Archive of Author | Sacha Abercorn

Her Grace The Duchess of Abercorn OBE

Sacha, Duchess of  Abercorn, was born Alexandra Anastasia Phillips in 1946 in Tuscon, Arizona. Through her mother, Sacha was one of the Romanov family, a great-great-great granddaughter of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.  She was also a great-great-great granddaughter of the legendary Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin.

She came to live in Ireland when she married James Hamilton, then MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, in 1966. Her first child, James, was born in 1969, her daughter, Sophie, in 1973 and her younger son, Nicholas, in 1979. Her husband succeeded his father as Duke of Abercorn in 1979 and dedicates his time and energy to the social and economic regeneration of Northern Ireland.

During the mid-1970s, the Duchess trained as a professional counsellor in transpersonal and depth psychology, employing methodologies learned from (among others) Jung, Maslow, Progoff and Assagioli.

Living through the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland made the Duchess increasingly aware of the trauma sustained by children in the province. She also became aware of their urgent need to express their thoughts, their feelings, their inner worlds – to find a ‘voice’ of their own, and to find means whereby that ‘voice’ could be heard. This led to the establishment of the Pushkin Prizes in 1987.

After the Omagh bomb in 1998, the Duchess became a trustee of the Northern Ireland Centre for Trauma and Transformation. In 2003, the Duchess received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster. In the same year, she published a volume of prose poems, Feather from the Firebird. In 2006, the Ireland Fund of Monaco presented her with the Princess Grace Humanitarian Award and she was also awarded the OBE in 2008 for her services to charity.


At the core of the Pushkin Trust’s work is the Schools’ Programme which is a cross-curricular, cross-community and cross-border project involving primary, secondary, Irish medium and special needs schools.

The initiative retains creative writing as the central core of activity and is supplemented by other creative art forms, using the environment as an important source of inspiration.

The programme is usually launched in October with a residential weekend for participating teachers. Artists lead practical workshops based on the annual theme which is then adopted into the programme and integrated into teaching. Previous annual themes include ‘Roots’, ‘The Fire Within’, ‘The Tree of Life’ and ‘Go with the Flow’. The theme for 2013-2014 is ‘Landscape’.

Articles with Sacha Abercorn

Imagination in Education

“At this time, the world we live in is in great need of a balance between our heads and our hearts, so that we may connect to the ‘tap-root’ in us all by opening us to the realm of imagination, inspiration and integration.”

Sacha, Duchess of Abercorn OBE was an innovator in creative education and the founder of The Pushkin Trust, an organisation that supports creative learning and education across Ireland, works to provide and support a holistic model to spark imagination and deepen awareness of our collective creativity, our humanity and ‘the child’ within each one of us.

Sadly, Sacha died on 10 December 2018 and this interview, first published in the launch issue of Interalia Magazine, is re-published here as a tribute to her creativity, compassion and imagination.