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Novelist to be first woman on RBS notes


RBS £5 note
Nan Shepherd on new note (click on image to enlarge)

Scottish novelist and poet Nan Shepherd will be the first woman to appear on a main issue Royal Bank of Scotland banknote when it comes into circulation this year.

The bank will issue a new £10 note featuring the scientist Mary Somerville next year.

Nan Shepherd was chosen by the RBS Scotland board following a public vote that led to Ms Somerville’s selection.
The Queen Mother and the Queen featured were the first women to feature on RBS notes, but only on commemorative issues.

RBS £10 note
Scientist Mary Somerville (click on image to enlarge)

The new polymer notes contain a variety of new security features, making them difficult to counterfeit but easy to authenticate.
RBS Scotland board chairman Malcolm Buchanan, said: “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 £10 note.

“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.”

Robert Macfarlane, writer and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, added: “It is thrilling to see Nan Shepherd celebrated and commemorated in this way.”
The reverse of the £5 note features 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. Behind the portrait sits a picture of the Cairngorms, beloved by Nan Shepherd and celebrated in her writing, as well as a quote from her book ‘The Living Mountain’.

The £10 note sees two otters at play on the reverse and an excerpt from the poem ‘Moorings’ by Norman MacCraig.  Burntisland Beach, where Mary Somerville lived as a child, features behind the portrait, along with a quote from her work ‘The Connection of the Physical Sciences’.

The Royal Bank of Scotland has been issuing banknotes since 1727 and has an average of £1.5 billion worth in circulation on a single day. This is the first set of notes to feature different portraits on different denominations.

The new £5 note will be issued in the second half of 2016, with the £10 note following roughly a year later. This is in line with timeframes previously announced by the Bank of England, Clydesdale Bank and Bank of Scotland.

The polymer notes will be 15% smaller and printed on De La Rue’s Safeguard Polymer material. Polymer is cleaner, more secure and more durable than cotton paper. As a result of the additional durability, the banknotes will also reduce costs for issuing banks.

A comprehensive education and awareness programme will support the release of the new notes, including information on new security features and how the current notes will be removed from circulation.

The following portraits have featured on previous Royal Bank of Scotland banknotes:

Main note issues

King George II                                                   During his reign, 1727-1760, and also (alternating with George I) 1830s-1960s

King George III                                                  During his reign, 1760-1820

King George IV                                                  1826 only

King George I                                                     Alternating with George II, 1830s-1960s

David Dale                                                          1966-1969

Archibald, Earl of Ilay                                         1987-date


Robert Louis Stevenson                                 1994

Alexander Graham Bell                                 1997

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother             2000

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II                    2002 and 2012

Old Tom Morris                                               2004 (on Royal & Ancient Golf Club commemorative)

Jack Nicklaus                                                   2005

About Nan Shepherd

Nan Shepherd (11 February 1893 – 23 February 1981) was a Scottish novelist and poet who wrote three standalone novels set in small, fictional, communities in North Scotland. The Scottish landscape and weather played a major role in her novels and were the focus of her poetry. She also wrote a non-fiction book on hill walking – the Living Mountain, perhaps her most famous work – based on her experiences walking in the Cairngorms. Shepherd was a lecturer of English at the Aberdeen College of Education for most of her working life.

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