Robb, Nesca Adeline (1905–76), author, was born 27 May 1905 in Belfast, daughter of Charles Robb, managing director of J. Robb & Co., and his wife Agnes, daughter of Dr Wilberforce Arnold. She was educated at Richmond Lodge (of which she later wrote a record) and went up to Somerville College, Oxford (October 1924), to study modern languages. She graduated BA (1927), MA (1931), and D.Phil. (1932). Her research resulted in the publication of her Neoplatonism of the Italian renaissance (1935). A member of the Northern Ireland committee of the National Trust, she presented her family home, Lisnabreeny House, Castlereagh, to it in 1937. After periods of voluntary and social work, she moved to the London Institute of Italian Studies in 1938. Blackwell then published her first volume of Poems (1939), a mixed collection that lacks inventiveness. Advisory officer and registrar to the Women's Employment Federation from 1940 to 1944, she wrote a partial account of her experiences in An Ulsterwoman in England (1942). In it she remembers her unionist upbringing and gives a vivid account of the Ulster Division's final parade on leaving Belfast before their tragic losses at the Somme. She also recognises, at this midpoint of the second world war, Jewish suffering in occupied eastern Europe. Returning to Northern Ireland in 1944, she divided her time between writing and various public bodies, such as the National Trust and PEN. Member of the Committee for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts in 1951, she edited The arts in Ulster (1951) with Sam Hanna Bell (qv) and John Hewitt (qv), and argued that any mention of politics should be kept from the collection. There followed an impressive two-volume history of William of Orange (1962, 1966); the award in 1963 of the Lid van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde; a final volume of poetry, Ards eclogues (1970); and election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In total she wrote seven volumes of poetry, art criticism, and history. She died in Oxford on 18 May 1976, and was buried at Bangor cemetery, Co. Down.
Sam Hanna Bell, Nesca Robb, and John Hewitt (ed.), The arts in Ulster: a symposium (1951); Belfast News Letter, 18, 21, 22 May, 4 June 1976; Ir. News, 22 May 1976; Gillian McIntosh, The force of culture (1999)