As a reader, it can be assumed that during the writing of her memoir, Margaret Watson is now reliatvely old. This can be assumed because towards the end of her memoir, she writes, “My daughter has had her first child, a lovely daughter, Alexandra.” (p.35), showing that she is now a grandmother. Her memoir begins with memories from as early as the age of five, where she reminisces on the death of her mother, the first significant event of her life. “Mother had been buried from Granny’s house, to where her remains had been brought from the hospital where she had died. I was almost six years old, my brother Chick four.” [p.1] This means that Margaret’s memoir spans a large amount of time, the majority of her life, and she has written an autobiography after going through a vast number of different experiences and hardships.
As a reader, the birth of her grandchildren seems significant to the purpose of the memoir. Margaret has grown her family by generations and immortalising her story on paper for her children and grandchildren must have been important to her. Family and the importance of a good support system (whether blood relative or not) is a prominent theme from the beginning of her memoir, as it begins with the mention of her mother, and ends with the mention of the new family she has created. “My family visit often and come for holidays. I have very dear friends and neighbours who help me in countless ways.” (p.39). As well as this, Margaret’s brother Chick remains a constant feature of her memoir, and she consistently refers to him when writing about her childhood memories. Additionally, several times throughout her story she is seen to praise the working-class support system she and her brother had when living with her neglectful step-mother, as they provided her with food and care when her supposed mother figure failed her.
This continuous mention of friends and family shows Margaret’s passion towards having good people in your life to support and care for you, and I believe this is the main message of her memoir. It could be that Margaret decided to write her autobiography in order to pass on these good values to her children and grandchildren once she was reaching the end of her life, as her family is clearly of upmost importance to her. At the end of her memoir she writes, “my son told my grandchildren that not every little boy and girl could tell of having been to their granny’s wedding.” (p.38). The light-hearted end to Margaret’s story further reflects Margaret’s message of the importance of family, as she writes of how all generations of her family came together for her wedding when she remarries, and they all had a wonderful day.
Margaret’s memoir is relatively informally written and is often quite humorous in places. This relaxed style of writing furthers my suspicions that her autobiography was intended primarily as a keepsake for her loving family, friends and neighbours. When reading it, I would often laugh at her choice of words and phrases; Scottish colloquialisms would often slip through and make Margaret’s strong personality feel ever present. At the end of her memoir, she writes of her soon to be fisherman husband “The little fishing boat leaked to some tune […] the water was nearly touching my ankles. He calmly remarked time to worry when it reached my ‘erse’!” (p.38) The use of Scottish dialect here is very comical, and surely made an entertaining read for her children and grandchildren when they had grown up.
Saying this, Margaret’s memoir is an important glimpse into history and therefore would be an interesting read for anyone, especially historians. This means that not just her family would benefit from reading her story. Margaret’s writing is very useful for those wanting to learn about working-class Scotland during the early twentieth century, but also middle-class Scotland, as Margaret is incredibly unique in the fact that she experienced both lifestyles during her childhood, making for an interesting comparison. As well as this, she writes about the difficulties of being a working-class woman experiencing many different types of employment, including jobs she found difficult, like the “dirty nasty job” (p.11) she had at a carpet factory. All of these features included in Margaret’s memoir make it an enthralling read for any audience.
Overall, Margaret’s writing holds great purpose and benefits all who read it; by retelling her life story she immortalises herself in paper for her much-loved family and friends, and also teaches readers the importance of working-class values and having a close-knit community of people surrounding you. Margaret instils important lessons upon the reader, and invites us to learn from her mistakes, but to also be inspired by all she has achieved.
Watson, M. Untitled, T S, pp.39, Brunel University Library.
Abrams, L (2010) A History of Everyday Life in Twentieth Century Scotland, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh