as Jay Gatsby
Chairman, Board of Trustees of National Galleries of Scotland
Benny Higgins is a maths graduate and an actuary by profession. He is well known to be a literary buff, in contrast to his school years spent playing football seriously. Legend has it he captained the Celtic boys team which featured Charlie Nicholas.
What were you like at school?
At school I was pretty serious and had a real curiosity about most academic and creative subjects – not ideal credentials for small talk with girls! My favourite subjects were mathematics and English; my interest in the latter was inspired by my grandfather who was a voracious reader of literature and poetry. A big part of my school life at Holyrood in Glasgow was playing football. Indeed the night before my chemistry O-Grade I fractured by skull playing for Celtic Boys’ Club – but I still managed to sit the exam!
What do you like most about Edinburgh?
Although I travel with the indelible mark of a Glaswegian, Edinburgh has been home to me and my family for a very long time. It is, by any measure, one of the finest cities in the world. In particular, its rich history across so many disciplines is fascinating. If I were a time-traveller, I would head immediately to Edinburgh at the height of the Scottish Enlightenment and organise a dinner party with John Hume, Adam Smith, Henry Raeburn, Robert Adam, and – of course – Robert Burns!
What inspires you about this project?
The importance of literacy cannot be overstated. Reading enables us to peer into all the lives and places that we may never encounter otherwise. It stimulates curiosity about the world we live in and about the human condition. Perhaps the most significant of all human divisions – transcending more obvious differences – is that between those who read the written word and those who don’t.