Harold Gill (1919-2003): Researching Writing Lives

Researching and telling the story of Harold Gill’s incredible life has been an unforgettable and inspiring journey. Through the Writing Lives project I have been given a unique opportunity to delve into the past of a lionhearted war hero disguised as an everyday working-class Lancashire lad. I hope my blogs have excited and entertained my audience, and that the general public are now more aware of Harold’s life. I feel privileged to have been given this platform to share Harold’s stories. The Writing Lives project has given a much needed voice to working-class people. I hope my author blog has challenged and dismissed certain negative stereotypes about the working class.

Being part of the Writing Lives collaborative research project has allowed me to learn and enhance some very important skills. My technological skills have improved drastically as a result of my project. It has also advanced my ability to research thoroughly, and pinpoint small but very significant details of my author’s life. As well as this, I have learnt the value of different forms of research. Digital archives, for example, are both extremely useful and accessible sources of information. Sites such as The British Library and Ancestry.com provided crucial material about Harold and working-class life in the 20th century. My only regret is being unable to find out more about Harold’s living family, and gain some first-hand accounts of his character. My writing ability has also been refined by the project. It has forced me to develop different styles, having to summarise Harold’s momentous journey into concise posts.

A screenshot from my Twitter account. https://twitter.com/DomLives

The importance and value of social media has proved a revelation for me during this research project. Sharing my blogs on Twitter has helped me to spread Harold’s story amongst my friends and fellow students. Other bloggers have encouraged me by retweeting and liking my content, as well as providing helpful feedback at times. Conversely, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have allowed me to access other author blogs. At times this benefit has provided vital information for me to develop and improve my own posts. At other times, the various blogs have simply supplied me with engrossing entertainment, not to mention education.

The project has been a collaborative process, and so each of my posts have been developed and refined as a result of my friends’ feedback. Social media platforms and the ‘comment’ feature on the Writing Lives website has opened the door for encouraging praise and constructive criticism. This aspect of the module has taught me how beneficial interaction and communication within the class is, and how valuable a different perspective can be. I hope my feedback and comments have helped to improve other’s blogs, and develop my classmates talents. As a result of Facebook groups, the research project has become more of a joint effort and so Harold’s story has not just been retold by myself, but by other students. Some comments have alerted me to aspects of Harold’s memoir that had previously gone unnoticed, and so the use of collaboration has literally left no stone, or page, unturned.

A screenshot from our collaborative Facebook group.

More than anything, the research project has helped me realise the importance of telling stories like Harold’s and uncovering other memoirs in the Burnett Archive. My blog aims to educate the general public about working class families and provide ordinary working class people with a chance to spread their story to an even wider audience. Harold’s memoir and my blog may alter a lot of opinions about working class people. Despite leaving school at an early age, Harold’s memoir is eloquently written and boasts an immense range of vocabulary. Furthermore, my blog will hopefully open people’s eyes to working class struggles in the early 20th century. Harold died in 2003 but his legacy lives on through his memoir. I hope my blog has rejuvenated his story and informed even more people about his wonderful life.

I will take many things away from the Writing Lives research project. It has provided me with invaluable writing and technological skills, as well as developing my ability to thrive within a group. Most importantly though, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about Harold Gill and his extraordinary story.

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