Florence Marian McNeill

Florence Marian McNeill (1885–1973) was born in the Free Church manse, Holm in Orkney. Her mother died when her youngest brother was only three and her father, a graduate in divinity and medicine, kept up many of the old traditions and customs. It was her early life on the islands which was to shape her life-long passion for Scottish culture and history.

She moved from Orkney so that her secondary education could be taken in Glasgow as well as private schools in Paris and the Rhineland. She then returned to Glasgow to graduate from the university with an arts degree. She travelled extensively as a young woman, visiting Greece, Palestine and Egypt and then living and working in London as part of the suffragette movement.

Her first book Iona: A History of the Island was published in 1920 following a visit Marian made to the island. Her only novel, The Road Home, was published in 1932 and was loosely based on her years in Glasgow and London. The Scottish traditions which Marian had been brought up on shaped two of her books, The Scots Kitchen (published in 1929) and The Scots Cellar (1956), which both celebrated old recipes and customs and provide a social history of northern domestic life.

Marian MacNeill was most proud, however, of her four-volume work, The Silver Bough (1957–1968), which was a study of Scottish folklore and folk belief as well as seasonal and local festivals. The Scottish Arts Council celebrated the completion of this work by giving a reception in her honour.

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