Obituary: Maisie Shaw, 93

Maisie Shaw was one of the 'creme de la creme' at James Gillespie's
Maisie Shaw was one of the 'creme de la creme' at James Gillespie's
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Maisie Shaw, one of the real-life Edinburgh residents who inspired Muriel Spark’s world-famous novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, has died at the age of 93.

A pupil of the formidable Miss Christina Kay at James Gillespie’s High School in the 1930s, Maisie – along with Muriel Camberg (later Spark) – became a member of the teacher’s “creme de la creme” inner circle and a recipient of her distinctive brand of cultural and personal education.

Born Mary Mallinson in March, 1919, to a science teacher and his wife, Maisie would catch the bus to the Edinburgh school from the family home in Corstorphine.

From the beginning, Maisie displayed a strong artistic talent and became a serious rival to Muriel in school poetry competitions.

And although aware of Miss Kay’s sympathy for Mussolini and the Italian Fascists, Maisie retained a good deal of affection for the teacher who would later be immortalised in her classmate’s much-loved novel.

To the end of her life, Maisie held on to a memory of Miss Kay’s reaction to her pupil’s success in obtaining the autograph of the Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev during a visit to Edinburgh by the Ballets Russes. The teacher was so overjoyed she burst into tears.

Maisie established herself as one of the Capital’s leading arts personalities.

Her interest in illustration and book production led her to enrol as a student at Edinburgh College of Art, where she later produced an illustrated collection of poems. It was also during this period that she met her future husband and leading artist, Sax Shaw.

The early period of the relationship brought challenges after Yorkshire-born Shaw, a conscientious objector, was exiled to farm work in the Borders and later took a scholarship to study in Paris.

But the couple were finally able to marry at the end of the Second World War, and both settled into their respective careers.

Maisie had trained as an art teacher at Moray House – and was later posted to some of the toughest schools in the Capital – while her husband took on the directorship of the Capital’s Dovecot tapestry studios and also won a long-running tenure at Edinburgh College of Art.

The couple’s home quickly became an oasis for Edinburgh’s artistic elite. The film-maker Jack Shea and writer Bryan Appleyard were among the many personages to grace Maisie’s New Town flat. After giving birth to two sons – Kevan and Christian – Maisie’s art gradually took a back seat to family life.

But her interest in culture continued. In September she was present at a memorial exhibition of her husband’s work at the city’s Whitespace gallery.

As well as having two sons, Maisie was also a loving grandmother to Felicity and Andrew, and, this year, a great-grandson, Dylan.