Lucy Bruce, Iona and the Fairy Investigation Society March 5, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback
Miss Lucy Bruce is a virtually forgotten twentieth-century mystic, who spent some of her life on the Isle of Iona in Scotland. She interests the writer of this post because she was a member of the Fairy Investigation Society and he is presently trying to learn more about the organization by tracking all members down: there are about 118 to go… We’ve found very little about her in strictly biographical terms. Sigh. Her house is mentioned in a 1980 film on Iona: ‘’Grianan’ holiday house built 1930 for Miss Lucy Bruce’, where her ashes were left. (You can go and stay at Grianan for a very reasonable sum to this day: Beach confesses that he feels the itch.) LB was probably connected then with the island from about 1930 to 1960 and perhaps more on either side. We’ve also found a genealogical chart that may suggest she married one John Murphy on Iona. If this is the right Lucy then she would have been old in 1960, but she is normally described as Miss Lucy Bruce in the 1950s. Something does not add up and remember that back then Miss and Mrs mattered.
When we turn from biography and get down instead to her relations with fairies there is more stuff to play with. The great Marjorie Johnson who was a frequent correspondent described Lucy as ‘a well known folklorist’. Marjorie seems though to have been exaggerating as we’ve not found any published work on folklore or, for that matter, anything else. MJ does have some descriptions of Lucy’s encounters with fairies including some fresh-water spirits, which looked like calves, in a Highland loch. Lucy seems, on the evidence of MJ’s work, to have contacted the Sidhe on Iona: the earliest fairy beings according to an invented twentieth-century tradition. She also discussed several cases of fairy music in the Gaelic world with Marjorie.
In a letter (1950) Mrs, W. Marjorie Robinson, of Swanmore, near Southampton describes Lucy visiting and talking to some local elves in WMR’s sitting room!
The most interesting source though for Lucy are some passages in a book by another FIS member Alasdair Alpin MacGregor who was clearly a friend.
Miss Lucy Bruce, who spends a good deal of the year at Grianan [see above], her home on the island, and who perhaps knows its arcana more intimately than anybody living, tells me that the other day, when walking with a Norwegian friend at the north-west extremity of the island, the friend suddenly beheld a troop of the Little People. The stood about a foot in stature; and they asked her for a blessing, which she promptly gave them. That evening she saw them again, in the Faery Room at Grianan [the what?!? Elsewhere the faery room is described as ‘my sanctuary']. As as sign that they had accepted Christianity, they had brought with them a little Cross fashioned out of twigs and leaves.
We also learn from MacGregor that Lucy sometimes had ‘mental visions’: who would have guessed it? She also knew Marie Emily Fornario, an occultist who came to the island and who died in very strange circumstances. MacGregor quotes a letter from Lucy about MEF.
I’m sure her ghost wouldn’t appear now unless it came to help, because she wasn’t earthbound. She lived so much on higher planes… If you should be bringing her into any of your writings, please remember that she was a beautiful, gentle soul, full of loving kindness – a truly dedicated soul. Her strange and tragic passing moved us all.
Anything more on Lucy? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
10 March 2013: Wade has gone Lucy hunting. He is right to be cautious. Lucy Bruce must have been a fairly common name! ‘You are so right about the dearth of info on Miss Lucy Bruce. I dove into Ancestry UK .com. There is a Lucy Margaret Bruce, born about 1872 in Arngask, Perthshire. Her parents were Robert Bruce and Rachel Frances Bruce. She is in the the 1881 and 1891 Scottish censuses (cencii?). Then she shows up in the 1901 England Census as resident of Chelsea, London, still single, it seems. Of course, this would mean she lived to be around ninety or so, if this is, indeed, Miss Lucy Bruce. In 1891 she was living with her sister, Augusta R. Bruce, and an Isabella Dall in Lingo House, rngask. In 1901 she was living with her mother at 22 Royal Avenue, Chelsea, London, with two female servants. No listing after that in Ancestry. There is a April, May, June 1951 death record in Kensington for Lucy M. Bruce, born about 1872, but no way of knowing if it is the same as above. Apology for inundating you with this, but I thought some of this background might prove useful later. In a second email: ‘I believe Lucy Margaret Bruce (previous email) is Miss Lucy Bruce. Found this. She is mentioned about half way down the page. As a small aside to this, R.A. Gilbert, in his book The Golden Dawn Companion, mentions that there was a Lucy Margaret Bruce with the magical motto ‘Nisi Dominus Frustra’. However, she was initiated in 1907, into the Stella Matutina, a Golden Dawn offshoot group created by Dr. Robert William Felkin and John William Brodie Innes, following one of the schisms that troubled the Order in the first few years of the twentieth century.’ Then in a third email: Further confusing the issue, I found this: In this online book about the Golden Dawn, the Google search squib quotes that Mrs. Lucy H.M. Bruce, had built her home by the sea on the island of Iona. I thought I had solved her identity but now I’m not so sure.’ Beach will add here, before thanking Wade, that Ithell Colquhoun was also an FIS member. Thanks Wade!!!
31 March 2012: GT meanwhile writes in: By pure chance I came across your site and postings relating to Miss Bruce. Some ten years ago I was researching her brother-in-law’s Great War service and established that she served as a Masseuse with the Red Cross in WWI. She was born in 1887 at Currie, near Edinburgh in Midlothian and never married, her full name is Lucy Helen Marion Bruce. In 1962 she died in Edinburgh but her usual address was given as Grianan, Isle of Iona. I do hope this clears up any doubts about her origins and I would be grateful for any other information relating to her life as a mystic.’ Beach undertakes to do so and would be glad to put anyone in touch with GT who is interested.