Dora R. Hannan (1909-2001): Researching Writing Lives

Being slightly afraid of publishing my work publicly online, and having no experience of blogging, I started the Writing Lives module in January 2018 apprehensively and nervously. But through excellent feedback and communication with fellow peers, the nerves gradually left. I am very happy with my decision to undergo the module. The engagement and connection that I had with the module, the memoir, and Dora, was something that I could not have predicted or imagined.

Commercial Road, Portsmouth

Being from Portsmouth myself, I specifically chose an author that was based in this city, and this is where the majority of my enjoyment with the module has stemmed from. Reading about the history of Portsmouth, through reading the everyday life of the King family, has been so enriching and moving, and has provided me with so much more information about my home town, that I probably wouldn’t have found elsewhere. Forming an emotional connection with the memoir and Dora on these common grounds allowed for a stronger engagement with the text, and in turn, a stronger engagement with the module.

My copy of Dora’s memoir

I initially felt frustrated at the start, Dora’s memoir was published under her married name, and with no mention of her maiden name, birth year, or parent’s names, she proved to be very difficult to find on the UK’s birth/marriage records. Without this information, it was impossible to know when she was born or married, or find any information that might enrich the blog posts. But if this module taught me anything, it was to persevere. By extensively searching through marriage records during a ten year period, and finding the Hannan wedding in 1933, I was able to find records on Dora and the rest of her family. It was through this that I found current descendants of the King family living in Portsmouth. The member of this family, Dora’s great nephew, provided me with a huge amount of information that was missing from the memoir, and although they had no pictures of Dora herself, seeing their pictures of Dora’s siblings was both exciting and moving. I am very grateful to this person for all the help and time that they gave me.

The memoir not only taught me a lot about Portsmouth, but also about British history. Reading a first-hand account of growing up in early 20th Century England, with a working class budget, and the First World War in the background; I learnt a lot more about Britain at that time than any history class had taught me, and this knowledge will always remain valuable to me. Writing about Dora’s life comes with the responsibility to do her and the memoir justice however, and through her recollections of her childhood, I was able to do this. As Dora recounts her favourite books from her childhood, I was able to make a contribution to the UK Reading Experience Database, quoting her discussions on her most loved texts. As well as this, I was able to retell information on the working class diet, daily routines, summer activities and education in the early 20th century.

A photo of Dora’s brother Steven, provided by Dora’s great nephew.

Sharing my work online via Twitter has made me even more proud of it. Watching people share the posts with their opinions, and reading people’s positive replies made the module even more worth my while. Seeing my work be praised by other academics made me so proud, and even more passionate towards the memoir and the blog. Having the ability, as well, to share my peers work has been great, I was not only proud of my work, but theirs also, and being able to share it helped me show this.

I now finish the Writing Lives module, and my undergraduate degree, albeit reluctantly, but with a huge sense of pride of what I have accomplished. The module has taught me so much about research, writing, blogging, and promoting, that I know will help me as I move on into the next stage towards a career in teaching English (coincidentally, Dora’s dream career, which she unfortunately could not achieve after being taken out of education). Finally, I hope that my blog has contributed to history, and written about Dora and the King Family’s life in a way that they would approve of and be happy with. I am grateful to have had the chance to study this module, and Dora’s memoir, and will always be proud of the work that has been published.

Works Cited:

357 HANNAN, Dora R., ‘Those Happy Highways: An Autobiography’, TS, pp.36 (c.20,000 words). Brunel University Library.


Postcards of the Past. (n. p.) Portsmouth and Southsea, Hampshire (2). [image] URL: Date Accessed: 28/04/18

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