SHE could dish out a good tongue-lashing but could also be caring and kind.

NIGEL HEINS recalls the mistress of Gillow Manor and the will that got Herefordshire talking.

THE lady of the manor could occasionally be a right tartar. Amy Simmons was a legendary figure among the county set - a lady well-known for the forthright way she expressed her views.

One photographer received a "whipping" from the tongue of the master of fox hounds.

Normally well versed in countryside lore, he made, in her eyes, a fearful faux pas. Renowned for the painstaking way he composed his photographs, he requested Mrs Simmons gather her dogs closer around her.

The mistress of Gillow Manor, near Ross-on-Wye, reacted as though he had suddenly confessed to being a serial poacher.

"Dogs? They're not dogs, man, they're ******* hounds!"

Such no-nonsense tirades were not uncommon - but Amy Simmons was also known as "the best boss you could wish for" and as "a great sport".

Some of the colour of rural Herefordshire diminished with her death aged 69 on November 21, 1964, but as Christmas approached she was once more the talk of the county.

The publication of her £1.5 million will - a fortune four decades ago - revealed that many people, organisations and institutions in Herefordshire would benefit.

Numerous relatives inherited money but there were sentimental bequests, too. "A hunting horn to be chosen by him" to her great nephew James Houlder and "my gun" to her nephew Peter Fairhurst.

Much of the public's fascination in her will resulted from her generosity to her staff.

She left £10,000 to her bailiff Frederick Dickens, who had managed the 453-acre Gillow estate for the previous 17 years.

He interrupted sorting potatoes to tell the Press: "Naturally, I am very grateful. Mrs Simmons was the best boss you could wish for."

To the man who chauffeured her around in her Bentley, Albert Sharland, went £5,000 and a bungalow at St Owens Cross.

He and his wife, Violet, had worked for Mrs Simmons for many years, Mr Sharland having also been second horseman and stud groom.

"She was a great sport. She had the bungalow built for us. She always said we would never have to worry about being turfed out of our home," said the man behind the limousine's wheel.

All her staff received legacies, the amounts depending on the length of service.

And numerous organisations and institutions were given a boost by the Simmons wealth. These ranged from £500 for masses at the Catholic church of St Frances of Rome at Ross-on-Wye to £1,000 to the travel fund of Herefordshire Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs.

Mrs Simmons had been the doyen of hunting in south Herefordshire and a successful farmer.

She was Master of the South Herefordshire Foxhounds from 1931-51, and again from 1956-61, and was one of the few women MFHs in the country before the Second World War to go hunting herself.

She was president of the South Herefordshire and Ross Harriers Pony Club for several years and in 1958, had the rare distinction for a woman of being elected president of the Three Counties Agricultural Society.

As a farmer, she was a successful pedigree Hereford cattle and Clun Forest breeder.

From the beginning of the young farmers' movement in 1943, she took an active part in federation affairs, becoming president in 1951. And today, Wormelow Cricket Club boasts her racing colours of chocolate and gold.

She was also one of the major shareholders of Ansells Brewery.