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Jessie Kesson: The White Bird Passes

  I was recently introduced to the work of Scottish author Jessie Kesson. She was a novelist, poet and playwright who did a lot of work for the BBC, but also a nature writer and friend of Nan Shepherd. Jessie was the illegitimate child of a woman who lived in the tenements of Glasgow and, through poverty, drifted into casual prostitution. Jessie was taken into care and brought up in orphanages while her mother died slowly and painfully of syphilis. Although intellectually brilliant, the ‘training schools’ of Scotland only equipped girls for a life in service. Instead of going to university, as she wished, Jessie worked as a servant until she met her husband, an agricultural worker. For the first decade of her married life, Jessie was a ‘cottar wife’ – working on the farms alongside her husband, living in ‘tied’ houses, with no security and very little money. The Glasgow Tenements painted by Joan Eardley    Jessie became a published writer, encouraged by Nan Shepherd, a stranger she

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