Scottish Storytelling Centre
Ever imagined what sexting was like before the internet? In an era of enhanced privacy regulations and instantly disappearing messages to limit accountability, how should we feel about intimate correspondence that was exchanged over a hundred years ago?
When Maria MacDonell, the curator of Scotland’s Glenesk Folk Museum, comes across a box full of letters, she’s faced with the moral dilemma of whether documenting takes priority over respecting privacy. The small casket, found hidden behind a cupboard after its owner Minnie Lindsay passed away, contained 55 letters sent by her youth sweetheart Alexander Middleton.
In 1902, when Minnie was twenty-three, Alex set sail to Canada, following the alluring prospects of the Klondike Gold Rush. He promised to return soon – his notes are voiced on stage with charisma by Alan Finlayson. Minnie remained and worked as a seamstress, something she kept doing for the rest of her life. The set is dressed to recall Minnie’s workshop, with a writing cabinet, trunks and heritage objects that all feature in the narration. An old sewing machine is used to produce some of the evocative soundscape.
Sadly, none of Minnie’s letters have ever made it to us, so to our eyes, their story is very much one directional. Whilst we learn everything about Alex’s homesickness and burning desire for Minnie, we can’t tell how she was offering solace or responding to his saucy propositions. What we do know, however, is that she never married.
The hour-long performance is accompanied by live and delightful folk music from Georgina MacDonell Finlayson. The music adds to this heart-wrenching tale of patience and unfulfilled hopes. Minnie obstinately waiting for her Alex to return, and Alex clinging on to his dreams of riches whilst enduring all sorts of duress. We witness their wholesome affection waning away, like the fading memories of a youth that no longer belongs to them. As for the ethical argument of whether their story is worth sharing, we cannot but be grateful to Maria MacDonell for her decision to bring it to life.
Written and produced by: Maria MacDonell
Directed by: Alan Finlayson and Maria MacDonell
Miss Lindsay’s Secret played as part of EdFringe 2022. For further information (including an accompanying short film) check Maria MacDonell’s website here.