£750k gift to the classical musicians of the future

Largest legacy gift left to university

Date posted

11 May 2017


Last updated

19 March 2020

A GENEROUS long-time backer of Edinburgh Napier University has left £750,000 in his will to support its classical music programme.

Philanthropist Ian Tomlin’s legacy gift, the largest ever received by the university, matches the level of support he gave to the university during his lifetime through scholarships and annual donations.


This means his support for music at the university, which saw the establishment of the Ian Tomlin Centre for Music and a Clinic for Hearing Disabilities at the former Craighouse campus, continues into the modern era, where music is now taught at Merchiston as part of the School of Arts and Creative Industries.

His legacy will be used to fund “the study, teaching and performance of classical music”. This will include providing masterclasses, specialist lessons, workshops, concerts and investing in equipment and teaching resources.

Dr Tomlin – who was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the university in 1995 - developed a strong love of music through singing in his London school’s boys’ choir, even appearing with them at the Royal Albert Hall.

He later settled in Hong Kong, working initially for trading company Butterfield and Swire then on other business ventures, where he was introduced to the work of the university by close friend Jimmy Macgregor.

In 1995, along with three other Hong Kong businessmen, the pair established a trust, which provided scholarships to students from Hong Kong to study at Edinburgh Napier.

Dr Tomlin’s support for the university continued after he retired to Malta. In 1999 he set up the Malta/Napier Music Scholarship Trust, which gave young Maltese music students the opportunity to go to Edinburgh to study performance and composition to the highest level.

Gifted students who have benefited from the scholarships include lyric soprano Claire Debono, composers Alex Vella Gregory and Veronique Vella, pianists Gisele Grima and Marcelle Zahra, violinists Jean Noel and Pierre Louis Attard and flautists Laura Cioffi and Clara Galea.

Nicholas Ashton, Co-Programme Leader for BMus (Hons) at Edinburgh Napier, said: “The training of these young people would not have been possible were it not for Ian’s extraordinary, selfless generosity.

“He was the epitome of the philanthropist, a man who was driven by the desire to promote the welfare of others, and we are delighted his influence will continue to be felt here as his legacy gift supports the careers of the promising classical musicians of the future.”

Dr Tomlin died in hospital in Malta on January 11, 2016.

School of Arts & Creative Industries

If you want to pursue a creative industries career, our School of Arts & Creative Industries offers a range of degrees to create a vibrant, international and creative community. Our modern facilities and strong links with industry combine to produce industry-ready, award-winning graduates.