Violet Jacob

Other names: 
Maiden name Violet Augusta Mary Frederica Kennedy-Erskine
Born 1 September 1863, died 9 September 1946

Born at the family home, the House of Dun, near Montrose, Violet was the eldest of three surviving daughters of Catherine Jones, and William Henry Kennedy-Erskine, 18th Laird of Dun.

Her father died when she was a child and she was raised by her Welsh mother and educated at home. In 1894, she married Arthur Otway Jacob, an Irishman serving in the British Army. After their son Harry was born in 1895, they spent several years in India with Arthur Jacob’s regiment. She nursed in Mhow military hospital but also enjoyed considerable freedom, meeting rulers of the Central Indian States and riding on the plains. Five volumes of her Indian flower paintings are held at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

Returning to Britain in 1901, she lived mainly in English garrison towns, but on leave and after retirement the Jacobs frequently stayed near Llanigon in the Welsh borders, from which Violet took inspiration for her first novel, The Sheepstealers (1902). Her Scottish fiction, with its vivid Scots dialogue, is especially outstanding. The Interloper (1904), set in early 19th-century Angus, found contemporary success, and John Buchan described the powerful Flemington (1911) as ‘the best Scots romance since The Master of Ballantrae’.

Violet Jacob nursed during the First World War. Her son, Harry, died at the Somme in 1916, aged 20, and after this tragedy she wrote only short prose and poetry. Her poetry was mainly in Scots at this time, drawing on ballad and folksong traditions. In 1920, she moved to Ludlow in Shropshire, but regularly visited Angus. The Jacobs often wintered abroad in the 1930s because of Arthur Jacob’s health. After his death in 1936, Violet returned to Angus, making her final home at Marywell House, Kirriemuir.

The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women
Entry by Carol Anderson