The following is an extract from The Drummond Civic Association Newsletter, January 2018
A LAND GIRL’S TALE…
It is a pleasure to welcome the latest publication of the Scotland Street Press. ‘A Land Girl’s Tale’ by Mona Macleod is the thirteenth title on the catalogue of this exciting publishing house which was founded in 2014 by Jean Findlay, the great-great-niece of C. K. Scott Moncrieff, the celebrated translator of Proust. Her biography of Scott Moncrieff, ‘Chasing lost Time’, was received with acclaim in 2014. The Press is committed to promoting Scotland as ‘a distinctive creative voice and in highlighting women’s voices’ which Jean Findlay feels are ‘underrepresented in literature as a whole in Scotland. Hitherto, the catalogue includes 9 out of 13 titles by women.
Mona Macleod’s absorbing memoir of her experience employed a Land Girl in Kirkcudbrightshire during the Second World War is a riveting account of the extraordinary but often unsung contribution by the Women’s Land Army to winning the war in Britain.
The author dispels any notion that the Women’s Land Army operated in some sort of charming rural idyll. On the contrary, the land girls had literally to turn their hand to most aspects of agricultural work including laborious field work, care of livestock, forestry, and even blocking up of rat holes. They were often cold and hungry, and were paid risible wages. Despite facing immense challenges, their contribution in keeping the country fed and the home fires burning should never be underestimated. Although the Queen recognised the achievement of the WLA at the end of the war in signed letters to individuals, shamefully it was not until 2000 that they were invited to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day. The only concrete commemoration of the work of
the Land Army is a sculpture near Buckie, unveiled by Prince Charles in 2012. As Mona Macleod rightly observes, this is a deceptively jolly image of life as a land girl which this book seeks to correct. She does so triumphantly. In this respect, the story of the WLA echoes that of the Bevin Boys who were conscripted to work in the coal mines in dreadful circumstances and whose sterling achievement was only acknowledged as recently as 2008.
This is an immensely significant contribution both to the annals of Scottish social history and to the advancement of Women’s Rights in Britain. It is also immensely readable, and a typically stylish SSP production with delightful illustrations. JRM