The true story behind the paintings of James Bruce Thomason.
This summary is taken from two book as follows:
1. The Lone Voyage of Betty Mouat by Roderick Grant--printed 1973.
2.Drifting Alone to Norway by TM.J. Manson---printed 1986--Centenary Edition.
Betty Mouat was 59 years old in 1886. She lived in a crofthouse with her brother's family in the hamlet of Scatness--24 miles south of the town of Lerwick, Shetland. At this time, most people made the journey to the town by foot but Betty was some what disabled and preferred to travel there by sea.
The " Columbine" was a fine vessel, rigged as a cutter. The Captain and 2 crew members were experienced sailors. On January 30th, 1886, to escape bad weather, the Captain decided to sail to Lerwick from Grutness, near Betty's home. With a southerly wind, this was expected to take 2--3 hours. The Captain advised Betty not to take the journey as he anticipated a rough passage. She rejected his advice as she was anxious to see a doctor and trade some fine handknitted goods of her own and those of other community members. So, she went below with the knitted garments and one quart of milk and 2 biscuits.
The "Columbine" set sail. Thirty minutes later, disaster struck. A heavy sea caused the main boom to swing to port.The Captain and Mate tried to repair the problem when the boom threw them overboard. The Mate managed to clamber back aboard, only to become aware that his Captain was drowning. He and the third crew member immediately launched the small lifeboat and tried to locate the Captain without success.To their horror they then realized that the"Columbine" was too far away for them to overtake her. With extreme difficulty, they headed for shore, where alarmed watchers had observed the erratic scene.
The "Columbine " owner offered a reward to anyone who would launch a boat to go after the cutter. By now, the storm made this impossible. No steamship was immediately available---although, later, several searches took place over a wide area. Wireless telegraphy had not been invented but press agency telegrams were sent to the British government and the British Consul in Norway. On Feruary !st. it wasconsidered that further searches would be fruitless.
Meantime, Betty had realised that she was alone. She was seasick, cold and frightened. After screaming bitterly, she calmed down,recognising that only God could hear her. Thereafter, her religious belief helped. The storm caused her to lurch about in the cabin until she propped herself into a sitting position---holding a rope with onre hand then the other. Both hands were soon numb and blistered. She could not reach the forecastle so rationed her milk and biscuits. As the storm slowly abated, she put on the Captain's thick jacket and wound his watch daily. On Ferbruary 3rd,she finished her milk and the second biscuit. Some sunshine and the sight of some land cheered her. She tried to light a lamp with some matches she had found but the light only flickered momentarily.
This nightmare scenario continued until Febrary 6th.She later described praying and counting the stars. On her eighth day the "Columbine " struck submerged rocks near a bay in Lepsoy island off the coast of Norway.
She managed to attract attention--in spite of her weakened condition. Fishermen helped her ashore and carried her over very rough terrain to a house in Ronstad where she received great kindness and care.
Betty was now safe but her ordeal was far from over as she became a 'celebrity' of that time. She reached Edinburgh on February 24th and finally Shetland on March 16th. At all stages of her journey, the public crowded to see her. Even when she was back home, she was obliged to entertain people on a regular basis.
However, she continued her knitting and lived for another 30 years.
Her rescuers received medals from the British Government. The bay in Lepsoy where the "Columbine" went aground was named "Columbukta".