Janet Paisley (b 1948), poet, nominated
Lady Anne Farquharson-Mackintosh (1723-87)
Naomi Mitchison (1897-1999)
Go to Culloden. You'll not find the name of Anne Farquharson, the Lady Mackintosh. No monument. No record. Yet this young woman was taken from her home at Moy Hall, bare miles from the battlefield, toured around her devastated estates and paraded through her dead troops on the field before incarceration in Inverness jail. Of all the Jacobite commanders, humiliation was reserved for her alone.
Why? She was a woman but many Jacobites were. She opposed her husband. Angus, the Mackintosh, had taken up his commission in the Black Watch when the rising began. But many families supported both sides, heart against head.
She raised his clan to fight for the rebellion. Other women also raised clans. She had earlier humiliated the Government army when Lord Loudon, informed the Prince was visiting Moy Hall, set out with 1,500 soldiers to capture him. Anne, with only a handful of servants aided by a wild night and peat stooks, scared them away. Two hundred deserted to the Jacobites. At the Rout of Moy, a petticoat colonel had made a laughing stock of them all.
Perhaps we now have it. She made the Government look and feel foolish. This slim, beautiful 22-year-old was caricatured in London as a frighteningly fierce warrior leading her troops into battle, as she may well have done. Her punishment was unique, designed to fill her head with nightmares and her soul with guilt. She escaped hanging. Cumberland, amused that Charles had placed Anne's captured husband in her custody, made her captive to her husband. Cowed, she was not. Years later, when she and Angus were received at court, Cumberland asked her to dance and bid the band strike up his war song. When it ended, she made a request. 'Sir,' she said. 'I have danced to your tune. Now will you dance to mine?' Manners being everything, the Duke could not refuse. The defeated rebel had the band play 'The Auld Stuarts Back Again.'
Flora MacDonald's contribution to that period was minor but acceptably feminine. In story and statue, she has been retained. Anne Farquharson was everything the new Protestant and pseudo-English society of Scotland feared. Her contribution was major and did not fit their required submissive role for women. She behaved as if she was the equal of man. So she was removed.
When Scotland became Calvinist, it became sexist. While Catholicism had been forced to restore the eradicated goddess, albeit as a desexualised virgin, in Scotland the Reformation rubbed women out. The wisdom of appearing non-verbal was assured by witch fires and a long period of religious and social constraint. The role and rights of women were eroded, the maternal blood line eradicated in favour of a male line, the equal right to inherit title removed. Our women warriors, leaders and reformers vanished from history.
Likewise, our writers. More women write than men, and they write more. The male brain processes 70,000 words daily, the female brain twice that many. Records show that women publish far more. On the tricky subject of worth, who decides? Robert Burns said women writing in his day were far better lyricists than himself. As his inspiration, Hugh MacDiarmid credited women writing in Scots as raising the language as a literary tool above the kailyard prose of his gender. Naomi Mitchison was one of Scotland's greatest writers, critically acclaimed and prolific. An inspirational human being, politically active, by all accounts lusty and joyful, she was internationally known and even adopted as leader by African tribes.
Naomi died in January 1999, just as the millennium comes to a close. Already she has disappeared. Waterstone's, during the year, promoted a list of 100 famous Scottish writers. Only one woman appeared on it. Muriel Spark. In a few short months, Naomi was gone and forgotten. Muriel will go the same way. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of others have gone into that void. Poets, fiction writers, playwrights.
Our male writers are remembered and celebrated. Take a trip around the monuments. From the North: the Iain Crichton Smith fellowship; Neil Gunn prize; Grassic Gibbon centre; Souter's house; Scott monument; Ramsay statue; Stevenson room; MacDiarmid’s Brownsbank museum; James Hogg statue; Burns society, centre, cottage, statues, slept-here-there-everywhere plaques. Now seek out one to Naomi or the many who pre-deceased her. Do the Scottish public still know their names, that body of work?
The vanishing woman is a Scottish phenomenon that shames us. We are limp and lop-sided, with half our history and culture missing, unaware of who might actually be who in Scotland. Presbyterianism and union with a then chauvinist society began this self-wounding. But now we lag behind, brutish and handicapped in a modern world. Who can't name several deceased English women writers, or a living American or Canadian?
Anne Farquharson of Invercauld and Naomi Mitchison. The question is not why I choose them. But why not?