There is no denying that throughout the centuries, women have struggled to make their mark in society and be equally recognised for their work. Emily Pankhurst led the suffragette movement to secure women the vote and now Hillary Clinton is running to become the first ever female president of the USA. So it comes as no surprise that Scotland has now decided to honour women by adorning some of their new bank notes with the faces of famous females.
Whilst the choice of Turner on the new Bank of England £20 note inevitably has the critics crying foul about how few women there are on English notes they can have no such argument in Scotland where, for the first time in the Royal Bank of Scotland’s history women will make an appearance and will feature on both the £5 and the £10 notes.
Living Mountain author and poet Nan Shepherd was revealed on April 25 as being the next person to grace the £5 note and she will join scientist Mary Somerville who was recently named as the new face to appear on the £10 note. As with English notes these new designs will be printed on polymer.
The new £5 note will enter circulation later this year, with the £10 to follow in 2017. RBS board chair Malcolm Buchanan said the bank had “never before featured a woman on its main issue bank notes” and that the new issues celebrated “the fantastic, and often overlooked, achievements of two great Scottish women”.
Another Scottish bank, the Clydesdale, has issued banknotes with prominent women figures before: in 1997 a £10 note featured the missionary Mary Slessor.
As well as an image of Shepherd, the RBS £5 note features a quote from the author’s first novel, The Quarry Wood – “It’s a grand thing to get leave to live” – and one from her meditation on the Scottish landscape, The Living Mountain: “But the struggle between frost and the force in running water is not quickly over. The battle fluctuates, and at the point of fluctuation between the motion in water and the immobility of frost, strange and beautiful forms are evolved.”
Born in 1893, Shepherd spent all her life in Aberdeen. She wrote her 80-page meditation on the Cairngorm mountains during the second world war but only published it in 1977, four years before her death. By the beginning of the 21st century, it was almost forgotten, but a resurgence of interest in nature writing has seen Shepherd’s books enjoying a new lease of life.
The writer Robert Macfarlane, who wrote an introduction for the 2011 reissue of The Living Mountain, 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.”
Macfarlane expressed his hope that the choice would bring more readers to Shepherd’s work, which also includes a book of poetry, In the Cairngorms. “She’s relatively little-known, certainly outside Scotland,” he said. “She has hundreds of thousands of readers, but she’s not Walter Scott – she’ll be a new name to many.”
Macfarlane praised the image chosen by RBS for the note, which he said was a photograph taken while Shepherd was a university student, set against the Cairngorms. “It’s strikingly unusual – she’s a super-cool, eyes-to-the-hills, headband-wearing young woman, dazzlingly beautiful and collected,” he said. “I’m trying to imagine what Nan would have made of it all – I think she would have laughed about it, and that she’d have been delighted.”
The reverse of the £5 note features an excerpt from Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean’s poem The Choice, which translates into English as “I walked with my reason, out beside the sea”. The £10 note shows an excerpt from Norman MacCraig’s poem Moorings: “The cork that can’t be travels / Nose of a dog otter / It’s piped at, screamed at, sworn at / By an elegant oystercatcher.”
Each note also features a midge, to “represent the reality of everyday living in the Scottish countryside”, according to RBS. “It’s a reminder that Scottish nature nips us as well as thrills us,” said Macfarlane.
One thing that you will definitely want to take note of as well is the new Hallmark Coins website. There you will be able to find the rarest and most affordable gold and silver coins and Sovereigns on the market. Take the tour and bolster your portfolio today.
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