Facts and Events
The following story of Mary Tulloch is recorded in "The Wreckers: A Story of Killing Seas and Plundered Shipwrecks":
"During the winter of 1847, the Lena, a large Russian barque carrying many passengers, ran ashore on North Ronaldsay during the night. The Islanders who went down to the wreck found some of the passengers lying dead or injured on the rocks, including the captain, half-drowned and knocked unconscious by the collision. The captain was therefore carried up to a nearby house in Sholtisquoy by the islanders who roused the woman of the house - or guidwife - from her bed and handed the captain over in the hope that she might be able to revive him. The guidwife placed the captain in her own bed and fed him a little brandy. The captain stayed senseless and, since it was long before hot water bottles were invented, the guidwife climbed into bed beside him, hoping that her own body heat might revive him. Her rough medicine worked and the captain revived although, as one local wreck historian noted drily, 'How long she stayed in bed after he recovered I never heard'.
Once restored to health, the captain realised he owed his life to the guidwife, and swore that when he returned home he would send her a gift as a sign of his gratitude. A few weeks later a fine silk dress arrived from the captain's home town. This being the 1840s, all mail was routed through the landlord's factor on the island. Tom Muir takes up the story: 'There was this beautiful silk gown turned up, and the [factor and his wife] thought: that's far too nice to waste on a crofting woman, so the substituted it for a cheap, printed cotton dress and kept the silk one. I can't remember if it was the man's wife or his daughter who was then seen at the kirk the following week with this beautiful dress on, and everybody knew where this had come from - they put two and two together and also nobody trusted the guy. So his reputation, which was probably black before then, was blackened even further by the fact that he'd stolen this dress'.