She was the American socialite and philanthropist who inspired a play and two movies - but Helen Hope Montgomery Scott never forgot her Ayrshire roots.

It would have hard, as she lived in a 50 roomed Philadelphia mansion called 'Ardrossan' - which was also a working farm with a prize winning herd of Ayrshire cattle.

Helen Hope Montgomery, as she was born, regularly made the best-dressed lists and once sang a naughty song to the Duke of Windsor.

On one occasion she told the Duke - later Edward VIII, famous as the king who abdicated to marry American socialite and divorcee Wallis Simpson - to stand on his head so she could see what was under his kilt.

Known to her friends as Hope, she also won a Charleston contest judged by the legendary singer, dancer and actress, Josephine Baker.

Cumnock Chronicle: A young Hope Montgomery ScottA young Hope Montgomery Scott (Image: Contributed)

Her granddaughter, Janny Scott, wrote in her 2019 book, The Beneficiary: "She woke up every morning and asked herself, ‘How much fun can I have today?'”

But Hope's lasting fame came through the play, The Philadelphia Story, written by her husband Edgar Scott's close friend Philip Barry.

He changed the name of the spoiled and fiesty socialite to Tracy, and the play focused on a tabloid's invasion of the society girl's second wedding.

But there was no disguising whose story the play was based on - not least because Barry dedicated it to 'Hope and Edgar Scott'.

Tracy was played by Katherine Hepburn on stage in 1939, and then on screen in 1940, cementing her in cinema legend when she starred alongside James Stewart.

In 1956 the story was filmed as the musical High Society, when her character was played by Grace Kelly - soon to become Princess Grace of Monaco - starring alongside Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.

Cumnock Chronicle: Cary Grant, Ketherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia StoryCary Grant, Ketherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story (Image: Contributed)

Both films were huge successes. James Stewart won a Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Philadelphia Story, and the musical High Society added a few classics to the Great American Songbook - the ballad True Love, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and Well Did You Evah, to name but a few.

Helen's family were part of Clan Montgomery, whose family owned Arran and parts of Ayrshire for generations.

Part of that family emigrated to the USA - and enjoyed fabulous success.

Cumnock Chronicle: The family mansion known as ArdrossanThe family mansion known as Ardrossan (Image: Contributed)

She was one of the four children of Colonel Robert Leaming Montgomery, who founded the investment firm Janney Montgomery Scott.

Her mother was Charlotte Hope Binney Tyler Montgomery, whose family had made its fortune in banking.

Hope grew up on Ardrossan, an incredible estate recently dubbed 'The American Downton Abbey', that her father, an investment banker, built and named after the Scottish town and castle that belonged to his ancestors.

On a plot of land the size of Central Park, it included farmhouses, stables, barns, kennels, swimming pools, a skating rink, a 50-room mansion and dozens of other homes that at one point housed four generations of the Scott family.

At her debutant ball, an 18-year-old Hope turned down no fewer than four marriage proposals from wealthy suitors.

Cumnock Chronicle: Hope with one of her beloved cowsHope with one of her beloved cows (Image: Philadelphia Inquirer)

Reports at the time said she had been raised for “succeeding at parties and marrying well".

And she did. Her husband Edgar was the grandson of a 19th-century robber baron and an heir to the Pennsylvania Railroad fortune.

She met Edgar Scott at a dinner party in Rosemont in October 1922.

Hope told an interviewer: “Edgar arrived for dinner, and he was introduced to me from across the table. I knew what a glamorous man he was, so then I thought he was wonderful.”

They talked the entire evening. After that, she said: "We saw each other 10 times, then became engaged. Isn’t that great?”

The pair fell deeply in love, married when Hope was 19, and then threw the best parties in the state.

Hope said herself in 1991, a few years before her death: “I was a party girl. I wanted to know everybody in the world.”

For years, she appeared annually on the New York Couture Group’s best-dressed list, along with Jacqueline Kennedy and Grace Kelly.

But she was never impressed by the honour, stating: “It just completely brushes off."

Cumnock Chronicle: Hope with her beloved Ayrshires

Hope was more interested in cows. And horses.

She was chairwoman and executive director of the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, and chairwoman of its horse show committee.

She refused to give up riding, even after she had both hips replaced.

“I rode so much I knocked the cartilage out,” she said in 1991.

At Ardrossan, Mrs Scott displayed paintings by Renoir and Degas, along with paintings and photos of her most productive Ayrshire cows.

She kept 310 cows on her farm, all of whom she had personally named, along with a pack of beagles and two bull terriers.

Hope died in 1995 at the age of 90. Her son, Robert Montgomery Scott, later revealed she had been injured while she was leading two donkeys into a stable on her estate.

Inside her home, after getting her hair cut and declining an employee’s offer to take her to the hospital, she collapsed. Her son found her unconscious on the floor of an upstairs bathroom 

Doctors discovered internal bleeding that damaged her brain. She remained in a coma and died shortly afterwards.

Her son said her death was no occasion for tears, adding: "I have decided that I should rejoice. She was such a wonderful character. What else can you get out of life?”

A remarkable legacy, left by an astonishing woman.