The secret millionaires of Campbeltown

Campbeltown in Kintyre, Argyll, was home to an anonymous ' and extremely wealthy ' benefactor. Picture: Dennis Hardley/Alamy
Campbeltown in Kintyre, Argyll, was home to an anonymous ' and extremely wealthy ' benefactor. Picture: Dennis Hardley/Alamy
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A WORKING-CLASS family who lived in a council house built up a secret £1.4 million fortune over a lifetime of austere living.

The story of the Scots family, who never drank, smoked, or owned a car, came to light after the last surviving daughter died, leaving the entire estate to good causes.

The cash accumulated because the parents and their three unmarried children carefully saved their salaries and never indulged in luxuries.

Apart from necessities, their only main expense arose when they bought their council house in Kintyre.

Community groups in Campbeltown were amazed when local solicitor Christian Kane told them they were to get a share of a fortune left by an anonymous benefactor. Mr Kane said: “This is money that has been accumulating over two generations. The parents were careful, the children were careful and they never married. The cumulative effect was that the money just mounted up.

“The mum and dad both worked, they had three children who never married and never had any children. They were all always very careful and money-conscious; they never owned a motor vehicle, never smoked or drank. They just worked in ordinary jobs, the sort of jobs like administration that most people would think of as unremarkable.”

He added: “Mum and dad were in a council house, which they then purchased, and the children lived with the mum and dad in that house until the last one went into a nursing home.

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“They were very modest, unremarkable – you wouldn’t have known that they had any more than their pension.

“One way of accumulating money is not to spend it. The money was invested mostly in building societies and term bonds.”

The last surviving sister, who died in her 90s more than a year ago, left instructions in her will for Mr Kane to distribute the cash to good causes, but left him the responsibility of selecting the recipients.

He said: “The instruction was that it be left to charities, voluntary groups and local organisations. She said, ‘just you choose’ – she didn’t want the responsibility. There were no other relatives that we were told about, or knew about.”

The solicitor and his business partner have spent the past year looking at the constitutions of local organisations and charities to help decide how best to allocate the cash.

In that time, the £1.2m, left in the old lady’s will, has accumulated £200,000 in interest, taking the total value of the fortune up to £1.4m.

Around 34 groups, including the local junior pipe band, the boys’ brigade, and a senior citizens’ social club, have so far received around £1m, with another £400,000 still to be allocated. The largest donation has been £125,000 to the children’s hospice charity CHAS, with £40,000 also going to Kintyre Dialysis Campaign.

Mr Kane said: “This is the first time we have been unable to obtain instructions on specifically where the money should go. It is unusual, I suppose, but this lady was of an age where, through not being in circulation, she had lost touch with where she should put it and didn’t want the responsibility. It’s been a privilege and it’s enjoyable seeing what the money is doing, because money itself doesn’t mean anything; it’s only when you see what the organisations and charities can do with it that it’s nice.”

Campbeltown councillor Donald Kelly said: “It’s absolutely fantastic – this money has been a major boost to so many organisations within the local community.

“A lot of smaller groups have been struggling and this anonymous donation has been a massive boost.”