Biography of Violet Jacob

Violet Jacob (1 September 1863 – 9 September 1946) was a Scottish writer known especially for her historical novel Flemington and for her poetry, mainly in Scots. She was described by a fellow Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid as "the most considerable of contemporary vernacular poets".

Early life

Jacob was born Violet Augusta Mary Frederica Kennedy-Erskine, at the House of Dun, the daughter of William Henry Kennedy-Erskine (1 July 1828 – 15 September 1870) of Dun, Forfarshire, a captain in the 17th Lancers and Catherine Jones (died 13 February 1914), the only daughter of William Jones of Henllys, Carmarthenshire. Her father was the son of John Kennedy-Erskine (1802–1831) of Dun and Augusta FitzClarence (1803–1865), the illegitimate daughter of King William IV and Dorothy Jordan. She was a great-granddaughter of Archibald Kennedy, 1st Marquess of Ailsa.

The area of Montrose where her family seat of Dun was situated was the setting for much of her fiction. She married, at St John's Episcopal Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh, on 27 October 1894, Arthur Otway Jacob (1867–1936), an Irish major in the British Army, and accompanied him to India where he was serving. Her book Diaries and letters from India 1895–1900 is about their stay in the Central Indian town of Mhow. The couple had one son, Harry, born in 1895, who died as a soldier at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Arthur died in 1936, and Violet returned to live at Kirriemuir, in Angus. She died of heart disease on 9 September 1946 and was buried beside her husband at the graveyard at Dun kirk.

Scots poetry

Violet Jacob was described by Hugh MacDiarmid as "by far the most considerable of contemporary vernacular poets", a view he did not rescind over a fifty-year period. She was particularly known for her poems in the Angus dialect. Her poetry was associated with that of Scots revivalists like Marion Angus, Alexander Gray and Lewis Spence, who drew their inspiration from early Scots poets such as Robert Henryson and William Dunbar, rather than from Robert Burns.Jacob is commemorated in Makars' Court, outside the Writers' Museum, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh. Selections for Makars' Court are made by the Writers' Museum, The Saltire Society and The Scottish Poetry Library. In 1936 she was awarded an honorary LLD degree by Edinburgh University.

The Wild Geese, which takes the form of a conversation between the poet and the North Wind, is a sad poem of longing for home. It was set to music as Norlan' Wind and popularised by Angus singer and songmaker Jim Reid, who also set to music other poems by Jacob and other Angus poets such as Marion Angus and Helen Cruikshank. Another version, sung by Cilla Fisher and Artie Trezise, appeared on their 1979 Topic Records album Cilla and Artie. Traditional folk band Malinky are among many other artists who have released versions of Norland Wind.


Apart from her collections of poetry and short stories, Violet Jacob published an Erskine family history (Lairds of Dun, 1931) and five novels, the best known of which is the tragic Flemington (1911; reissued in 1994), set in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745. Flemington was described by John Buchan as "the best Scots romance since The Master of Ballantrae".


The Sheep-stealers (1902), novel

The Infant Moralist (1903), poems

The Interloper (1904), novel

The Golden Heart & other fairy stories (1904), stories

Verses (1905)

Irresolute Catherine (1908), novella

The History of Aythan Waring (1908), novel

Stories Told by the Miller (1909)

The Fortune-hunters and Other Stories (1910)

Flemington (1911), novel

Songs of Angus (1915), poems

More songs of Angus and others (1918), poems

Bonnie Joann and other poems (1921)

Tales of my own country (1922), short stories

Two new poems (1924)

The Northern Lights and other poems (1927)

The good child's year book (1928)

Lairds of Dun (1931), family history

The Scottish poems of Violet Jacob (1944)

The Lum hat and other stories: Last tales of Violet Jacob (1982)

Diaries and letters from India 1895–1900 (1990)


Isobel Murray (1983), "The Forgotten Violet Jacob", reviewing The Lum Hat and Other Stories", in Sheila G. Hearn, ed., Cencrastus No. 13, Summer 1983, p. 54


Further reading

Janet Caird (1984), The Poetry of Violet Jacob and Helen B. Cruickshank, in Geoff Parker, ed. Cencrastus No. 19, Winter 1984, pp. 32–34 ISSN 0264-0856

Arianna Introna (2017), "Violet Jacob on the Capital Relation: Local and Global Flows of Privilege and (Im)mobility", Carla Sassi and Silke Stroh, eds., 2017, Empires and Revolution: Cunninghame Graham and his Contemporaries, Scottish Literature International, Glasgow, pp. 157–170 ISBN 978-1-908980-25-0

External links

Works by Violet Jacob at Project Gutenberg

Works by or about Violet Jacob at Internet Archive

Works by Violet Jacob at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)

Write your comment about Violet Jacob

Ron Scrimgeour: Such a talent and so often overlooked. From her poetry, to her children's books and the Indian diaries, Violet Jacob is a giant of Scottish literature. And when you consider Flemington - the Jacobite epic tale of Angus - Violet Jacob is in a class of her own. Skirlin' Wattie, the beggar piper, steals every paragraph he is featured in.

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