Spinster leaves bulk of £4m estate to St Andrews good causes

St Andrews will benefit from the gift. Picture: Contributed
St Andrews will benefit from the gift. Picture: Contributed
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A spinster who dedicated her life to volunteer work in her beloved hometown has gifted the bulk of a £4 million fortune to good causes in the area.

Gillian Falconer selflessly volunteered in shops and organisations in St Andrews. Miss Falconer, who died aged 91 in 2016, ran a National Trust shop with fellow volunteers and was a well-known figure in the university town.

She was honorary vice-president of the St Andrews Preservation Trust, which benefited from her generous financial support and active involvement.

It has now emerged the prudent pensioner, who befriended Margaret Thatcher at Oxford University, had amassed a massive £4,020,772 estate, largely made up of a stocks and shares portfolio, by the time of her death.

Miss Falconer shared out more than £1.4m to family and friends before ordering the rest of her fortune be divided between various groups, including her old school in the town, St Leonard’s.

Other significant beneficiaries include the St Andrews Preservation Trust and St Andrews Botanic Garden Trust. Her legacies include gifts to Somerville College in Oxford, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the National Trust, the Carlisle Overseas Aid Trust and the John Muir Trust.

The St Andrews Preservation Trust stands to gain in the region of £850,000, while St Leonard’s, Somerville College and the National Trust will receive around £360,000 each.

Scottish Wildlife Trust have been given £270,000 while St Andrews Botanic Garden Trust will receive £180,000.

Miss Falconer was raised in St Andrews with her two sisters following the sudden death of their church minister father in 1926. She was privately educated at St Leonard’s before reading history at Somerville College where she encountered Margaret Roberts – later to be known as Margaret Thatcher.

Miss Falconer later told friends Mrs Thatcher was very “normal”, but said she regretted not following her into politics as they would have made a “good and powerful team”.

She instead developed a love of art and design and was known for her skill at screen printing.

The St Andrew’s Preservation Trust paid tribute to her following her death, saying: “It is impossible to do justice to Gillian’s contribution to the trust over the years – in terms of her time, talents and generosity.”