F. Marian MacNeill | British Youth Music Theatre

Our People

F. Marian MacNeill


McNeill was born in Holm, Orkney on 26 March 1885 to Jessie Janet Dewar and the Reverend Daniel McNeill, a minister of the Free Kirk in Orkney. Dewar was originally from Fochabers, and Rev. McNeill was from Argyll, and was minister of Holm for nearly fifty years. Marian was the eighth of twelve children, and was nicknamed "Floss" by her family and friends.

She was educated at Kirkwall Burgh School, where she was friends with poet Edwin Muir.

In 1912 she graduated from the University of Glasgow with an MA. For the next year, she taught English in France and Germany.

She returned to the UK in 1913 and worked initially as an organiser for the Scottish Federation of Women's Suffrage Societies, and later as secretary for the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene in London where she remained until 1917. At the end of the World War I, she lived in Greece for a while.[1] After that, she moved back to Edinburgh and started work as a researcher for the Scottish National Dictionary, and by 1929 she had become principal assistant on the project.

In the years between the First and Second World Wars she became involved in the revival of Scottish literature and culture known as the Scottish Renaissance. She is best known as the author of The Scots Kitchen, published in 1929. This encyclopaedic work covers the essentials and diversity of Scotland's culinary heritage, including many historical and literary references. Recipes include Forfar bridies, Cock-a-leekie soup and porridge.

She was one of the founder members of the Scottish National Party, along with her brother Duncan McNeill, and later became its vice president.

A smaller work, equally well researched is her Iona: A History of the Island. Noting the "much detail" which characterised works on the subject already in existence in 1920, a "modest handbook" was nowhere to be found; a deficiency she set about rectifying.

In 1932, she wrote her only novel, The Road Home.

In 1962 she was awarded an MBE for services to Scottish culture. She died in Edinburgh on 22 February 1973.