The Scottish novelists

Lists will rarely be complete. But some are more complete than others.

On Monday Herald Scotland published a list of Scottish children’s authors.* What prompted this seems to have been Julia Donaldson’s decision to leave Scotland and move back to England. It felt like an ‘oh god who do we have left in Scotland if Julia Donaldson moves away?’ kind of list.

Don’t worry, J K Rowling is one of their ten ‘best.’ So are others that I know and admire, along with a few names I have never heard of. Which is fine, because I don’t know everything, and I’m sure they are great writers. I don’t even know who counts as Scottish for this purpose.

Although, with J K topping the list, I’m guessing they allow English writers living in Scotland. That makes my own list rather longer. Harry Potter isn’t particularly Scottish as a book, even if Hogwarts is in Scotland. Do Scottish authors living in England, or god forbid, even further afield qualify? (I’m not so good at keeping track of such people, so I’ll leave them out for the time being.)

As I said, I have no problem with who is on the Herald’s list. But along with quite a few Scottish authors, I gasped when I realised who weren’t on it. Catherine MacPhail and Gillian Philip, to mention two very Scottish ladies. Linda Strachan, Julie Bertagna and Theresa Breslin, who are also pretty well known and very Scottish indeed.

Keith Charters and Keith Gray. Damien M Love and Kirkland Ciccone. John Fardell. Lari Don, Lyn McNicol, Joan Lingard and Elizabeth Laird. Cathy Forde. Dare I mention the Barrowman siblings, Carole and John? Alexander McCall Smith writes for children, too. Roy Gill, Jackie Kay. Cat Clarke. And how could I forget Joan Lennon?

I’m guessing former Kelpies Prize shortlistees Tracy Traynor, Rebecca Smith and Debbie Richardson belong. (There is one lady whose name is eluding me completely right now, but who appears at the book festival every year and seems very popular…) Have also been reminded of Margaret Ryan and Pamela Butchart. (Keep them coming!)

Most of the above have lovely Scottish accents and reasonably impeccable Scottish credentials. But what about the foreigners? We have the very English, but still Scottish residents, Vivian French, Helen Grant and Nicola Morgan. Americans Jane Yolen and Elizabeth Wein. Ex-Aussie Helen FitzGerald.

And I really don’t know about English Cathy Cassidy, who used to live in Scotland but has more recently returned to England. I think she counts, too, along with all those writers whose names simply escape me right now, but who will wake me up in the night reminding me of their existence.

I’m hoping to get to know all of you much better once this wretched move is over and done with. Unless you see me coming and make a swift exit, following Julia Donaldson south. Or anywhere else. I think Scotland has a great bunch of writers for children. (And also those lovely people who write adult crime, and who are not allowed on this list, even by me.)

Sorry for just listing names, but there are so many authors! One day I will do much more. Cinnamon buns, for starters. With tea. Or coffee. Irn Bru if absolutely necessary.

Theresa Breslin's boot

*For anyone who can’t access the Herald’s list, here are the other nine names: Mairi Hedderwick, Barry Hutchison, Chae Strathie, Claire McFall, Daniela Sacerdoti, Debi Gliori, Caroline Clough, Janis MacKay and Diana Hendry.

17 responses to “The Scottish novelists

  1. I suppose they have to be living authors – or one could add people like Eileen Dunlop

  2. Interesting how countries can claim authors simply by applying different criteria — birth, residence, ancestry, story setting etc.

    So glad Julia Donaldson is doing well. Despite only a brief spell teaching her piano in Bristol (she’s since got her Grade 8) I was chuffed to be asked to accompany her and husband Malcolm on a demo tape of her songs in the 70s — she is a talented singer and composer as well as author, many of her songs being used on Play Away and other children’s programmes.

  3. Miaow from the owner of the boots. Although I’m not feeling catty at all!

  4. Kathering Langrisk

    Has Eileen Dunlop died?

  5. Kathering Langrish


  6. Katherine Langrish

    Oh, good god. Maybe I should simply change my name. Kathering Langrisk? Why not?!

  7. I’m sure Eileen Dunlop is still with us. Fabulous writer; her books helped inspire me to begin. I loved House on the Hill. Class. The great (and slightly scary) Mollie Hunter sadly gone.

  8. Brilliant! All those missed names came crowding into my brain the moment I saw that list! Thanks for giving credit where credit is due!

  9. Well said, Bookwitch. I don’t think that journalist knows very much about Scottish writing!

    (Though – point of information – Viv French is English. Like me, she lives in Scotland and is therefore a Scottish author, according to the Scottish Book trust definition.)

  10. Aileen Paterson?

  11. Yes, I was searching for that name and came up with a blank. Cats. In Edinburgh.

  12. Thanks for the mention Bookwitch!

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