Children’s tale reckoned ‘too Scottish’ is revived

Children’s tale reckoned ‘too Scottish’ is revived

Auntie Robbo, a children’s book that features the rollicking adventures of an 80-year-old woman and her grandnephew, deemed "too Scottish" for publication in the 1940s, is being made available by Edinburgh-based indie Scotland Street Press.

The first book by author Ann Scott-Moncrieff, Auntie Robbo stars 11-year-old Hector, who lives near Edinburgh with his great-auntie Robbo. When a woman claiming to be his stepmother arrives from England, Hector and Auntie Robbo run away. The chase ensues all over the north of Scotland, with the pair narrowly escaping police and the authorities, and adopting three homeless children on the way.

Scott-Moncrieff’s granddaughter Jean Findlay is the founder of Scotland Street Press, which is to reintroduce the book in print in May 2019. She said it was rejected shortly after its writing by an English publisher for being "too Scottish". It was published in the US in 1941 by Viking Press, albeit with an apology: here was a book "without a shadow or suspicion of a moral". Yet, it was a hit in the US and taken on by Constable in the UK in 1959 and was later issued in India, South Africa, New Zealand, Denmark and Germany.

Findlay said: "Taking us all over the Highlands of Scotland, [Auntie Robbo] appeals to the imagination of children and the impulse to be free of authority. I am delighted and excited to be publishing it and to show off the great spirit of Auntie Robbo herself. The story has more resonance today, when there are even more rules governing children’s lives, and the need to escape into the open air and Highland hills is more imperative than ever."

In July the list will release Scott-Moncrieff’s Firkin and the Grey Gangsters, a collection of three tales in which animals are the heroes. The title was originally published as The White Drake. In October, the indie publisher will issue the author’s Aboard the Bulger, the story of five children who escape from a children’s home and steal a boat, which they sail around the Outer Hebrides.

Born Agnes Shearer, Scott-Moncrieff left school at 16 and worked on Fleet Street, where she met her husband. They returned to Scotland in 1934, where she published Aboard the Bulger and The White Drake with Methuen. She had three children, and died aged 29.

Scotland Street Press was founded in 2014. The press has 14 books on its list and publishes five to 10 books a year. In 2018, the press published its first book for children, Black Snow Falling by L J MacWhirter.