Good news this week for Scottish literature. Nan Shepherd, one of our best and most interesting 20th century writers will feature on a new £5 note from the Royal Bank of Scotland. Who exactly was the commanding figure on the new note?
Nan Shepherd (1893-1981) lived in Aberdeenshire all her life, and published only three novels, a collection of poetry, and a single non-fiction work. Nevertheless, as this year’s honour from the Royal Bank of Scotland underlines, she is a writer who deserves to be remembered – and read.
The Quarry Wood, The Weatherhouse, and A Pass in the Grampians are Nan Shepherd’s novels, published between 1928 and 1933– all set in rural communities in the North East of Scotland and featuring lively young heroines. Readers who know their Scottish literature may immediately also think of Sunset Song, Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s classic novel, first published in 1932, but Nan Shepherd proves that there is more than one rural novel to read from that period.
Shepherd worked at Aberdeen Training Centre for Teachers, later Aberdeen College of Education, as a much admired lecturer in English from 1919 till her retirement in 1956. Although closely connected with other Scottish writers, she became in some ways a forgotten name, still living in the home she had moved to as a baby.
In 1977 a thirty year old non-fiction manuscript was published as The Living Mountain and this celebration of her beloved Grampians has had enduring appeal – and a quotation from that book will feature on the new £5 note.
In recent years Shepherd’s work has been re-discovered and re-published. Enthusiastic supporters have included Robert Macfarlane, who provided the introduction for a new edition of The Living Mountain, and led a fascinating BBC television documentary.
Here at the National Library of Scotland we have – available to all our readers of course- all of Nan Shepherd’s published works in the different editions, as well as original correspondence and notebooks, recording a long and interesting life
It is great news indeed that Nan’s face and words will be in pockets and cash registers all over the country soon, encouraging us to re-read or discover her work.