Nan Shepherd lived from 11 February 1893 to 23 February 1981. She was a poet and author who set her novels in north-east Scotland and also wrote about the Cairngorms. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Nan Shepherd was born in Cults, 3 miles west of Aberdeen. She was the daughter of John Shepherd, an engineer, and Jane Kelly. She attended Cults School and Aberdeen High School for Girls before studying at the University of Aberdeen. After graduating in 1915, she became a lecturer in English literature at the Aberdeen College of Education, a post she held until she retired in 1956. Throughout her life she continued to live at the family home in Cults, and she never married, perhaps because so many men of her age were killed in the First World War.
In 1928 she published The Quarry Wood. Written in Scots and set in a north-eastern community, it tells the story of a young woman's pursuit of a university education. Comparisons with Lewis Grassic Gibbon's Sunset Song, written four years later, are inevitable, but Shepherd's book is perhaps more realistic in tone and setting. Two more novels followed: The Weatherhouse in 1930 and A Pass in the Grampians in 1933. All three were highly acclaimed at the time, both in the UK and in the USA, and while their popularity since has ebbed and flowed, they remain among the classics of 20th Century Scottish literature.
A friend and supporter of fellow authors like Jessie Kesson and Neil M. Gunn, Nan Shepherd continued to write reviews and articles, but she published no more novels. A collection of poetry, In the Cairngorms, appeared in 1934, in which she revealed her love of the mountains. This theme continued in her non-fiction work Living Mountain: Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland. This was published in 1977, but had been written in the 1940s.