Mairi’s love of arts leaves lasting legacy

Mairi Rankin.
Mairi Rankin.
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MAIRI Hay Findlay Pirie (Rankin) – one of the Capital’s best-known arts figures – has died at the age of 91.

She was born on June 8, 1924, in Aberdeen, the only daughter of Bill and Gladys Pirie.

Her father was involved in theatres in Aberdeen, which were also used for the showing of initially silent films and also plays and music hall performances.

Mairi studied drama in London during the Second World War and recounted on occasions the fact that her accommodation had twice been bombed.

Despite this, she was awarded the Howard de Walden Prize for the best drama student in 1945.

When she returned to Scotland, she took up the post of the first full-time lecturer in drama at what was The College of Dramatic Art in Glasgow.

She taught movement, drama and acting, and produced plays and operas at the college, working there for seven years full-time and then part time for many years after.

She met Roy Rankin – then secretary of the Bank of Scotland – in the mid-1950s. They were married in St Mary’s Chapel, in Aberdeen, on January 12, 1957.

They set up home in Edinburgh and fulfilled their tremendous love and enthusiasm for the arts. They collected paintings, sculptures and beautiful furniture for their home.

They were also enthusiastic entertainers and held many parties during the Edinburgh Festival – usually after a particular performance – with famous artists, actors, producers and directors coming to their house.

Mairi was known a wonderful hostess – flamboyant, entertaining and immense fun, with a great sense of humour.

After Roy retired in 1971, they remained very active in supporting both the Edinburgh Festival and the arts in general. But they were at their happiest during the International Festival.

Roy died 20 years ago on October 5, 1995. Mairi picked herself up before undergoing two hip replacements and two cataract operations. Despite this, she continued to attend concerts, galleries and operas.

Her passion was her love of the arts and meeting people.

Latterly, Mairi’s sight deteriorated and she struggled to venture out. However, she continued to receive visitors, holding court in her drawing room flat.

In 2012, she established the Pirie Rankin Charitable Trust to support the performing arts during the Edinburgh International Festival. The trust this year sponsored the much acclaimed production of Antigone.

Friends said she had left her mark on those who knew her, adding that her lasting legacy in memory of Roy and herself would be the establishment of a charitable trust benefitting the Edinburgh International Festival.