Drama teacher leaves huge windfall in will for Edinburgh Festival

A FORMER drama teacher has left almost £3 million in her will to help secure the future of the Edinburgh International Festival.

Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 7:09 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 7:18 pm
Mairi Rankin, a former drama teacher, left the Edinburgh International Festival almost £3million

Mairi Rankin, who taught at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, was a regular attendee at concerts and shows from the mid-1950s.

She set up a new charitable trust in Edinburgh to support the arts in 2012, just three years before she passed away at the age of 91.

Last year it backed Antigone, the flagship theatre production at the 2015 EIF, which brought Oscar-winning actress Juliette Binoche to Edinburgh to perform at the event for the first time.

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Now Ms Rankin’s published will has shown that she has asked for the bulk of her £2,848,368 estate to be set aside for the trust, which was created to help fund productions during the event, which currently relies on around £5m of public funding.

Legal papers show she also left £50,000 to pay for a new prize to be set up for piano students at St Mary’s Music School, which hopes to relocate from the West End to the former Royal High School.

Future backing from the trust will be a major financial boost for the festival, which has just had a three per cent funding cut imposed by the city council ahead of the 70th annual event this year.

It was left nearly £4m a decade ago by an Irish arts philanthropist, Lean Scully, who travelled to the event every year before passing away at the age of 72.

Ms Rankin, who was born in Aberdeen, the only daughter of Bill and Gladys Pirie, developed a love of the stage in the city thanks to her father, who was involved in the theatre scene.

She studied drama in London during the Second World War and survived two bomb attacks on her accommodation in the city.

When she returned to Scotland she took up the first full-time post of lecturer in drama at the College of Dramatic Art, in Glasgow, which later became the RSAMD.

She moved to Edinburgh after meeting and marrying Roy Rankin, secretary of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The couple – who collected paintings and sculptures for their home – were enthusiastic supporters of the EIF, hosting many parties at their during the festival, which attracted artists, actors, producers and directors.

The Edinburgh International Festival’s website states that trusts and foundations play a vital role “in making this unique event possible”.

The festival says that gifts from wills are increasingly vital in helping to safeguard the festival’s future.

A spokeswoman for the EIF said: “The Pirie Rankin Charitable Trust has generously supported the Edinburgh International Festival since 2013.”