FORMER students have paid tribute to a popular Ayrshire speech and drama teacher Mrs. Ruby Bryan who passed away last Tuesday, aged 80.

Mrs. Bryan worked with pupils ranging from early primary through to adults. She produced winners in every category of Speech and Drama in the Glasgow, Greenock, and Ayrshire Festivals, as well as preparing pupils for examinations in Acting, Public Speaking, and Speech and Drama with both LAMDA and the London School of Music and Communication.

She stepped in to ensure the continuation of Speech and Drama in Ayr following the deaths of teachers Marjory McKinlay and Anne Girdwood within weeks of each other. As an experienced teacher of over 50 years in her native Paisley, Ruby enthused her pupils to reach high standards in the speaking of verse and prose, public speaking, and acting.

Stuart McKinlay, former pupil, and fellow Speech and Drama Teacher, was one of Ruby’s closest friends.

He told the Advertiser his memories of his beloved mentor: “I moved to Ruby as a pupil when my grandmother passed away and I needed to find a new teacher. Ruby encouraged and coached me in theory and practice to ensure that I performed to the highest standard, in Shakespeare, verse speaking, Burns, acting, and public speaking at the Glasgow and Ayr festivals and took me through my Speech and Drama examinations with LAMDA and LCM, eventually helping to train me for my teaching diploma in Speech and Drama.

“Even in the past year where restrictions had stopped her from being able to teach when you went round to the door to chat she would start reciting a piece of poetry and expect you to pick up where she left off. Her love of poetry and drama was infectious and while she could be forthright with criticism, she knew how to get the best out of all her pupils. A testament to her teaching was the fact that so many of her pupils continue to speak or perform in public and still long after finishing studies with her, she would regularly meet ex-pupils for coffee and take an interest in their progress in life.”

Ayr Advertiser: Ruby Bryan in 2019.Ruby Bryan in 2019.

Madi Cuthbert, 27, is a dramatherapist who uses arts and drama to provide counseling for young people.

She told the Advertiser: “My mum who was a very close friend of Ruby’s, was part of her drama group. Whilst pregnant with myself they were rehearsing for the play: The Only Prison.

“Ruby had directed my mum to be on her knees for a part of her role. During one of these rehearsals, whilst on her knees, my mum went into labour. From this moment Mrs. B was destined to be not just my drama teacher but a part of my family.

“From the age of four, I started Speech and Drama lessons with her. Over 15 years she helped me gain all eight of my LAMDA exams and win many trophies at the Ayrshire Festival. She helped to build my confidence and was the foundation of my acting skills. I went on to perform in various shows over the years and without a doubt, Mrs. B would always attend to show her support, and we all looked forward to her honest criticism at the end!”

Ayr Advertiser: Ruby and Cameron KerrRuby and Cameron Kerr

Cameron Kerr, 21, now a student at the University of Dundee, studied with Ruby for eight years. He said: "Mrs. Bryan had a deep love for all things speech and drama, over which she had an undeniable mastery.

"Always preparing for a bible reading at her church, reading a poetry book before bed, or tutoring me on my latest pieces. I visited Mrs. Bryan's every Tuesday for speech and drama lessons from 2010 to 2018.

"She was always in attendance wherever I was performing, whether that be poetry competitions such as the Ayrshire Music Festival, a highlight of our year, or stage plays including one as far as Dundee, where she saw me in my first role in a production of Waiting for Godot by the student union's theatre society.

"She was always there, partly to cheer me on, but also to critique the other performers in her usual fashion. Through the years of excellent teaching, as well as inevitable post-lesson chatting, I forged an inseparable bond with a truly amazing character.

"Even after I finished secondary and left for university, we kept in touch and I have had the pleasure of knowing her for 11 years. She was an eccentric and wonderful lady and I will keep her in my heart and mind for the rest of my life."

Alison Jones, 31, who Ruby supported to win a national Burns award ‘Young Burnsian of the Year”, said: “Mrs. Bryan was my speech and drama teacher, but also my friend. Her smile could light up a room, and her voice could fill one. She was a huge part of my life.”

Jennifer Speculand, Scottish regional secretary of the Society of Speech and Drama Teachers said: “Ruby had been a teacher for as long as I could remember, at least since her early 20s, I’ve known her for almost 40 years. I work a lot with Glasgow festivals, but many of her students from Ayrshire would then go on to compete in the city. She worked to an incredibly high standard, with many of her students qualifying with LAMDA, and then would then go on to study their own teaching diploma, which is an indication of just how good she was.”

Sandra MacCuish, Ruby’s daughter said: “She was a kind, caring, and generous mother, mother in law and grandmother. She was always willing to give advice and help when required, but It was as a grandmother to Neil and Iain where she truly excelled. From taking them out to soft play areas when they were children, to encouraging them through their studies and sports competitions as young adults, she was always supportive and doting through the years.”

A private service will take place next Saturday.