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Jessie Kesson Biography

(1915–94), The People's Friend, The White Bird Passes, Glitter of Mica

novelist story short farming

Scottish novelist and playwright, born in Inverness. She never knew her father, and her mother was disowned by her respectable farming family, so that her early upbringing in Elgin was plagued by poverty. At eight years old Kesson was taken away to an orphanage in Skene, Aberdeenshire, and received a good education. At 16 she was sent into service. She married in 1934, living initially in a tent, and then settling on a farm with her husband. Kesson, who had written since childhood, met the Scottish novelist Nan Shepherd on a train and was encouraged by her to enter a short story competition. She won first prize. Her first published story was in The People's Friend in the 1930s. She moved to London in 1949 and, while working in a variety of other jobs, began writing radio plays for the BBC. Much of her work has been autobiographical, capturing the speech and landscape of the north-east of Scotland, and evoking the inter-war years. Her novels include The White Bird Passes (1958), which tells of her destitute early years; Glitter of Mica (1963), set in the farming communities of Aberdeenshire; and Another Time, Another Place (1983), describing the effect on those communities of the arrival of Italian prisoners of war in the 1940s. A collection of short stories, Where the Apple Ripens, was published in 1985, and her work has been adapted for television and the cinema.

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