Nan Shepherd

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Nan (Anna) Shepherd (11 February 1893 – 23 February 1981) was a Scottish novelist and poet. She was an early Scottish Modernist writer, who wrote three standalone novels set in small, fictional communities in North Scotland. The Scottish landscape and weather played a major role in her novels and were the focus of her poetry. Shepherd also wrote one non-fiction book on hill walking, based on her experiences walking in the Cairngorms. Shepherd was a lecturer of English at the Aberdeen College of Education for most of her working life.


Anna Shepherd was born on 11 February 1893 in Peterculter to John and Jane Shepherd. Her family moved to Cults shortly after Nan was born, to the house where she lived for most of her life. She attended Aberdeen High School for Girls and graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 1915, subsequently lecturing for the Aberdeen College of Education.[1]

Shepherd retired from teaching in 1956. Following her retirement, she edited the Aberdeen University review until 1963. The university awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1964.[2]

She was a friend and supporter of other Scottish writers including Neil M. Gunn, Marion Angus and Jessie Kesson.

She died in Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen in 1981.



Shepherd was a major contributor to early Scottish Modernist literature. She published her first novel, The Quarry Wood, in 1928. The novel is often compared to Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, which was published four years later, because they both portray the restricted and often tragic lives of women in contemporary Scotland.[3] Her second novel, The Weatherhouse, was published in 1930. It deals with the interactions between people in a small Scottish community.[4] Her final novel, A Pass in the Grampians, was published in 1933.[1]

Shepherd's novels deal with the clash between the demands of tradition and the pull of modernity. The landscape and weather play a major role in all three novels, with all three being set in small communities in the north of Scotland.[1]


She was a keen hill-walker and her poetry expresses her love for the mountainous Grampian landscape. While a student at university, Shepherd wrote poems for the student magazine but it wasn't until 1934 that an anthology of her poetry, In the Cairngorms, was published.[2] This volume was reissued in April 2014 by Galileo Publishers in Cambridge, with a new introduction by Robert Macfarlane.[5]


Shepherd wrote a short nonfiction book, The Living Mountain, during the 1940s. The Living Mountain is a reflection her experiences walking in the Cairngorm Mountains. Having completed it, Shepherd chose not to publish the book until 1977.[6]


Nan Shepherd's stone slab outside the Writers' Museum in Edinburgh

Nan Shepherd is commemorated in Makars' Court, outside The Writers' Museum, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh. Selections for Makars' Court are made by The Writers' Museum; The Saltire Society; The Scottish Poetry Library.

In April 2016 an image of Shepherd was selected to appear on the £5 notes issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland.[7]


  1. ^ a b c Ali Smith, "Shepherd, Anna (1893–1981)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 22 Dec 2013
  2. ^ a b "Nan Shepherd (1893 - 1981)". Scottish Poetry Library. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "Nan Shepherd 1893 - 1981" (PDF). Scottish Literary Tour Trust. 2003. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Book Description". Canongate. September 1996. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Robert Macfarlane (30 August 2008), I walk therefore I am, The Guardian, retrieved 22 December 2013 
  7. ^ "Novelist and poet Nan Shepherd to appear on RBS £5 note". BBC News. 25 April 2016. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 

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