A RETIRED teacher who died last year has left a share of her £2 million fortune to her former school to help children from poorer backgrounds.
Mary Cowan, 92, generously ordered that a large slice of her estate should be given to George Watson’s College, to which she devoted years of her working life.
Miss Cowan passed away in November, but her will has revealed she asked for a bursary scheme to be set up in her name at the school where famous faces such as Olympic cycling hero Sir Chris Hoy and rugby legend Gavin Hastings were taught.
She never married and worked and lived in Edinburgh her whole adult life, retiring from her job at Watson’s in 1981.
She was raised with her brother Martin in St John’s Town of Dalry in Kirkcudbrightshire where her family had lived for generations and ran a grocer shop.
Her published will has revealed she had an estate worth £1,846,155.12 and asked that more than £700,000 be given to friends and family.
Her influence touched many lives, and she remembered her students with affectionDerek Browning
The bulk of her wealth was made up of a stocks and shares portfolio and she left instructions for the remainder to be handed over to good causes.
The Mary Cowan Bursary will have funds of around £325,000 and will be used to help current or prospective pupils attend the school.
A group of trustees will decide if applicants are successful.
Morningside Parish Church, where Miss Cowan was a well known member of the congregation, Alzheimer Scotland, and the Sick Kids hospital have also been included.
Reverend Derek Browning of Morningside Parish Church paid tribute to Miss Cowan.
He said: “First and foremost she was a teacher – and her passion for Watson’s was second to none.
“Miss Cowan was supremely proud of her school, and delighted to work alongside staff who shared her commitment to educating the young.
“I know that her influence and her enthusiasm have touched many lives, and she remembered her students with pleasure and affection.”
He added: “Church was her other great passion.
“She loved her church and did everything she could to help those in it.
“She was the epitome of a Christian lady.
“She taught by example, she lived by faith, she enjoyed so many things, and was interested in just about everything.”
Melvyn Roffe, principal of George Watson’s College, said: “Mary Cowan was well known in the Watson’s community having taught many generations of pupils and we were very sad to hear of her recent death.
“Miss Cowan joined George Watson’s Ladies College in George Square as a primary school teacher, also teaching French, in 1945 and taught until 1972 when she was appointed assistant headteacher in the primary school.
“She finally retired from Watson’s in 1981. Throughout her life she was a great supporter of our Family Foundation.
“We are touched by the news that a trust created by her estate will fund the attendance at Watson’s of many pupils whose family circumstances would not otherwise enable them to study here.
“It will help us to perpetuate the memory of a much-loved and respected former member of staff and, of course, the legacy of our founder, George Watson himself.”
Watson’s was opened in 1741 by merchant and banker George Watson, who wanted children from less advantaged backgrounds to enjoy the quality of education available to those more fortunate.