Margaret Watson b.1907, Researching Writing Lives

Reading Margaret Watson’s memoir and writing a blog about her on the Writing Lives module has been an incredibly interesting experience. From start to finish I have found the experience thoroughly rewarding as well as a being healthy challenge.

Although Margaret’s memoir is only 15,000 words long, relatively shorter than some of the other memoirs, it is certainly not short of detail. Following the story of Margaret was a thought-provoking experience for me, as until now, I had never delved into the history of early 1900’s Scotland. I learnt a lot about the conditions of some of Glasgow’s poorest poverty-stricken areas, which without Margaret’s memoir, I would never have learnt about. Her autobiography covered a lot of different aspects of history, spanning the duration of two world wars, and covering the hardships of her childhood but also the joys of her adult life. Margaret’s journey through life was heart-warming to read, as the manner in which she writes is deeply honest and therefore captivating. Often her memoir was written humorously, which made her story all the more enjoyable to follow.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this experience was engaging with a more conversational style of writing. Compared to other modules which require more essay-like academic styles of work, the Writing Lives blog allowed me to explore a less formal approach to writing, and therefore allowed my blog posts about Margaret to flow. Although I have had prior blogging experience through similar University modules like Digital Victorians and Prison Voices, I found that Writing Lives honed my writing skills even further due to its focus on categorising the content of a memoir into thematic blog posts suitable for public readership. As well as this, the experience has helped me develop research skills, as in order to fully engage with Margaret’s memoir, I had to embark on further research about the times she was living in and experiences she went through; for example she frequently mentioned a dancehall her and a friend were regulars at. She referred to it as the ‘Palais’, and upon further research I learned all about the ‘Dennistoun Palais’ in Glasgow, an early 20th century night club!

Another aspect of Writing Lives that I have enjoyed is the involvement of social media. Through using a Twitter account, I have been able to engage with other students by reading their blogs and providing feedback. Social media has also meant that Margaret Watson’s memoir has been able to reach a wider audience, and therefore allowing her story to be heard. In today’s modern age, social media is a very useful and popular tool, and this module has allowed me to use social media in a way that I haven’t done before. By posting links to my blog posts on Twitter, I have been able to promote my work to people who may not have been able to access it otherwise. Twitter users merely searching for keywords such as ‘Glasgow’ or ‘1900s’ could access blog posts about Margaret, therefore I believe my blog posts contribute greatly to public history, as they draw light upon issues and educate readers about subject matters that are not commonly discussed. As well as this, by retweeting other student’s work, I have also been able to promote the Writing Lives blog as a whole, therefore engaging thoroughly with the collaborative research project.

Overall, the Writing Lives project has taught me a lot about not only historical events such as the two world wars from the perspective of a young Scottish woman, but also crucial writing skills that I may not have been able to practice in other modules, as the blog posts I wrote demonstrated a more conversational style to what I was used to. Although at the beginning of the project I found keeping up with reading Margaret’s memoir and adapting her content into thematic blog posts in a new writing style difficult, I soon got the hang of keeping up with the workload, and thoroughly enjoyed reading about the interesting details of her unconventional life. Writing Lives has developed my personal confidence also, as usually I find sharing my work with other people daunting, however through collaborating with other students to read and provide feedback on each other’s work, I now feel much more confident in my abilities, and know what I need to improve on in the future.

In conclusion, reading and writing about Margaret Watson has been a rewarding experience, and I am glad I had the opportunity to learn so much about a woman who achieved great things during such turbulent times, and the messages and lessons she taught me will stay with me for some time to come.

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