Kirsteen Gibb

7th October 2011 at 01:00
A woman respected for her high standards and deep affinity for her alma mater

Kirsteen Gibb could probably best be described as a combination of E.S Benson's Lucia and a rather upmarket version of Miss Jean Brodie.

Her mother had witnessed the tsar of Russia's arrival at Leith Docks in 1896, gone on to study music in Dresden under the tutelage of one of Franz Liszt's pupils and gained an honours degree from Edinburgh University at a time of very few women graduates. Her father was a lawyer and Writer to the Signet.

A physical education and dance teacher at St Margaret's School in the Newington area of Edinburgh for all her working life, Miss Gibb retained a deep affinity for another Edinburgh institution - her own alma mater, St George's School for Girls. She was one of its most generous benefactors, donating the proceeds of the sale of one of her homes.

Founded in 1888, in a converted house in Melville Street, St George's was the culmination of a long campaign by a group of women who had been denied access to university. Miss Gibb attended it from 1929 to 1939 and went on to study at Dunfermline College of Hygiene and Physical Education. But her student years coincided with the Second World War and, when the building was commandeered by the Navy, the college transferred to Aberdeen.

Once qualified, she secured a post at St Margaret's where she almost idolised the headmistress Eva MacLean and remained for her whole career. There she introduced lacrosse and enjoyed a reputation for maintaining high standards with efficiency, elegance, integrity and unfailing courtesy.

Professionally committed though she was to St Margaret's, she was also a devoted and active member of St George's Old Girls' Association, serving on various committees, becoming its honorary vice-president and declaring fondly that "there was no school like St George's".

It was her mother, a concert pianist, who instilled in her a lifelong love of classical music. Miss Gibb was particularly fond of grand opera and for more than 20 years, from 1955 onwards, she and her widowed mother would make a pilgrimage to Vienna and Salzburg.

Though a generous benefactor, socially she was not always the easiest to get along with; she once telephoned a hostess who put milk in her cup before adding the coffee, to ensure she wouldn't make the same mistake twice.

A woman of elegant dress sense who was always colour co-ordinated, she loved clothes and would often buy two of each piece - one to wear and one to keep for good.

A striking, fit and athletic figure despite being almost 90, she put her long and healthy life down to no alcohol and a good bracing walk each day, preferably across The Meadows.

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