'I think it is the best Scots romance since The Master of Ballantrae,' said John Buchan when Flemington was first published in 1911. Violet Jacob's fifth and finest novel is a tragic drama of the 1745 Jacobite Rising, tightly written, poetic in its symbolic intensity, lit by flashes of humour and informed by the author's own family history as one of the Erskines of the House of Dun near Montrose.
Drawn back to these roots in her later years, Violet Jacob also wrote many unforgettable short stories about the people, the landscapes and the language of the North-east. In this volume fourteen of these stories are re-collected and re-edited as Tales from Angus.
Violet Jacob (1863-1946) was born Violet Kennedy-Erskine at the family-home at Dun near Montrose on the north-east coast of Scotland. Erskines has lived at the House of Dun since the 15th century and Violet published the family history as The Lairds of Dun in 1931. Her father died when Violet was young and she lost a sister and a brother in later years, but her childhood was a happy one and she retained a close attachment to the countryside and the broad Scots spoken there. She was artistic with a penchant for flower illustration, and some of her early works and her diaries from India contained drawings and paintings. In 1894 she married Arthur Jacob, an Irish officer serving in the British Army. After the birth of her son Harry in 1895, Violet joined her husband ion service in India where she recorded her experiences for the next four years in letters and diaries (published by Canongate in 1990). It was during this time that she began her first novel, The Sheepstealers (1902) a historical story of protest set in the Welsh borders - where her mother was born. Victoria returned o England when Arthur's regiment took him to South Africa and the Boer War, and apart from a spell together in Egypt, their life was spent in garrison towns in England. After her initial success Jacob continued to write novels and short stories, The Golden Heart and Other Fairy Stories (1905), Irresolute Catherine (1908), The History of Aythan Waring (1908), The Fortune Hunters and Other Stories (1910) and Flemington (1911), which used Montrose and some her own family history for her fines historical novel about the turbulent times of the 1745 rising. The Jacobs visited India again in the early 1920s, but Violet was haunted by the memories of her son who had been killed at the Somme in 1916. Jacob had published some verse in her early years, but with Songs of Angus (1915) she started to write in the Scots vernacular which looked back to the Doric tradition of Charles Murray and forward to the Scots lyrics of MacDiarmid. She was awarded an honorary LLD from Edinburgh in 1936. After her husband's death she retired to Kirriemuir where she spent the last ten years of her life.