Scottish Studies Zoom Talk

The Adventures of Isabella Bird

an online talk by Loretta Mulholland

Recorded on Saturday, Saturday, April 22, 2023

Dundee University PhD student, Loretta Mulholland, presents a brief overview of the chronology of the life of the Victorian travel writer, Isabella Bird (1831 – 1904), who travelled the world extensively, without being accompanied by a husband or partner — unheard of at that time. The talk includes brief details about Isabella's books, her travels, her photographs, and letters written to her sister, Henrietta and her publisher, John Murray. These are held in the National Library of Scotland (NLS) in Edinburgh, as part of the John Murray Archive.

Isabella Bird — also known as Isabella Bird Bishop — was one of the 19th century's most remarkable women travellers. Her intrepid global travels and her subsequent travel books made her famous at home and abroad. By 1890, Isabella's fame was established as both a traveller and a missionary advocate. She was made a fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 1891 and a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, to which no woman had previously been admitted. She travelled through Canada to Japan, Korea and China, funding on her way three more hospitals as well as an orphanage in Japan. On her return to Britain she published books on both Korea and China, which were illustrated by photographs she herself had taken on her journeys.

Loretta Mulholland (pictured above) was born in Glasgow and studied for an MA (Hons) in Modern History and Economic History at Glasgow University. She worked as an Industrial Archaeologist and Research Assistant to Professor John Hume at Strathclyde University and co-wrote an academic publication on the history of the Scottish Brick and Tile Industry, titled Scottish Brickmarks. She is author of The Campsie Glen Picture Album, a local history booklet, written while working at the William Patrick Memorial Library in Kirkintilloch, when pregnant with her second child.

Before settling down to family life, Loretta lived in Thailand for several years, teaching English Language and Literature at Srinkaharinwirot University in Bangkok. She later took up a career in primary teaching but after decades of working in education, she returned to learning by enrolling for an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study at Dundee University.

She is Fiction Editor at Dundee Review of the Arts (DURA), where she has had several reviews and an author interview published. As well as writing fiction and creative non-fiction, she also writes blogs for the University and has had her work published in literary magazines such as Northwords Now and Scottish Pen. She also review books for Dundee media company DC Thomson. At present her research is now solely focused on Isabella Bird and her writing and travels.