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Islands Book Trust

Madame Scotia, Madam Scrap

Madame Scotia, Madam Scrap

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The story of Héloïse Russell-Fergusson 1896 - 1970

Author/s: Witcher, Hélène

Keypoints: Madame Scotia, Madam Scrap reveals the life of Héloïse Russell-Fergusson, the pioneering musician who combined a fearless determination with mischief, eccentric creativity with surprising practicality.  Her story sits proudly beside those of many extraordinary Scottish women whose lives are only now being recognised.

Contents: In the early 1920s she saw a Celtic harp in a Washington D.C shop window.  It triggered a lifetime of learning and performance, taking traditional Hebridean songs from New York to Cairo, Tientsin to Tallinn. Fascinated by the ways in which people use music universally to reflect their beliefs and respond to their surroundings, Héloïse brought back early understandings of world music that startled the conventional clarsach playing community of the 1960s.

Well known in pockets across the world, there is widespread curiosity about her story and a burgeoning awareness amongst musicologists and musicians of the almost prophetic quality of her later work.  Her memory is cherished especially in Brittany where she remains feted for introducing the harp and for her contribution to Celtic music.  

Written by her niece Helene Witcher, this is the story of a formidable individual whose legacy is still fully to be realised.

Categories: Biography, Memoir, History, Women, Music

About the author/s: Helene Witcher’s childhood was mostly solitary, growing up in the 1950s on the shores of Loch Lomond.  Aged 17, her first job was working in a residential List ‘D’ School for young offenders of the same age.  A year at this unconventional finishing school plugged many of the gaps in her sheltered upbringing.

Graduating from the University of Stirling, she worked as a teacher providing support for Traveller and bilingual families before becoming a specialist provider of training and support to Scotland’s colleges on all forms of discrimination.  She published regularly in the educational press on issues of inequality.  Privately, and often using a pseudonym, she wrote occasional features based on lone parent life and on her children’s growth and experience.  Now retired from the professional world, this first foray into biographical writing was shortlisted for the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers Award in 2016.

Readership:  General

Published: 2017

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