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Gerda Stevenson’s Tribute to Women of Scotland
Gerda Stevenson
(Photo by Anna Wiraszka)

The snow had cleared and the sky was that brilliant blue that makes it so hard to be indoors, making it a perfect day to be out and on my way down to the Borders. The sun was still shining when we reached our destination: an old, two-storied stone cottage, nestling below the Pentland Hills. A welcoming house: warm, bright and comfortable; full of the colourful and well-loved possessions that reflect the lives of Gerda Stevenson and her family. And that included - glossy-coated and full of life - Luna, Gerda’s Border Collie, who dropped a tennis ball at my feet and looked up in that eternally hopeful way that dogs do.

It’s not easy to pigeon-hole someone as versatile as Gerda Stevenson. She’s been rightly called ‘one of Scotland’s great Renaissance women’. She’s an award-winning writer, actor, playwright, radio-dramatist, theatre-director, singersongwriter and poet. A woman who moves easily from playing Mother MacClannough in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, through starring on stage in Edwin Morgan’s Scots language translation of Phaedra, to the clipped tones of Paul Temple’s glamorous wife Steve, in the BBC Radio4 dramatisations. But there’s still more, for she’s equally at home writing, directing and performing in her thought-provoking, humorous yet heart-rending play Federer Versus Murray, as she is composing and performing her own beautiful songs in Night Touches Day.

I’ve come down to talk to Gerda about her new book of poetry, Quines: poems in tribute to women of Scotland, published on March 8th, which, very appropriately, is International Women’s Day. Doubly apt, as 2018 is also the year that marks the centenary of the first women getting the vote.

Quines is a celebration of sixty-seven extraordinary Scottish women, told uniquely through a sequence of fifty-seven poems. Not just the ‘usual suspects’ though, for Gerda’s poems highlight the lives and achievements of women some of us will never have heard of before. Yet they’re women whose contributions to Scotland, and beyond, were enormous. With the patience of an archaeologist, Gerda has carefully scraped away at the neglect of years to unearth some real treasures, bringing to light the stories of women who made a mark in their time, but who have been allowed to ‘disappear’ by the writers of history.

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About iScot Magazine

March 2018 Issue number 39 The only independent Pro Scottish magazine on sale today