The grave of Helen Walker

The grave of Helen Walker in Irongray

A carte-de-visite showing the table tomb erected by Sir Walter Scott over the grave of Helen Walker in Irongray churchyard near Dumfries in Scotland.

The real life Helen Walker was the inspiration for the fictional Jeanie Deans, the heroine of one of Scott’s most successful novels, The Heart of Midlothian, first published in 1818. The plot is convoluted but in a nutshell, the impoverished Jeanie Deans walks barefoot to London to plead with Queen Caroline, wife of George II, for the life of her sister Effie, who has been wrongly convicted of murdering her illegitimate baby son. Various improbable adventures later, the child turns out to have been abducted by brigands. By the end of the novel, he is living in the American colonies with a tribe of Native Americans, while his mother – who at one point had married the boy’s father and taken her place in London society – has abandoned the faith of her forefathers and retired to a French convent. Jeanie is happily married to a Scottish minister and raising their three children.

Helen Walker, on the other hand, died unmarried in 1791.

Photographed by George Washington Wilson of Aberdeen.


Code: 126202
© Paul Frecker 2023