The Day I Bumped Into ‘Duncan’, One of the Hungry Generation!

Had a lovely trip across the Kessock Bridge to the Black Isle yesterday afternoon. It was a glorious autumn day, so after skirting the water’s edge on the south side as far as Rosemarkie, we then took the road that leads inland towards the Cromarty Firth on the north side. The plan was to visit the cemetery where Jane Duncan is buried and then head towards Jemimaville, where she lived for many years with Uncle George, in the house she built by the shore.

The gravestone behind her own, marks the place where her brother is buried. Their stones face directly across Udale Bay towards Jemimaville, and to the place on the hill that always remained her ‘spiritual home’ wherever else in the world she lived, the Reachfar of her novels.

We had just wandered down one of Jemimaville’s side lanes to visit Jane’s old house, when we spotted some people doing a spot of gardening, no doubt ‘the big tidy-up’ ahead of winter. Conscious of the fact travel restrictions are in place around the country at the moment, I wanted to reassure them we were local, so stopped for a wee chat. It turned out it was Neil, Jane’s nephew, who became immortalised in her books as one of ‘The Hungry Generation’. He and his lovely wife now live in the village, and were happy for me to take a picture.

Neil aka ‘Duncan’, with his wife

For someone who has a whole blog dedicated to Jane Duncan and her books, this was quite something, and an encounter I hadn’t expected when we headed off that fine day. Once home I revisited My Friends the Hungry Generation and remembered it had been signed by Neil and his siblings at the wonderful centenary event in 2010. Here is that book with its beautiful cover by Virginia Smith. I will also share the page from the booklet written for the event, which had pictures of the family, before finishing with an extract from the book, the scene when Janet meets the oldest three children for the first time when on a visit home from the Caribbean. Enjoy.

Pictures of The Hungry Generation in the booklet written to accompany the 2010 centenary event

On the occasion of Janet’s first meeting with Liz, Duncan and Gee, 1956.

(Extracted from My Friends the Hungry Generation by Jane Duncan)

‘Stand by for boarders,’ my brother said suddenly. ‘Here comes the Hungry Generation.’

In 1951, when I had last seen my niece, she had been an entrancing three-year-old who was just beginning to read and when the door opened now I was quite unprepared for the leggy coltish eight-year-old dressed in navy shorts and a very dirty white shirt. She had long, light brown pigtails and large eyes, shaped and darkly lashed like the eyes of her mother but, in colour, the brilliant blue of her father’s. The two boys, who stood on either side of her in the doorway, I had never seen before, of course. Duncan, called after my father, was five and seemed to have no connection with his mother at all, for he had bright red-gold curly hair and blue eyes and looked exactly as my bother had at that age, but George, aged four and called after his mother’s father, had been obliging enough to go entirely her side of the family and was, I was told, very like the grandfather whose name he bore, with his dark grey eyes and straight jet-black hair.