New Royal Bank of Scotland £5 and £10 polymer notes to feature two female Scottish writers

The Royal Bank of Scotland revealed on Monday that its new GBP5 polymer notes will feature Scottish novelist and poet Nan Shepherd, while the new GBP10 notes will feature Scottish science writer and polymath Mary Somerville.

Following polling surveys held across Scotland, the company decided to feature women on its new notes for the first time. It recently announced that Mary Somerville was chosen to feature on the GBP10 notes, which will enter circulation in 2017.

Through the surveys, workshops and online community contributions, the new notes have been designed with the theme of ‘the Fabric of Nature’, with the Scotland Board selecting Nan Shepherd to feature on the GBP5 notes. 

Nan (Anna) Shepherd was born 11 February 1893 and died 23 February 1981. The Scottish novelist and poet, known as an early Scottish Modernist writer, wrote three standalone novels. Behind her portrait on the GBP5 note is a picture of her beloved Cairngorms, which she celebrated in her writing. The note also includes a quote from her book ‘The Living Mountain’. The design of the reverse of the note shows two Mackerel, the single most valuable stock for the Scottish fishing industry, as well as an excerpt from the poem ‘The Choice’ by Sorley MacLean. 

Commenting on the choice of Nan Shepherd to appear on the GBP5 note, Robert Macfarlane, writer and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge said: “It is thrilling to see Nan Shepherd celebrated and commemorated in this way. Nan was a blazingly brilliant writer, a true original whose novels, poems and non-fiction broke new ground in Scottish literature, and her influence lives on powerfully today.

“Nan’s book ‘The Living Mountain’ is a slender masterpiece that has brought many thousands of readers to see the Scottish landscape with fresh, astonished eyes. In person as in language, Nan followed her own path – she was a woman of fierce independence and inspiring vision.

“It is just wonderful news that she will now become known to millions more people in Scotland and beyond.”

Mary Fairfax Somerville, who was born 26 December 1780 in Jedburgh and died 29 November 1872 in Naples, was an academic who studied mathematics and astronomy. The GBP10 note has been designed to show Mary Somerville’s childhood home Burntisland Beach behind her portrait. A quote from her work ‘The Connection of the Physical Sciences’ is also included. The reverse of the note shows two otters at play and an excerpt from the poem ‘Moorings’ by Norman MacCraig. 

Chair of the Scotland Board, Malcolm Buchanan, remarked: “I am delighted that we have been able to involve the public throughout this process; from the workshops and surveys that helped to decide on the theme, right through to the public vote that resulted in Mary Somerville being chosen to feature on the GBP10 note.

“People in Scotland will be using this money every day and it is quite right that they got to play an important role in designing it. This truly is the people’s money.

“The Royal Bank of Scotland has never before featured a woman on its main issue bank notes. It gives me enormous pleasure that we are able to celebrate the fantastic, and often overlooked, achievements of two great Scottish women. Both made huge contributions in their respective fields.”

These new notes will be printed on Safeguard Polymer material by De La Rue, a banknote manufacturer, security printing, papermaking and cash handling systems company. The notes will also contain a range of new security features that will making them difficult to counterfeit but easy to authenticate.