocks of such a physically demanding sport. She was a trailblazer in women’s polo and took a keen interest in the sport for the rest of her life. Until a couple of years ago, it was still possible to see Daphne enjoying an afternoon at polo where she took a keen interest in any Cowdray team and enjoyed watching younger players progress through the ranks.”
She was a keen water and snow skier, continuing to ski in her 80s. She was European veteran champion of trick skiing at the age of 39.
Mrs Lakin also ran the Iping Horse Trials for 35 years, founding them as a way of entertaining her son Michael and his friends. They grew to become a Pony Club event and then British Eventing Horse Trials.
Veronica Spackman joined her committee in 1999 and later became organiser, leaving Mrs Lakin to do what she loved best, which was designing the course.
“Daphne was a delightful character. She was great fun and had endless energy and drive. She was a fantastic person who really loved the sport and her knowledge of horses was amazing.”
Mrs Spackman and Mrs Lakin stepped down from the organisation after last year’s event.
Mrs Lakin loved her dogs and was also involved with the King Edward VII hospital, serving on the board and helping with the redesign of wards. She and her late husband, who served with the Warks Yeomanry, lived in Warwickshire for some years, returning to Iping in the 1960s.
There will be a private burial service at Iping Church next Thursday, May 14, followed by a service of thanksgiving in Easebourne Parish Church at 12.30pm. The family have asked for no flowers, but donations if wished to Macmillan nurses.
Mrs Lakin leaves her son Michael, his wife Amanda and grandchildren Benjamin, Laura, Johnny, Piers and Hugo.