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Commemorative Plaques Record Details

Nan Shepherd (1893 - 1981)

Picture of the Palque

Location : 503 North Deeside Road

Area : South Aberdeen

Plaque Type : Yellow

About Nan Shepherd : Poet, author and educator. Nan (Anna) Shepherd (1893-1981) lived in Dunvegan, on the North Deeside Road in Cults. After graduating from the University of Aberdeen in 1915 she taught English Literature at the Aberdeen Training Centre for Teachers.

She was an early and acclaimed Scottish Modernist writer, whose three fiction novels, The Quarry Wood (1928), The Weatherhouse (1930) and A Pass in the Grampians (1933) were set in small, fictional, communities in North East Scotland. Her collection of poetry, In the Cairngorms, deals mainly with her relationship with nature, particularly with mountain landscapes. Her book The Living Mountain was published in 1977 and was soon recognised as a masterpiece that has brought many thousands of readers to see the Scottish landscape in a new light.

Recognition of Shepherd’s achievements have led to her being granted her own stone in Edinburgh’s Makars’ Court and an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Aberdeen. She appeared on the Royal Bank of Scotland’s five-pound note in 2016.

More Information : Anna Shepherd (known as Nan) was born on 11 February 1893 at East Peterculter. She graduated with an MA in 1915. She then joined the staff of Aberdeen Training Centre for Teachers, later the College of Education and now the University of Aberdeen's School of Education. She was, by all accounts, an inspiring teacher, with a feminist approach in her lectures which was ahead of her time. She retired in 1956 and then edited the Aberdeen University Review from 1957 until 1963.

In her novels Nan Shepherd wrote about local characters, communities and landscapes in the distinctive regional language of the North East. She used her local experience to explore wider universal themes and issues, achieving critical acclaim as one of the most significant and highly respected figures of the Scottish Literary Renaissance in the twentieth century. Her first novel The Quarry Wood, chronicles the education of its heroine, Martha Ironside, in Aberdeen. The novel describes university lectures, King’s College Library and student life in the city, including the torchlight procession, scenes Nan Shepherd knew well. The Weatherhouse, her second novel, describes the complex relationships in a small community but is also an exploration of human nature itself. The third novel, A Pass in the Grampians, returns to the themes of The Quarry Wood, the “journey into being” of a young girl. Nan Shepherd was also a poet and the book she was most proud of, her collection of poems, In the Cairngorms was published in 1934. The poems mainly deal with her intense relationship with nature, particularly with the landscapes of the Cairngorm mountains, to which she escaped whenever she could.

Her final published work The Living Mountain reflects on her experience of walking in the Cairngorms. It was written in the 1940s but not published until 1977. It is a series of meditations, in poetic prose, on the mountain landscapes and the natural environment found there. All her writing is characterised by a spiritual dimension but grounded in a down-to-earth pragmatic realism.

Nan Shepherd was engaged in literary activity all her adult life. A respected member of International Pen. She took a keen interest in the literary scene, corresponding with Neil Gunn, Willa Muir and other authors. After retiring from teaching in 1956 she edited the Aberdeen University Review until 1963, contributing articles on Hugh MacDiarmid and other writers.

An archive of her letters, unpublished poems and other writing is held in the National Library of Scotland. In 2017 a biography of Nan was published: Into The Mountain: A Life Of Nan Shepherd, by Charlotte Peacock, Galileo Publishing.

Sponsor : Jointly by the Aberdeen Women's Alliance and Cults, Bieldside and Milltimer Community Council