ONE of the guardians of Sir Walter Scott's legacy - Mrs Patricia Maxwell-Scott - has died in Borders General Hospital after a short illness. She was 77.

The legendary Scottish novelist loved Abbotsford, the house he built on the banks of the River Tweed near Melrose, and Mrs Maxwell-Scott unashamedly shared the passion of her ancestor.

For the tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world who make Abbotsford one of Scotland's top visitor attractions, she was no aloof aristocratic presence.

She greeted most parties personally and her cheerful hands-on running of the house with her sister Dame Jean Maxwell-Scott was legendary.

Mrs Maxwell-Scott had no children and in the long term there seems no obvious successor from the next generation waiting in the wings to take up the role of Abbotsford's loving custodian.

Last night, her half-cousin Catherine Maxwell-Stuart, of Traquair House, Innerleithen, said: ''What both Patricia and Dame Jean have done for Abbotsford is quite remarkable. Patricia spoke fluent French and she was always eager to give guided talks in an old-fashioned, personal way. The individuality came through strongly.''

Mrs Maxwell-Scott and Dame Jean - who is lady in waiting to HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester - are the daughters of the baronet Major General Sir Walter Maxwell-Scott and took over Abbotsford on his death in l954.

Mrs Maxwell-Scott married Sir Harold Boughton in l944 but they separated and she retained her family name.

She was at the forefront of Borders life, from active presidency of the Red Cross and Save the Children Fund to hosting the Gala Braw Lad and his mounted attendants at Abbotsford during their ritual Common Riding stop.

Her visitor attraction expertise was a valuable addition to the strength of the Borders Tourist Board. Chief executive Riddell Graham said last night: ''There was very little she would not be happy to turn her hand to, whether it was serving in the Abbotsford shop or flying to America to support a Scott festival.

''She was so much a part of Abbotsford that it is difficult to imagine her and Dame Jean not standing there together at the door with the dogs.''