A 97-year-old north-east woman says publishing her debut novel is “one of the greatest achievements” in her life.
Aberdeen-born Tonie Ritchie first began the Spur of Light in 2002, after attending a creative writing course on Iona in the Inner Hebrides – an experience she calls “magical and inspirational”.
However, the book remained unfinished for many years until her eldest daughter Philippa encouraged her to finally complete the task.
Now, at the age of 97, her novel has been published by Glasgow-based Vival Publications.
Set in the south west of England, the novel tells the story of Barbara Morris who, in 1948, is orphaned at the age of 16.
Speaking about the remarkable achievement of writing her first book, Mrs Ritchie said it seemed as an “impossible task” that would never happen.
She said: “I’m a bit overwhelmed by it – I never thought I’d be able to do it, but I’ve done it.
“I’ve liked writing ever since I was a child and I feel like it’s always been part of me.
“I’ve had a few poems and short stories published over the years, but I never thought I’d ever have a novel published.
“Now that I do, I feel that I have achieved something in my life.”
The publication of Spur of Light is yet another milestone event in Mrs Ritchie’s life, which hasn’t been quiet or uneventful.
Born in Aberdeen in 1923, she grew up in Huntly as the only child of George Scott, who was one of the renowned Scott brothers that played for Huntly Cricket Club in the early 20th century.
After marrying her husband Jimmy, who was a Naval Surgeon Captain, in 1946, Mrs Ritchie spent many years travelling the world.
Having lived in Hong Kong, Malta and Gibraltar, her family says the pair always seemed “very exotic” and had many marvelous tales to tell.
At the age of 20, Mrs Ritchie joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and later worked as a radio announcer for the British Force Broadcasting Service (BFBS) in Hong Kong.
Both originally from Aberdeenshire, Mr and Mrs Ritchie lived on and off in Plymouth with their five children.
After the death of her husband in 1990, she returned to Plymouth where she now enjoys spending time with her family.
“I’ve had a wonderful life and I’ve been a very lucky woman indeed”, Mrs Ritchie said.
“I’ve had a happy marriage, I have five wonderful children, and though there have been various traumas that we’ve had, we’ve come through and we are a very close family.
“I’m absolutely thrilled for the family, because I don’t think they ever realised I could do something like this.
“But what I can say is – it’s never too late to start doing something and people should never give up just because they think they would never be able to do it.
“There is so much that one can do and writing for me is God-sent.”