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Spinster leaves £3.7m to Festival

AN IRISH spinster who travelled faithfully to the Edinburgh International Festival every year from Dublin has left the organisation £3.7 million - the biggest single gift in its history.

Lan Scully, who died last year aged 72, had a passion for classical concerts at the Usher Hall and a taste for crme de menthe at Festival parties. She cheerfully promised Festival staff that she would "see you right when I'm gone".

They were stunned when she left property worth 5.5 million "for the benefit of the Edinburgh Festival" in her will. The money is to be used for promoting the careers of young artists.

"It's fantastic, it's absolutely wonderful, and it's something concrete that she will be remembered by," the Festival director, Sir Brian McMaster, said. "She's doing something great, something for the Festival, the thing she cared most about. It's a wonderful thing," he added.

The gift came from the sale of two houses next to one another in Dublin. The property was left over from her estate after gifts to friends.

Ms Scully, who worked in agricultural public relations, gave just 45 a year while she was alive, but frequently talked of giving more on her death. "I didn't expect it would be that amount," said Sir Brian. "She didn't behave like someone wealthy. I suspect she was surprised by how much it amounted to, or would have been."

The legacy is being used for the first time this year. It is helping to pay for the appearance of the pianist Llyr Williams with the Minnesota Orchestra, and a performance of Schumann's Manfred, which features several young artists and singers performing with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

The International Festival launches on Sunday, with a performance of Strauss' Elektra at the Usher Hall.

Any extra cash will be welcomed. The event has an 8 million budget, but reported a 1 million deficit earlier this year. Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Executive have given 600,000 extra funding towards this year's event.

While the Festival gets major donations from the Dunard Fund, and others, this is believed to be the biggest ever single gift, and easily the biggest bequest.

Ms Scully stipulated that the money should be invested, with the annual interest to be used.

She had been coming to the Festival for well over a decade, staying at the Royal Overseas League on Princes Street. She especially loved concerts at the Usher Hall.

She also went on trips run for Festival supporters to the St Magnus Festival in Orkney and the Wexford Festival.

Nicky Pritchett-Brown, the Festival's sponsorship and development director, said: "She was a tremendous character, very Irish, larger than life.

"She certainly wasn't lonely. It's a sobering thought that the EIF can be the most important thing in somebody's life."

 
 
 

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