Alfred Ireson (b. 1856): Researching Writing Lives


If asked, ‘Why did you choose this module?’, it always boils down to the content, and the way in which it stimulates and really draw you in (hopefully leading to great marks as a result). As the same with any project, the main focus that led me toward the Writing Lives module is the vast array of research and sheer KNOWLEDGE that you can acquire; at many points giving you an intense sense of freedom and real opportunity to explore independent study.

Creating an author blog has been rewarding in so many ways. I have felt a real sense of achievement at the messages that I have been able to relay from Alf’s memoir, whilst in a hopefully engaging and interactive manner. Being able to feel a connection to the text that you are studying in such depth is something remarkable; and this module really allows you to do that. You feel responsible for your author and his/her memories, and the way that it is to be read and perceived. You also feel a sense of pride of their achievements, and sadness when everything does not always go to plan. Empathy towards your author and his/her trials and tribulations is definitely key!

Alf’s memoir shattered my perceptions that all working-class voices of the 19th century are likely to be less educated and concerned with self-discovery and something ‘better’. Contrary to other memoirs, Alf relayed his life as one of adventure, and at many times great opportunity, which I felt other working-class auto-biographers may not have experienced. I have also learnt a great deal about the Wesleyan missionary work, and the temperance movements of the 19th century, which proved to be incredibly interesting, with sporadic accounts of Victorian slums in London being highlights of my research and overall reading of Alf’s memoir. The length of the memoir (coming in two parts) also meant that I would have a great deal of material to use, really allowing me to explore these themes in my own research. I hope I have made a vivid contribution to public history by reflecting on working-class domestic missionary workers which seem generally underrepresented in working-class writings. I hope I have also clarified that not all working-class writers experienced poverty and struggle of the highest kind.

With having previous experience writing a feminist blog, as well as one that focuses upon crime and punishment between 1700-1900, Writing Lives has proved a perfect choice to further my skills in blogging, dissemination and overall writing style – now with the adding benefit of being a part of something collaborative whilst still being responsible for my own material. I have expanded on my blogging writing style; something that has proved sometimes difficult to alter from the academic ‘essay’-styled writing that we have become so accustomed whilst at University. Blogging has always given me a way to explore WordPress further, which can prove confusing when you have not had experience working with it! Interactive posts are vital when blogging, so researching specific images to guide your post, or even using hyperlinks where necessary, have all proved to be a great elements in really making our posts come alive.

Dissemination through Twitter has proved to be the main form of interaction from outside parties when it comes to blogging. By following twitter users that engage with relevant and interesting articles and information, we can really expand on your research by incorporating it into your blog, or even just retweeting for others to see. By using twitter as a platform to advertise your blogs, users from all over the world are able to come into contact with it which allow you to network with them, and possibly make valuable connections for future work and research. I have also been able to share Alf’s experiences of the Victorian slum through TV research for a future BBC programme, making the ‘Writing Lives’ process even more rewarding; knowing that Alf’s beautifully told memories could prove helpful to an historical project.

Ultimately, I have taken away an array of valuable skills in social media and blogging, as well as passion for in-depth research. I have always loved the research side of writing, with modules such as Writing Lives securing this passion into a possible future in PR and Media. Thank you Alf, and thank you Writing Lives!

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