What Would Mary Do?

“What Would Mary Do?” is a new film that beautifully captures Scotland’s majestic and remote landscapes, natural heritage, and a trip taken by three women as they retrace 17-year-old Mary Harvie’s 1936 off-road bicycle tour from Glasgow to Skye. Watch it here alongside an excerpt and photos from Lee Craigie’s story from the trip from The Bikepacking Journal…

What Would Mary Do? is a new cycling film from the Adventure Syndicate and Hostelling Scotland that weaves incredible footage of Scotland’s amazing landscapes with a story about Mary Harvie’s 1936 bike trip and the country’s hostelling heritage. Follow Lee Craigie, Phillippa Battye, and Alice Lemkes as they take on a five-day, 300-mile hostelpacking journey from Glasgow to Skye, then scroll down for an excerpt from the companion story in issue 07 of The Bikepacking Journal and a beautiful selection of photos by Maciek Tomiczek (@tommy.check).

“I feel like it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for someone to go on a series of farmtracks and military roads all the way to Skye. But I believe that’s what these three ladies did.” -Harvie Paterson (Mary’s Son)

Excerpt from the Bikepacking Journal 07

Our seventh issue of The Bikepacking Journal features a story by the same name, What Would Mary Do?, which is a beautiful rumination on this trip written by Lee Craigie, Phillippa Battye, and Alice Lemkes. The story follows their journey from Lee’s perspective with daily recaps by Phillippa, Lee, and Alice. Here’s a short excerpt following the Day 2 recap with Lee reflecting on Mary Harvie’s age at the time of her 1936 expedition:

“When I first read Mary’s diary, I was struck by how normal and understated a young woman she was, and yet, by today’s standards, she was intrepid in the extreme, incredibly resilient, and utterly remarkable. As we pushed off from the hostel in Glencoe on that early October morning, I began musing over the similarities and differences of our worlds separated only by time. Was this euphoric feeling of freedom I was experiencing the same one Mary and her sisters felt? Might travelling by bike actually be akin to travelling back in time, to when pleasures were less complicated and a person didn’t have to first switch their phone off to remember what it is that makes a human happy?

I couldn’t help wondering if Mary thought she was brave for undertaking this journey. Did she consider herself adventurous? Did her parents and peers think she was off her head (or at least unusual) for attempting the journey or was that sort of thing expected of teenage girls in the Central Belt of Scotland in the 1930s?

  • What Would Mary Do? Film, Adventure Syndicate
  • What Would Mary Do? Film, Adventure Syndicate

I grew up 20 miles from where Mary did. By the time I was 17, like her, I was also exploring places by bike. I’d go off for the entire day to nudge at the edges of my comfort zone, returning home after each ride with my world just a little bit bigger than it was when I left that morning. My biggest day was a staggering 37 miles over the Campsie Fells and back, returning home as dusk was gathering, wide-eyed and saddle sore but euphoric at having made it. However, the thought of riding 50 plus miles back to back and sleeping outside or in strange hostels throughout Scotland would never have crossed my mind back then.

What Would Mary Do? Film, Adventure Syndicate

That day, as I continued to ponder the enormity of the adventure this 17-year-old had embarked upon nearly a century before us, I was surprised to find myself feeling a confusing jumble of emotions. Anger? Envy? I wasn’t sure. Might my adventurous life have begun much sooner than it had? Exploring by bike in the way Mary and her sisters had at 17 would have accelerated my self-confidence and understanding of the world. With Mary Harvie in my head, I couldn’t shake this thought: how many 17-year-olds out there right now are oblivious to the possibilities of adventuring by bike?

What Would Mary Do? Film, Adventure Syndicate

Today, if three teenage girls from North Lanarkshire announced that they were off up north on their bikes for a couple of weeks, there would probably be an outcry. All the messaging in our media and the fear-mongering in our well-meaning communities serve to restrict what young women feel they can do. We think we’re keeping them safe by keeping them close, but if we stop to consider the repercussions of that deprivation of experience, maybe we’d think again. The cost-benefit analysis over the lifetime of an active, confident, resilient woman in our society would overwhelmingly encourage this level of risk-taking. Our chance of being hit by a car while riding a bike these days might be higher than in 1936, but so is our propensity to develop an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.”

The beginning and end of this story can be found in The Bikepacking Journal issue 07, which, after a long pandemic-induced shipping delay, are finally shipping to our US members this week and next from our distribution center in Massachusetts. Barring domestic USPS shipping delays, members can expect to receive their copies in the next couple of weeks!

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