My biography of Héloïse Russell-Fergusson (1896-1970) entitled Madame Scotia, Madam Scrap, was shortlisted by the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers Award in 2016.
As a teenager, I met Héloïse, who was my aunt, only once. As a grandmother, exploring this part of family history took me deep into an Aladdin’s cave of local, national and global archives and onto the doorsteps of strangers who had known her well, who knew of her music or had been influenced by her. I faced the biographer’s challenge of conveying the ‘truth’, the known facts of her life while trying to interpret her uniquely creative personality. A public performer she was also very private, although devoted to the west coast of Scotland she was compulsively nomadic, travelling the world and never having a home of her own.
I offer readings and enjoy discussion tailored to what each audience prefers: talking around the table or making more formal presentations to meet the interests of the group whatever its size or composition. I use visual illustrations and play samples of her music from traditional Hebridean songs she recorded in the 1930s to the experimental music she recorded in the 1960s, sampled in 2003 by Martyn Bennett.