Ian Rankin shows support for city cancer centre

Crime writer Ian Rankin has spoken of how he wished his mother had been offered better support before her death as he led a personal tour of the Capital to raise money for cancer patients.

Author Ian Rankin speaks to group in Greyfriars Churchyard during a tour around Edinburgh's Old Town. Picture; TSPL
Author Ian Rankin speaks to group in Greyfriars Churchyard during a tour around Edinburgh's Old Town. Picture; TSPL

Rankin, 56, has chosen to support the charity Maggie’s after visiting their centre at the Western General Hospital, which offers practical and emotional support for cancer patients and their families.

His mother Isobel died in 1979, when Rankin was just 19-years-old.

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Although her cause of death was unclear at the time, the Fife-born author believes it may have been cancer. He said: “There just wasn’t anything like that available at the time. There was nothing like Maggie’s for her.

The site of new Maggie's Centre. Picture: Michael Gillen

“I think it is a great idea. Having been in there, it gives a sense of being in a safe haven.

“I would love it if the NHS took a leaf out of Maggie’s book and just aspired to treat someone as a whole person, rather than for their illness.”

The first Maggie’s centre was opened in Edinburgh in 1996 by garden designer Maggie Keswick Jencks, who wanted to develop a new approach to care after being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in 1993. It costs around £2400 per day to run each centre, which are all funded by public donations.

The best-selling author took a group of Maggie’s competition winners for a walk in the footsteps of his famous detective, John Rebus, yesterday while sharing a mix of historic landmarks and personal highlights, ranging from Greyfriars Kirkyard to his favourite pub – The Oxford Bar.

The site of new Maggie's Centre. Picture: Michael Gillen

Kicking off at the National Library of Scotland, where Rankin wrote his first Rebus novel Knots and Crosses, the tour then wound into Greyfriars Kirkyard to meet some of the city’s more ghoulish inhabitants.

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From there the walkers went onto the Royal Mile to learn about the legend of Deacon Brodie, before squeezing down Lady Stair’s Close to visit the Scottish Writers’ Museum.

A quick pint in the Wash Bar on the Mound lifted spirits, before the tour crossed into the New Town to wander past Robert Louis Stevenson’s House in Heriot Row, ending up in the Oxford Bar.

Rankin, who lives in Merchiston with his wife and two sons, said the city played a vital role in his work.

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He said: “It has this amazing history of compelling characters.

“What with Sherlock Holmes, who, let’s not forget, was invented by an Edinburgh writer, or Miss Jean Brodie or even Begbie.

“It’s a fascinating city but it’s got a really dark history. Everywhere you look there is a story waiting to be told.”

Among the walkers was Carol Maguire, from Gullane in East Lothian, who was re-diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour in January.

The 52 year-old said: “There are not enough words to express what Maggie’s has meant to me since I was first diagnosed with a brain tumour on Christmas Eve 2013, and again at the start of this year.

“Taking part in Culture Crawl feels like a nice way to give something back and winning a place on the Rebus tour has simply been a fantastic experience.

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“Such an experience and I would like to thank Ian Rankin for giving his time and all his incredible insights. It has been amazing.”

The charity will run its second Culture Crawl on Friday, a ten-mile walk offering an after-hours view of the city’s top cultural and heritage sites.

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Hundreds of walkers will get access to Fettes College, Edinburgh College of Art and the Scottish National Gallery, accompanied by performances from organist John Kitchen and the National Youth Choir of Scotland.

Maggie’s chief executive Laura Lee said: “Maggie’s Culture Crawls are fantastic events which succeed in capturing the essence of Maggie’s in a way which gives people a truly different experience of each city and the opportunity to raise vital funds to help Maggie’s continue to support anyone affected by cancer.”

Bill Drummond, managing partner of Capital-based Brodies solicitors, which is sponsoring the event, said: “Having taken part in the Edinburgh Culture Crawl last year alongside colleagues from Brodies, I know first-hand just how enjoyable the walk is.”

There is still time to sign up for the event at www.maggiescentres.org/culturecrawl.