Jack McQuoid (1910-1985): Researching Writing Lives

This collaborative research project has pushed me out of my comfort zone but for all of the right reasons. Through taking part in this project I have gained an understanding for the world of blogging and social media. From first impressions I assumed that there was not much to creating blogs but I was most certainly wrong! The endless topics that I could discuss were overwhelming but this enabled me to gain confidence in myself and my own critical voice. I feel that I have went on a journey with my author and I am now invested in pursuing how his story ended.

Jack’s extraordinary life and struggles make me appreciative of the opportunities that have been available to me throughout my life. I feel that I share the same struggle in terms of writing. Like myself, Jack questioned his capability in his early 20s if he was good enough to write. Reading about his anxieties has made me realise that everyone has self-doubt.

The reason I chose to write about Jack’s memoir is the fact we share so many similarities. We both are Irish and lived in Liverpool for a short duration. My biggest struggle was the enormity of his memoir at a staggering 300+ pages. I loved every page of Jack’s memoir which made it even more difficult to refine everything I wanted to say in 8 posts!

I did not appreciate how Twitter can be used beyond a social media tool in terms of educational research. I have gained contact with so many marvellous people who have gave me advice on how to better conduct my research. It has been a brilliant platform to share my work with other students on the project. I found great encouragement from my peers and this motivated me to create my best possible work. It is astonishing to realise that over this duration of the research collaboration project I have tweeted over 250 times!

Writing Lives Research Twitter account – https://twitter.com/shughes2019

I believe I have contributed to public history by presenting a unique memoir and shedding light on how extraordinary lives of the 20th century really were. Not many authors were Irish who contributed memoirs. I believe by presenting Jack’s story it will help other researchers gain a better insight to the cultural differences of English and Irish memoirs.

Fortunately I was able to track down Jack’s granddaughter through social media. I was successful in tracking down a lot of his deceased family tree on Ancestry.co.uk. Jack mentions in his memoir how his son got married and had a daughter called Victoria Jane McQuoid. However, what he does not mention is that his son later goes on to have another daughter in 1986. This is because Jack finished writing his memoir in 1985. From getting in contact with Jack’s granddaughter I was able to speak to his son John McQuoid.

He has told me wonderful stories about Jack’s life. He has informed me that Jack was such an avid writer that he has written a book! Unfortunately, it never got published in the end. It seems that Jack has documented every detail in his life through journals. John thinks because of the world Jack lived in without technological advancements he felt the need to write everything down. We discussed Jack’s joy for writing poetry. John told me that he enjoys reading his poetry still. He even uses his poetry in church! John said that his father made full use of all the places that he lived in or journeyed to. John informed me that the original owner of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, Mrs Mary O’Malley had written a book where she talks about her fondness for Jack McQuoid and Jack’s brother Frank. I had not realised but Frank also was a keen actor like Jack! It seems that after Frank attended Presbyterian college in Trinity Dublin he became a teacher but his true passion was acting. John tells me that when both Jack and Frank were in the same room neither of them would shut up as they tried to get everyone’s attention. It seems they never got rid of that acting bug that made them yearn for the spotlight. John told me that he believe his uncle Frank developed a love for poetry from his time in Dublin especially the work of W.B. Yeats. Likewise, Jack also mentions his love for W.B. Yeats in his memoir. The only time the two were quiet was when his eldest daughter Victoria would walk into the room. Jack only spent a few years with his two granddaughters Victoria and Charlotte. John says that this is something his daughters wish they could have had more time of. Sadly they never got to meet their other grandparents so Jack and Eleanor had a big part in their lives.

John told me about his time growing up on a farm in County Down between Banbridge and Lurgan. He told me that Jack had a gift for working with animals. He spent a lot of his time hanging around a vet. It seems that farming really was a natural gift for Jack.  John tells me of his own life after moving to England. He worked near London in computers when they were first being brought into society. Then later moved up North. He said that his father was disappointed he never had the same passion for writing like he did. Only after both of his daughters were diagnosed did John realise that he had dyslexia. It is amazing the silent struggles that people went through. John studied Geology at Queen’s University Belfast. He got to spend his final year studying practical field work in the Isle of Man. John told me despite it not being confirmed he has an intuition that his family having Viking roots due to their surname McQuoid. He thinks that it may be why they have always had a yearning to travel from this Scandinavian connection. He also informs of the maritime connection throughout their family history as he himself spent time working on an oil rig. Jack’s grand-father was lost at sea, his uncles worked at sea and even Jack himself spent a short time as an apprentice at Harold and Wolff Belfast.

Sadly, Jack died January 1988. He died just 4 months after his wife had. I cannot believe that Jack wrote so much up until his final days. It has been such an honour to document his life and let others know of the amazing journey he has had. I would like to say a big thank you to Victoria-Jane McQuoid Jack’s granddaughter and his son John McQuoid for helping me fill in the blanks on Jack’s story. gift for w

I have to say a big thank you to Beti-elen Thomas and Zoe Wylie for all their advice on my research and writing throughout this project. They have proof read all of my work and were brilliant help in recommended secondary resources to me! Through the use of Facebook we were able to provide each other with feedback on how to improve our posts in a private group.

Image from private facebook group.

I am proud to say that I had the opportunity to be apart of this collaborative research project. I hope my work will be of some use to others in the future. I am glad that I have been able to contribute to the Burnett archive as this is a remarkable archive that should be preserved for the future generation. Although I am progressing into the finance world after I graduate I believe the skills I have learnt from this project will be used on a daily basis. I hope I have done Jack’s memoir justice through my posts as I have enjoyed writing each one so much.

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