Artist starves to death in Scottish wilderness
By Auslan Cramb and David Sapsted Published: 12:01AM GMT 11 Dec 2002
An artist who embarked on a 100-mile walk across one of the remotest areas of Scotland to experience “what it is like to be alone” has died after being found cold and starving. Margaret Davies, 39, who had a geography degree from Cambridge University, was barely alive when two shepherds found her on Thursday in an isolated walkers’ bothy at Kearvaig, near Cape Wrath, on the north-west tip of the country. Miss Davies, who loved to visit remote regions, set off by bus for Inverness from her home at Danbury, Essex, at the end of September. She planned to walk from Inverness to Cape Wrath, painting and writing along the way. Wendy Davies, 67, her mother, said yesterday: “She wanted to experience first hand what it was like to be alone, without people. She was not lonely. She did not feel lonely.”She obviously set herself a task. She was a geographer. She had a compass and all the equipment. She had experience of the wildest places.” Miss Davies was barely conscious when Hamish Campbell and Alistair Sutherland found her on the floor of the bothy, wrapped in a cardigan and sleeping bag. In the window was a note begging for food from anybody passing by. At her side was a journal detailing her travels, with a note to a publisher. It is not known how long she had been there and there were no signs of food in the cottage, which is used by walkers visiting the area in summer but is rarely occupied in winter.Miss Davies, who did mainly imaginative paintings which have fetched several thousand pounds each, had trekked across Afghanistan, Nepal, Israel, Alaska and South America in the past. She had also lived with a destitute family in Bangladesh and had volunteered to work with the late Mother Teresa’s nuns in Calcutta.She had walked at least 12 miles across rough moorland to reach Kearvaig bothy, which is situated in a gap between sea cliffs. It is thought that she may have stayed there after losing her tent in a storm. Mr Campbell, 64, sat with her for more than three hours and lit a fire while his friend went for help. He said: “We thought she was about 70. She looked very, very poor. She was groaning but we could not make out any words. We could not believe what we saw. She looked just like someone you see on television when they are making appeals for starving people.” The nearest telephone was in a cottage five miles away, but Mr Sutherland was able to raise the alarm after he met a Ministry of Defence official on a firing range four miles away.Mrs Davies, a retired teacher, said: “Margaret liked to experience hardships. She liked the cold. I think she was camping on the beach. She had left a note at the bothy saying that she was on the beach, running out of food and asking for help. I think she was trying to catch fish, as she had a hook.”She obviously went back to the bothy and could not go further. Perhaps she thought she had more chance of being found there.”She probably misjudged the situation. She was a very deep thinker, more so than anyone I know. She despised money and she was very thoughtful of others. She loved isolation. She did not allow photographs of herself.”Miss Davies once said about her work: “My aim is to make a statement about the human condition whether on an emotional, psychological, sociological or philosophical level.”The style and media used are determined by, and subordinate to, the subject matter. Although I occasionally paint landscapes, the paintings which are most meaningful to me are those in which I try to capture the essence of an emotional state or to express an idea.”To allow myself to travel and paint, I have at intervals held many different jobs including teaching, fishing, care assistant, nanny.”Miss Davies’s father, Richard, 71, a retired chartered surveyor, said: “She used to disappear and go to all these places and we used to find out she had been helping out in schools in the wildest places, teaching and doing things for nothing for people.”She would give anything away. She was her own person and a very strong character.”
Very intrigued by this extreme end of the psychology of the artist and wild landscapes, and a geographer as well.