Madame Scotia, Madam Scrap
By Hélène Witcher
Madame Scotia, Madam Scrap By Hélène Witcher

Book review: Madame Scotia, Madam Scrap by Hélène Witcher

What’s the story?

Madame Scotia, Madam Scrap is the story of Héloïse Russell-Fergusson, an eccentric free spirit and pioneer of Hebridean and unconventional clarsach, or Celtic harp music. She was given the title of Druidic Bardess for her traditional highland music. Told by her niece Witcher whom Russell-Fergusson met on just one occasion, Madame Scotia, Madam Scrap is a personal tale of discovery, in which Witcher pieces together the elusive, remaining scraps of her aunt’s life and legacy and learns more about herself along the way, writes Stacey Wylie.



Witcher is more than just a biographer. Her wonderful use of nature-rooted imagery gives the book an ethereal quality that resonates with its free-spirited subject. A strong attempt to understand her aunt’s motives and life is clear from the off, with reference to the car Russell-Fergusson would unorthodoxly record her music in and the potted plants lining its dashboard.

Madame Scotia, Madam Scrap, by Hélène Witcher



It is safe to say that Witcher is biased in her aunt’s favour. With her obscure life already hard to pin down, there is unavoidably sentimental speculation. While this adds an entertaining and personal quality to this, perhaps combined biography of both Russell-Fergusson and Witcher, it may not be as nuanced and clear speaking as a traditional biography.



Madame Scotia, Madam Scrap has the potential to appeal to a wide audience. Its personal quality makes for an enjoyable, heart-warming read for anyone. In particular, 1960s enthusiasts might find it interesting to read of Russell-Fergusson, a transitionary figure of post-war time and the well known hippie age. Of course, music lovers will also find this an enlightening tale as it delves into the more mysterious Hebridean and Celtic genres.



Madame Scotia, Madam Scrap makes for an out-of-the-ordinary non-fiction story that can be enjoyed by many. The family element results in an informed, but emotional narrative that makes reading a biography more enjoyable and less serious. Perhaps most importantly, Witcher’s book reclaims the Scottish music history for an unjustly forgotten Russell-Fergusson, a remarkable woman whose innovation has influenced the eclectic music of modern times.

 Madame Scotia, Madam Scrap, by Hélène Witcher, The Islands Book Trust, £9.99.

Scottish Field rating: ****