Course members from The Workers Educational Association visited National Library of Scotland last week as part of their Excuse my dust! course, rediscovering Scottish women writers . I introduced manuscripts associated with two writers, Violet Jacob and Nan Shepherd, both of whom deserve a wider reputation.
Violet Jacob 1863-1946 was an aristocratic native of Montrose who spent most of her life abroad as an army wife, most significantly in India. It is worthwhile seeking out her Scots poetry, collected stories, including her wry tale of an eligible heiress and her suitors, The Lum Hut , and a masterly novel of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion – Flemington. Recalling The Master of Ballantrae, Jacob’s best novel is a tragic adventure filled with colour and sharply-drawn characters – a young Hanoverian spy, a world-weary Jacobite, a vain Judge, and a formidable grandmother. The NLS manuscript collections include her Indian diaries and drafts of her short stories.
Nan Shepherd 1893-1981 spent all her life in and around Aberdeen, working as an academic. Before she was 40 she wrote a series of three novels, starting with The Quarry Wood – a fine tale of a young woman growing up in a rural setting which preceded the similar but more famous Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. After The Weatherhouse and A Pass in the Grampians there were no more novels, and by the time Shepherd died in 1981 her books were long out of print. Her place as one of Scotland’s best novelists has since been restored. The NLS manuscript collections include her notebooks, poetry, and her long correspondence with the novelist Neil Gunn