Sheila  Meldrum
Sheila  Meldrum
Sheila  Meldrum

Obituary of Sheila Meldrum

On the night of April 3, less than a day before her death, Sheila MacBain Meldrum dictated her own obituary from her hospital bed at the Arnprior and District Memorial Hospital, where she had been since March 30. Sheila was quite adamant about one thing: Her obituary would not say she "passed away." She died. Sheila MacBain Meldrum died on April 4 after a brief illness. According to her wishes, her obituary reads as follows: Sheila MacBain was born September 13, 1937, the second daughter of Hugh D. MacBain and Emily Woodward MacBain in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Sheila was educated at Garrison Forest School in Garrison, Maryland, and came to Canada in 1955 to study at McGill University, graduating with a BSc in 1960, and an MA in 1970. She spent three decades working in the federal government working on northern development projects in what was then called the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, ending her career as a senior analyst. In 1974, she married Peter Meldrum. They both loved horses and bred and trained thoroughbreds at Carleton Stud Farm in Kinburn, which they founded and operated. Peter died in 2018. Sheila was predeceased by her sister Emily "Heath" Chapin in 1989 and is survived by her nephews Andrew and Geoffrey Chapin, both of Connecticut. That's all, said Sheila firmly, except to add that she had a wonderful life and good friends. But there is more to the story than this. Sheila was a dedicated public servant with a deep admiration and respect for Canada’s Indigenous peoples. She was a horsewoman respected for her knowledge of all equine matters. She rode with the Ottawa Hunt, bred and owned racehorses, both thoroughbreds and, later, standardbreds. After her arthritic knees made it impossible for her to stay on top of a horse, she became a riding coach, and was known for spotting talented riders. Sheila grew up in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, where her father worked for the Mellon banking family. She had an early interest in horses, and her parents bought her an American Saddlebred, which the family kept in the garage. Sheila soon moved on to riding at the Rolling Rock Club where the Mellon family had a hunt club. Sheila was proud of her Scottish heritage and recalled lively family gatherings with plenty of political debate. The motto of the MacBains: Touch Not A Catt Bot A Targe. (Don't touch this cat without a shield). Sheila recalled a solitary childhood. Her sister Heath was considerably older and had already left home before Sheila reached adolescence. She recalled her father standing at the foot of the stairs, gently mocking her in a Greta Garbo voice: “I vant to be aloooone." Sheila was sent to boarding school and later observed that the experience knocked the sensitivity out of her. When the time came to plan a post-secondary education, Sheila's sister Heath suggested she go to McGill University. Sheila knew nothing about Canada, but accepted the recommendation. Sheila learned that her girls’ boarding school education had not prepared her for the math and science curriculum. She diligently dove into her studies and found that she loved geography, which led her to an interest in Arctic studies. On graduating, she embarked on a master's degree, studying in Oslo, Norway, which she reached on a fishing boat crossing the Atlantic. She worked in the Canadian Arctic with her government department. The subject of her thesis was the evolution of Frobisher Bay, now Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. Sheila embraced all things Canadian. She loved hockey, Stuart McLean, Randy Bachman, Tom Power and Leonard Cohen, who was a contemporary at McGill. The radio in her barn and her kitchen was tuned permanently to the CBC. As Canada Day approached, her garden fluttered with maple leaf flags. Sheila’s character was marked by good humour, astute judgment and ruthless pragmatism. “Horses do not make good pets,” she said often. It was one of many Sheila-isms. If she was going to impart an opinion in confidence, she prefaced it with: "Between you, me, and the fencepost." If a rider had more ambition than talent, she would note drily: “She couldn’t ride in a boxcar with the doors shut.” Of politicians with suspect motives: “That one looks like a weasel going over a rock.” Sheila's life was a series of chapters, every one offering new adventures. After her arthritic knees made it impossible to ride, she became a riding coach. Even as Sheila shrank in stature, her “barn girls” knew she would always command a room — or an arena. Horses came to understand that in a battle of wills with Sheila, they would lose. The girls learned the value of a hard day's work, the importance of friendship with people of all ages and all levels and how to curse like a sailor. They learned resiliency and how a good ride on a good horse could cure all. A few years ago, Sheila gave up her last horse and turned to training dogs with the West Carleton Dog Agility Club. Despite her problems keeping up with her dog, she asked for no special treatment. She reluctantly gave up agility last fall. Sheila was fiercely independent and sharp until the end. It was only in the past few weeks that, with characteristic practicality, she contemplated leaving the farm and starting another chapter. Sheila's arrangements have been entrusted to the Boyce Funeral Home Ltd., 138 Daniel Street North, Arnprior. At Sheila's request, there will be no funeral. A celebration of a full life will be held at another date.
Share Your Memory of
Sheila