Farewell to Moira, the Fringe’s own Mary Whitehouse

Moira Knox pictured in 1992. Picture: Mark Jackson
Moira Knox pictured in 1992. Picture: Mark Jackson
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Described as Edinburgh’s answer to Mary Whitehouse, she was an outspoken critic of the Fringe’s more risqué acts.

But the Tory councillor’s moral outrage often had quite the opposite effect to the one she intended, sending ticket sales through the roof as she became regarded by some performers as a badge of honour.

Moira Knox – who inadvertently sent audiences flocking to whichever production was the latest to attract her ire – has died at the age of 85, just as the 70th Edinburgh Festival gets under way.

Mrs Knox represented Davidson’s Mains in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming one of the best known characters on the city council.

She was a big fan of Margaret Thatcher – corresponding with the Iron Lady – and served on the official Edinburgh International Festival board.

Lindsay Walls, who joined the city council in 1977, has fond memories of her bringing her pet poodle Pinto to the City Chambers with her.

He said: “She was quite a character and she could be outspoken about certain things – especially when it came to shows and festivals. You could call her the Mary Whitehouse of Edinburgh council.

“I will remember her with great affection. Every show would be sold out if she said she was shocked and appalled by it. She had a sense of humour but if something got on her back she would make sure you knew about it.”

Although nudity, bad language and blasphemy made her “beyond angry”, one of her most celebrated clashes was with the modern American circus “freak” Jim Rose, whose show involved hammering nails into various parts of his body, parts the very exposure of which could cause offence.

She was best known for her stance on public decency and her outraged comments, which would sometimes end up on the posters for the shows that she condemned, as if they were five-star reviews.

Lord Selkirk James Douglas-Hamilton – who worked alongside Mrs Knox from 1972 to 1997 – described her as a “standard bearer for the Tories”.

The former city councillor and MP said she would be “remembered with warmth and affection by friends and foes alike,” adding: “She was courageous, ebullient, forthright and extremely successful in getting across her point of view.

“I remember once she invited me to tea and when I arrived, to my astonishment, two holders of the Victoria Cross were there already – her brother-in-law William Reid and John Cruickshank. I always took her advice very seriously and she was a highly successful councillor for many years.”

Mrs Knox was active in the International League for the Protection of Horses and campaigned for reforms on animal transportation. Her husband predeceased her. Latterly she moved to Crieff to live in a home with her elder sister Violet, who survives her.