Margaret Watson’s memoir mainly focuses on the importance of friendships, close neighbours, and family life. The overwhelming message of Margaret’s writing is that of the importance of the working-class communities that she grew up in, which helped her through many dark periods of her difficult childhood.
As well as the importance of family, Margaret’s memoir is also mainly centred around her working life. Because of this, her personal habits and social activities are often only mentioned in passing and are not focused on too greatly. Saying this, when reading her autobiography, the moments where she discusses letting loose and enjoying herself are some of my most favourite. For example, from the beginning of her memoir, Margaret fondly recalls playing games with her younger brother Chick, where they would “spend our time playing in the dirty back court” (p.1). Although her living conditions in Glasgow were poor, Margaret often made time for recreational activities in between doing chores for pennies where she could.
Margaret’s stint at the horrible Templeton’s Carpet Factory in her adolescent years saw her briefly take up sport. Margaret hated this factory, working conditions were very poor and the days were dull and exhausting. Having a factory hockey team, however, was sure to brighten things up for tired eployees. “Our works had a Hockey Team; I joined, learned fast, was promoted to Goalkeeper because I was tall. Saturday afternoons we went to practice, or to play a home match against another team […] It was a joy to go there, I was so proud” (p.13). This recollection in Margaret’s memoir shows the importance of recreational activities. As a reader, Margaret’s time at the factory stands out as one of the most difficult times of her life, but the hockey team provides Margaret with some respite from the horrible conditions, and brings colleagues together as a team.
After running away from her Glasgow home and horrid stepmother Lizzie, Margaret writes of dancing all evening with her friend. “My girlfriend and I went once a week to the dancing at the Dennistoun Palais. Of course, decked up, loads of “Evening in Paris” perfume, or “Californian Poppy”; we were all set to conquer” (p.16) Margaret’s friend Betty was a key feature of her teenage years, and Margaret fondly remembers the evenings they spent dancing at the Palais. Saying this, as work was of upmost importance to Margaret, she soon had to give up her dancehall days, “They required kitchen help from seven until ten in the evening[…] but there was one draw back, it put an end to our Palais dancing evenings or rather to mine. My friend Betty still went with another girl” (p.17). Although clearly a fun-loving girl, Margaret had to prioritise her working life, as she was living alone and in desperate need of cash after losing several jobs through no fault of her own.
Thankfully, Margaret’s friend Betty stuck around, and their dancing habit continued well into their teenage years. Margaret even briefly moves into a house with Betty, and the two enjoy a laidback party lifestyle in-between their work schedules. “We found a place in Armadale St., Dennistoun, next street the Palais, most convenient!” (p.18) When writing her memoir and reflecting on her teenage years, Margaret seems to reflect fondly on her dancing days; dancing was clearly something that was very important to her as a teenager, as it brought her closer together with her female friends. Although the habit sometimes had to take a backseat for work, I am glad that she kept it up when she could.
Overall, Margaret’s memoir portrays her as a very career driven, hard-working woman. However, it is clear that she has strong beliefs surrounding the importance of family and friends, and working-class values. Some of Margaret’s most fond memories are times where she is dancing as a break from her gruelling work schedule, or playing sport on her factory lunch break. Although she spends most of her life working hard, her memoir shows the importance of not taking life too seriously, and always having time to enjoy life with friends.
Cleland, J (2009) The Rise and Progress of the City of Glasgow, Read Books