27th February 1981

Nature writing pioneer Nan Shepherd dies in Aberdeen

Nan Shepherd – real name Anna – wrote The Living Mountain, one of the most influential books ever penned about the natural world. She is commemorated outside Edinburgh’s Writers’ Museum, and featured on the Royal Bank of Scotland £5 banknote, issued in 2016.

Shepherd was an Aberdonian through and through, being born in Aberdeen in 1893, educated at the University of Aberdeen, and working as a lecturer at Aberdeen College of Education. Upon her retirement, she continued to edit the Aberdeen University Review, and she died in the city in 1981, at the age of 88.

The Living Mountain

The Living Mountain tells the story of her walks in the Cairngorms in the 1940s, although she had hung on to the text for more than 30 years, finally publishing it in 1977. In the interim, she had sent it to just one publisher, who had rejected it. It was finally bought and printed by Aberdeen University Press and has since been reissued, along with her other books and poetry.

In The Living Mountain, Shepherd gives us a less often heard ‘female’ perspective on experiencing and living with nature. The book is characterised by significant detail and, at times, an almost mystical air. Shepherd was less interested in reaching the top of any peak or hill, but of examining it, getting to understand it, and allowing the experience to change herself, or her perception.

Aside from The Living Mountain, Shepherd wrote a handful of novels, including The Quarry Wood, published in 1928, The Weatherhouse (1930) and A Pass in the Grampians (1933). In each, nature plays a significant role.



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