Published on 4/04/2019
IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME in the planning but today, 4 April 2019, ‘The Woman Who Rode A Shark’ is officially launched. Our daughter, Ailsa, has had her first book published. It tells the stories of 50 ‘Wild Female Adventurers’.
Ailsa has done a huge amount of research into all sorts of women who deserve to be better known, women from around the world and across the centuries who dared to pursue their passions. The book is aimed at 7-12 year old but it is a fascinating read for all ages.
You can read about the amazing Nellie Bly who travelled ‘Around the World In Eighty Days’ or Jade Hameister who answered her bullies by skiing to the South Pole, or Noor Inayat Khan, the Indian princess who became a secret agent … there are so many brilliant stories, so many remarkable women. There are artists, pioneers, activists, scientists, athletes and explorers.
Ailsa was born just a month after we opened the gallery, in 1988, so if you have been a regular visitor, you are likely to have met her. She was quite a timid wee thing as a girl, hesitant to join in with her big brothers’ adventures, terrified she would get into trouble, although it never stopped them.
Her grandmother likes to recall the tale of how she took the bus from Aberdeen to Ellon one day but missed the stop and landed in Peterhead. She was in a state of sheer terror.
Who would have thought that timorous beastie would travel round Albania on her own, work on a kibbutz, teach in Seoul for a year, explore South America including Guatemala where she met her Canadian husband. She now lives in Jasper National Park amid the mountains, pine woods and turquoise lakes of the magnificent Canadian Rockies. Ailsa may have thought she was used to cold winters in Scotland but it’s somewhat colder in Canada, often -40°C.
Ailsa studied law at Edinburgh University and spent a year on exchange at Copenhagen University. She entered a British Council writing competition in 2009 with an essay about living in Denmark and won the Scottish prize. That’s when she decided she wanted to be a travel writer. But she credits the earlier influence of two particular teachers at Ellon Academy, where she went to school — English teacher Miss Hogg and History teacher, Mr Morrison. Both were exceptional.
It has been fascinating to watch Ailsa's book develop from conception to publication. It has taken almost 6 years, with numerous drafts. She was thrilled when she secured a wonderful literary agent who then secured a publisher. Another exciting stage was commissioning an illustrator. Amy Blackwell has done a brilliant job in creating lively engaging illustrations of each of the women in the book and the whole book has been beautifully designed.
We are obviously biased but you don’t need to take our word for it. Ailsa is an excellent writer. She was recently awarded a coveted Writers’ Residency by the Writers' Trust of Canada and will spend three months next year in Dawson City, Yukon, in a house across the street from Robert Service’s historic cabin and just up the street from Jack London’s cabin. She has come a long way from Tolquhon, Tarves, north east Scotland.
Ailsa says, ‘I hope readers will see that world history goes way beyond Columbus and the conquistadors. I hope girls will read the book and realise how much potential they have. I hope mothers and fathers and brothers will read it and realise how much potential they have, how much potential their daughters and sisters have’.
We have copies of ‘The Woman Who Rode a Shark’ available in the gallery or you can buy it from bookshops or online. You can also join Ailsa’s online Women Adventurers community on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.