Article in The Northern Times by Caroline McMorran

Article in The Northern Times by Caroline McMorran

June 26th 2024

Strathnaver museum in Bettyhill is set to welcome author Helen Graham tonight to hear about her debut novel ‘The Real Mackay’.

The book is set in early 19th century Edinburgh and tells the story of Ms Graham’s colourful five times great uncle, Charles Mackay.

He was arguably Scotland’s foremost comedian of his time and a real favourite of the Scottish author, poet and historian Sir Walter Scott.

Helen, a former Kingussie resident and co-founder of the popular Food on Film Festival, said: “I started researching my ancestors about 12 years ago, shortly before I moved to Edinburgh, and discovered the story of Charles Mackay which had been passed down through the family as a tantalising soundbite for generations.

“I was soon hooked and decided to write a book. It’s been an incredible journey, spending about seven years gathering everything I could find about him from all manner of documents, books and letters and weaving it all into a story.”

The Scottish National Library proved to be a very useful resource, along with information provided by many other organisations and universities on the internet.

Helen was also thrilled to discover a painting of Mackay hanging in Walter Scott’s home, Abbotsford in Melrose, and another portrait from the National Portrait Gallery, which provides an eye-catching front cover to the book.

Helen launched the book at a book shop in Edinburgh on June 18 and attended the Kingussie Festival of Words on June 21 before travelling north for the event at Strathnaver Museum.

Tickets were yesterday still available for the free author event and book signing and can be accessed here.

Published by Troubador, the book and e-version are at