It’s shocking when anyone vanishes into thin air, but it’s even more suspicious when someone in the public eye does. With so many people around them, how exactly do they disappear without a trace?
That’s exactly what happened to this Scottish musician who was in the middle of a successful career as a folk songstress.
Nobody knew if her disappearance was because of someone else or out of choice. And it wasn’t until years later that the truth was finally uncovered.
Shelagh McDonald was a music lover from the very beginning. Being a free spirit, she would often spend her childhood playing music and singing to herself. Her parents soon realised she had a real talent and that her beautiful voice could take her places.
Not only did she have an angelic voice, Shelagh was also a talented songwriter. With her creating music full of meaningful lyrics and self-expression, the teenager explored different genres before she found what she loved most – folk music.
McDonald landed a recording contract almost straight away with her music style being loved by the people of the late ’60s. These free-loving fans felt that her music spoke to them in ways other music couldn’t and Shelagh became an instant success.
By 1972, Shelagh’s career was going from strength to strength. With two records behind her she was expected to have her big break into mainstream music. But all of a sudden everything changed for the singer. She vanished from the spotlight unexpectedly. It was as if she had disappeared completely.
Even those closest to her didn’t understand what was going on. Her musical collaborators, agents, record executives, even her friends didn’t know what had happened to her. The police were called but nothing was found, and that’s when rumours began to circulate.
Conspiracy theories arose about Shelagh’s disappearance including some people even thinking she was a time-traveller. But with these theories unproven, over time the once popular songstress simply disappeared into obscurity.
Many fans began to believe that McDonald had passed away whilst others thought that this free-loving girl had simply became fed up of fame and success and had chosen to hide away from it all and live a different life.
In the mid-2000s, Shelagh McDonald’s albums were reissued and thus her popularity grew once more. The renewed interest in her music led to an interest in her story and in particular got everyone wondering what had happened to her all those years ago.
The Scottish Daily Mail featured an article about the Edinburgh-born singer, discussing her disappearance. Just a few days later, they released the article again but this time with a postscript. It turned out that Shelagh McDonald herself had seen the article and had made a trip to the newspaper’s office.
During her visit she had explained the truth behind where she had been for all of these years. On the final night that she was seen, she had been partying and taken a strong dose of LSD. As a result, she went on a trip that changed her life.
She left the party and wandered around the streets of London alone. She was trying to fight off visions and hallucinations that were becoming more and more terrifying. Days turned into weeks and still they would not stop.
Scared and feeling alone, Shelagh headed straight back to her hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland, where her parents were living. They took care of her and helped her to get through the experience, but there were consequences of taking the LSD that Shelagh wasn’t yet aware of.
The hallucinations she had been having finally stopped, but her singing voice – her beautiful talent and what her career was based on – was ruined. Reduced to nothing more than a croak, she had no other option than to give up her singing career.
With the life she once knew no longer accessible, Shelagh decided to live completely off the grid as the free spirit she truly was. Meeting a man named Gordon a few years later, they married and spent three decades travelling around the world.
The article in the Daily Mail stated that Shelagh and her husband were living in a tent somewhere in the wilderness. After reading the article herself, Shelagh was grateful to find out that people were still enjoying her music and hoping she would return to the music scene.
In recent years, Shelagh and her husband collected the royalties owed to her by her record company and were able to get themselves a flat. However, soon afterwards things took a bad turn when Gordon’s health began to go downhill.
Soon afterwards, the media interest in Shelagh became too much for her to handle and she hid herself away again. In 2012, her husband passed away. During the grieving process, McDonald rediscovered her singing voice and her love for music was reborn.
Following the damage that had been caused all those years ago, as well as not using her singing voice for so long, it took some time to get back to where she was before. With the help of a vocal coach, Shelagh managed to get back the voice she lost all those years ago.
Despite everything, Shelagh has no regrets and she’s happy with the path her life has taken. She met the love of her life and spent many wonderful years with him, and now she’s back singing and impressing crowds with her music.
When asked about her life both as a London-based singer and when living amongst nature, she said: “I don’t miss the tents – it’s enough to have memories of the good times, and there were plenty. As for London, I miss it as it was in the ’60s and ’70s when it was cleaner and a lot more relaxed. My ideal living space is definitely the countryside but within reach of a city on the odd occasion when duty calls.”