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Last Updated: Monday, 2 January 2006, 14:03 GMT
Works of art destroyed in blaze
Exterior of building
The fire destroyed the drawing room at the Linklaters' home
Tens of thousands of pounds worth of art and antiquarian books have been lost in a New Year house fire.

The blaze at the Edinburgh home of former Scotsman editor Magnus Linklater destroyed works by artists including Samuel Peploe and William MacTaggart.

The fire, in a drawing room, was thought to have started in Christmas tree lights as Mr Linklater and his wife Veronica hosted a party.

Four of the nine occupants were rescued from the A-listed house by fire crews.

Mr Linklater, who is also a former Scottish Arts Council chairman, was treated in hospital for smoke inhalation and minor burns to his hands but was discharged shortly afterwards.

It is truly awful. The fire spread with such speed, blowing out the windows of the drawing room
Magnus Linklater

The fire broke out at 0120 GMT on Sunday in the couple's Georgian townhouse in Drummond Place.

Mr Linklater, who edited The Scotsman from 1988 to 1994, told the paper the cost of the ruined artwork alone could be about 100,000.

"I keep on remembering more and more things that are lost," he said.

"It is truly awful. The fire spread with such speed, blowing out the windows of the drawing room.

"My wife noticed the flames first and within seconds the whole tree was on fire.

"The fire brigade guided us out through the smoke and falling glass."

Magnus Linklater
Mr Linklater said irreplaceable works were lost

A prized collection of antiquarian books - including a rare edition of works by Sir Walter Scott and a complete collection of the writings of Rudyard Kipling - was destroyed.

Mr Linklater said the destruction of irreplaceable bound manuscripts of books by his father, Eric Linklater, was "a devastating loss".

About 25 firefighters from Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service tackled the blaze in a four-hour operation.

Although the fire was confined to the drawing room, other parts of the three-storey property suffered smoke and water damage.

Paul Stirton, a senior lecturer in the history of art at Glasgow University, told The Scotsman: "In cultural terms, Mr Linklater's collection is priceless, to some extent. The fact that they have gone is a great loss."

See why the collection was so important

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