Nan Shepherd night

Nan Shepherd night

Shift yersel owre, Rabbie, an mak space fir a national lassie

Nan Shepherd night. Now there’s an idea.

‘Scottish identity can no longer be encompassed in one night nor expressed by one man’ say Nicholas Le Bigre and Alistair Heather in an article written for The Conversation and reprinted in The Independent.

‘Scotland needs a new symbol that can more easily take on the country’s emergent identities. Environmentalism is a huge new concern, as is a real effort to achieve equal status for women’, they continue.

And by a stroke of luck, they just happen to have the woman for the job – Nan Shepherd.

Shepherd Night not Burns Night

A strong, confident female voice celebrated, read and enjoyed at events around Scotland is what they suggest.  ‘Predominantly female speakers would be a welcome antidote to the heavily masculine Burns Night with its conspicuous array of male worthies’.

‘Raising Shepherd up to the height of national figure would at long last put a woman among the pantheon of Scottish greats. Burns, ScottStevensonGrassic GibbonGunn: they all have their place, but they are all men and can only inspire so many of us, and only in so many directions’.

I couldn’t agree more. But then, of course, I’m biased.

Read the complete article here and here.

Nan Shepherd on Burns

Nan Shepherd herself often spoke at Burns’ Night events. In 1934 she gave what was described in the press as ‘an utterly original’ speech at the annual Burns supper of the Scottish Women’s Club in Edinburgh.

At a time when ‘Renaissance’ writers like Hugh MacDiarmid were busy trying to topple Burns and Scott from their pedestals, Shepherd took another tack. Instead of castigating writers like Burns for the ‘sentimental legacy they left behind’, she said, modern writers should be employing Burns’s way of seeing to the essence of things.

What they were there to celebrate that evening, she felt, was not the past, but a more immediate matter: ‘creative energy’:

‘Burns had it — or it had him; which was the reason they chose his birthday for the celebration. But creative energy was a force that no people abundantly alive could do without. It was the only force that carried them anywhere.’

It was the gusto with which Burns wrote, tears of joy pouring down his face as he composed ‘Tam O’Shanter’ — the elemental energy he poured into his creative writing she believed the world needed in the 1930s.

Creative gusto night — it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as Burns Night, does it.

As for Nan Shepherd’s take on ‘Shepherd Night’, I doubt you’d get much more than a wry smile out of her.

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