Jane Duncan

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Jane Duncan (10 March 1910 – 20 October 1976) was the pseudonym of Scottish writer Elizabeth Jane Cameron, best known for her My Friends series of semi-autobiographical novels. She also wrote four novels under the name of her principal heroine Janet Sandison, and some children's books.


Elizabeth Jane Cameron was born in Renton, West Dunbartonshire on 10 March 1910[1] and brought up in the Scottish Lowlands where her father was a police officer, attending Lenzie Academy in the area of Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, but much of her childhood was spent in the Highlands on the Black Isle in Easter Ross, on her grandparents' croft "The Colony" (the "Reachfar" of her novels). She graduated in English from the University of Glasgow and did various secretarial jobs before serving as a Flight Officer (Intelligence), WAAF during World War II alongside the choreographer Frederick Ashton. She afterwards lived in Jamaica for ten years, returning to Jemimaville, near "The Colony", in 1958 as a widow.

In 1959 Duncan became something of a publishing sensation when Macmillan Publishers announced that it would be publishing seven of her manuscripts, the first to be produced being My Friends the Miss Boyds. The nineteenth and last of the series, My Friends George and Tom, was published in 1976. The biographical background to her writing is given in her Letter from Reachfar (1975) (ISBN 0-333-18755-5).

In her later years she lived in Jemimaville in the Scottish Highlands, where she wrote her later novels. She died there on 20 October 1976.[1]


The "Reachfar" (My Friends) series is narrated by Janet Sandison and follows her life (which in outline parallels that of the author) from the World War I period through to the 1960s, depicting the people she encounters and showing how her crofting upbringing influences her in whatever society and geographical location she finds herself.

In the four-novel Jean Robertson sequence (1969–75), notionally written by Sandison (who herself becomes an author), the heroine and part-narrator moves from bleak beginnings in the town of "Lochfoot" (based on Balloch, West Dunbartonshire) to become a house-servant in the interwar period, influencing for good the lives of many around her.

The five-book "Camerons" series for children have a contemporary setting (being inspired by the author's niece and nephews, "The Hungry Generation") and are particularly notable for including the young Iain who has learning difficulties. Camerons on the Train was filmed as The Camerons (Children's Film Foundation, 1974).


To mark the centenary of Jane Duncan's birth, Millrace Books[2] have re-published My Friends the Miss Boyds.[3] The new edition of My Friends the Miss Boyds was launched at Waterstone’s in Inverness on Thursday 24 June 2010.


As Jane Duncan:

My Friends the Miss Boyds
My Friend Muriel
My Friend Monica
My Friend Annie
My Friend Sandy
My Friend Martha's Aunt
My Friend Flora
My Friend Madame Zora
My Friend Rose
My Friend Cousin Emmie
My Friends the Mrs. Millers
My Friends from Cairnton
My Friend my Father
My Friends the MacLeans
My Friends the Hungry Generation
My Friend the Swallow
My Friend Sashie
My Friends the Misses Kindness
My Friends George and Tom


Letter from Reachfar

Children's books:

Camerons on the Train
Camerons on the Hills
Camerons at the Castle
Camerons Calling
Camerons Ahoy!

Herself and Janet Reachfar (originally published as Brave Janet Reachfar)
Janet Reachfar and the Kelpie
Brave Janet Reachfar (reissued as Herself and Janet Reachfar)
Janet Reachfar and Chickabird

As Janet Sandison

Jean in the Morning
Jean at Noon
Jean in the Twilight
Jean Towards Another Day

Further reading[edit]

  • Hart, Francis Russell (1978). The Scottish Novel: a critical survey. London: John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-3534-4.
  • Rippetoe, Rita Elizabeth (2017). Reappraising Jane Duncan: Sexuality, Race and Colonialism in the My Friends Novels. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-9887-1.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Scottish Authors > Jane Duncan Novelist 1910-1976". Scottish Authors. Slainte (Information and Libraries Scotland). Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  2. ^ Jane Duncan — Millrace Books
  3. ^ "My Friends the Miss Boyds — Millrace Books". Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2010.

External links[edit]