Nan Shepherd on the Scottish £5 note


Gert was delighted to see that Nan Shepherd is on the new Scottish £5 note.

The portrait on the new £5 note is based on a photograph taken of Shepherd as student at Aberdeen. Her calm face is framed by long hair parted in the middle and held by a headband. Shepherd was famously averse to notions of glamour (though she always walked in skirts, never trousers) and with her bold eyes, and steadfast gaze, she makes an understated heroine.

Shepherd’s appearance in the public sphere will raise the profile of an author whose work has at times risked falling from view, and whose writing helped to lay the foundations for the current flowering of writing about place, people and nature. The accolade accorded her by RBS has been welcomed by the growing number of readers who enjoy Shepherd’s prose and poetry – all of which is centred on her deep appreciation of the Scottish landscape.

Robert  Macfarlane…. called Shepherd a “brilliant, progressive choice” for the £5 note.

“She’s an incredibly inspiring figure, and an unusual one, in the sense of being a woman writing about mountains and the wilderness and nature,” he said. “She found her own path in life and in literature, and it feels like she’s so far ahead of us – we’re always only starting to catch Nan up. Philosophically and stylistically, she was extraordinary.”

From the University of Cambridge Research website. Read more about Shepherd here:

The Living Mountain  (Canongate 2011), about the Cairngorms, is a wonderful piece of work from which we’ve quoted before. Here’s another piece from it:

For the ear, the most vital thing that can be listened to here is silence. To bend the ear to silence is to discover how seldom it is there. Always something moves. When the air is quite still, there is always running water; and up here that is a sound one can hardly lose, though on many stony parts of the plateau one is above the watercourses. But now and then comes an hour when the silence is all but absolute, and listening to it one slips out of time. Such a silence is not a mere negation of sound. It is like a new element, and if water is still sounding with a low far-off murmur, it is no more than the last edge of an element we are leaving, as the last age of land hangs on the mariner’s horizon.   (96)

Not to be missed, especially for the walkers among our blog friends.


10 thoughts on “Nan Shepherd on the Scottish £5 note

  1. Sounds well worth reading. I believe that the US has decided to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. She escaped from slavery before the Civil War, spied for the Union side, and led many slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Seems fitting that the first woman on American currency (no Queen here) should also be a Black woman with such a noble history.

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