The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women: From the Earliest Times to 2004

By Elizabeth Ewan; Sue Innes et al. | Go to book overview
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PAGAN, Isobel, born near Nith-head, 1741, died 1821. Poet.

In Isobel Pagan's Collection of Poems and Songs, published c. 1805, she states that she was born 'near four miles from Nith-head' in the south west of Scotland and educated for 'ten weeks, when I was seven years old/With a good old religious wife'. She also indicates that she was convivial by nature: 'I sing a song with mirth and glee,/And sometimes I the whisky pree' and that she ran a howff at Muirkirk, where she raised her illegitimate child.

High spirits and thoughtful qualities are equally present in her work. She composed in Scots, and was known as 'Wicked Tibbie' for her satirical skills (her work was transcribed by a tailor, William Gemmell). Her lyric version of 'Ca' the yowes to the knowes', collected in The Scots Musical Museum (Johnson 1787–1803) by Robert Burns, has a subversive quality. Her heroine is not taken in by lovers' tricks and, in the tradition of Allan Ramsay's cautious lover Jenny in The Gentle Shepherd (1725), wants hard currency before she offers herself: 'gowns and ribbons meet'. On a more dignified note, pieces like 'The Crook and the Plaid' elevated those considered to be socially lowly into spiritually high positions. A shepherd lad is compared with the Biblical shepherd David: 'when he came to be a king, and left his former trade,/'Twas an honour to the laddie that wears the crook and plaid' (ll. 23–4). While Isobel Pagan's work has, hitherto, largely been considered as an appendix to Burns's, its imaginative range deserves more detailed critical consideration. VB

Pagan, I. (1803) A Collection of Poems and Songs on Several Occasions; Johnson, J. (1787–1803) The Scots Musical Museum, vol. III, Song 264 (6 vols, reissued as 2 vols, 1962). Bold, V (1997) 'Beyond “The Empire of the Gentle Heart”: Scottish women poets of the nineteenth century', in HSWW; (Forthcoming) 'Danaus' Daughters', in V. Bold Nature's Making: James Hogg and the Autodidacts; Paterson, J. (1840) The Contemporaries of Burns, and the More Recent Poets of Ayrshire, pp. 113–23, (1847) The Ballad and Songs of Ayrshire, pp. 63–6.

PARKER, Agnes Miller, m. McCance, born Irvine 25 March 1895, died Greenock 15 Nov. 1980. Artistwood-engraver. Daughter of Agnes Harriet Mitchell, and William McCall Parker, analytical chemist.

The eldest of eight children, after Whitehill Higher Grade School in Glasgow Agnes Miller Parker attended the GSA (Diploma 1916) and tutored until 1920. In 1918, she married fellow-artist William McCance (1894–1970). Both received praise as Scottish modernists, particularly from Neil Gunn and Hugh MacDiarmid. Agnes Miller Parker taught art at Gerrards Cross (1920–8) and Clapham (1928–30) and taught herself engraving, learning enough from Gertrude Hermes and her husband, Blair Hughes Stanton, to receive the Walter Brewster Prize for Engraving, Chicago (1929). A lively social life included friendship with *Naomi Mitchison and Marjorie Spring Rice. Agnes Miller Parker's first published illustrations accompanied How it Happened: Myths and Folk Tales by Rhoda Power (1930) as linocuts. More complex wood engravings appeared in the edition of Esope's Fables (1931), published while William McCance and Blair Hughes Stanton worked for Gregynnog Press (1930–3). Thereafter, Agnes Miller Parker designed many book illustrations. She became an Associate of the RSPEE (1940) and subsequently a Fellow (1953). In 1955, she left her husband. She lived in Glasgow, taught art in a city school, and went on sketching trips with artist Louise Annand. She retired to a house she built with her brothers on Arran (1962) where, according to Who's Who, she could keep cats, swim and fish, and where she is buried. RA

Manchester Metropolitan Univ. archives; NLS: Papers, book-plates and etching tools.

Addison, R. (1998) 'Fine lines: Agnes Miller Parker', Scottish Book Collector, 6/2, pp. 16–19; ODNB (2004); Rogerson, I. and Dreyfus, J. (1990) Agnes Miller Parker, Wood Engraver and Book Illustrator, 1895–1980; Who's Who.

PATERSON, Grace Chalmers, born Glasgow 25 Dec. 1843, died Edinburgh 26 Nov. 1925. Founder of Glasgow School of Cookery. Daughter of Georgina Smith, and William Paterson, merchant.

Grace Paterson campaigned for improving the domestic education of working-class girls and women, and was a friend and supporter of *Janet Galloway and the founders of Queen Margaret College, Glasgow, and of *Christian Guthrie Wright, founder of the Edinburgh School of Cookery. She was the first (non-teaching) principal


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