Elizabeth (Betty) Mouat

1825 - 1918

Unintentional traveller. Born in Levenwick (Shetland), but when her father was lost at sea Betty's mother returned to her home at Scatness. Betty became a skilled hand-spinner and knitter but is best-known as a celebrity when, in 1886, the boat on which she was a passenger drifted across the North Sea to Norway without a crew. Her intention was to travel to Lerwick, aboard the smack Columbine, to sell some of her knitting and see a doctor. However, soon after embarking at Grutness, heavy seas washed the Captain and First-Mate overboard. The remaining two crew members launched a small boat in an attempt to retrieve these men, leaving Betty alone, but soon realised they could not catch the drifting ship and eventually rowed ashore. Despite a substantial reward being offered by its owner, the Columbine could not be found and was presumed lost. However, the ship had blown out to sea and was washed ashore at Lepsøy, a little island near Ålesund in Norway, nine days later. The survival of a sixty-year-old woman was seen as a miracle, receiving much press attention when she returned first to Edinburgh, and then to Shetland, two months later. A collection was taken up to help Betty and Queen Victoria contributed £20. The Queen also presented Betty's Norwegian rescuers with a medal and reward. The bay where the Columbine came ashore was named Columbinebukta (Columbine Bay) and a commemorative plaque was unveiled there in 1986. Betty eventually died at the age of 93 and lies buried in the churchyard at Dunrossness Kirk, where her grave is marked by a plaque describing her adventure. Her home, Betty Mouat's Böd, is now let as holiday accommodation.

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