Olga Pyne Clarke (1915-1996): Researching Writing Lives

Upon reading Olga Pyne Clare’s autobiography for the first time, I was amazed at how one person could live such a fascinating life. When I began to write about and research the themes of class, migration and education, I was able to better understand the unique perspective of Olga’s narrative voice. Through Olga, my historical understanding of these themes in the early 20th century became better understood, because, as she lived in both England and Ireland, I was able to observe them through both English and Irish society. Through Olga, my understanding of Ireland’s history has also been improved. As I had family (at a similar time) that lived near Olga, I better understand the troubles that they endured. By researching Olga’s history and its surrounding historical context, I learnt about my own family’shistory: it was an invaluable experience. All of these factors make me feel that I have preserved history in some way that, that at the very least, my own understanding of Irish history has been improved.

      I found enjoyment in the history of Olga and the anecdotal nature of her stories. Often, I found myself laughing out loud at the witty remarks that Olga made as both a child and adult. It is easy to forget sometimes that someone who lived nearly a hundred years ago still thought, felt and experienced things in a way very similar to myself; importantly, this was a revelation I was happy to experience. In terms of researching, the process was helped by communicating with others working on their own blogs. Like my own author, other blogs I have read talk feature some amazing people and the lives that they had led. By seeing how the research process was tackled by other people, my own experience of research was more valuable. It felt good to then promote other people’s work because, through social media, a wider audience was able to consume it. The blogging process, in particular, felt communal. I knew that my own work was being shared and this motivated me to carry on.     

  I have never blogged before, especially in such an official way. I found it difficult to create a series of topics that all felt that they were coherently linked whilst also remaining distinctive from blog to blog. I learnt how to write about a theme within another, it had to make sense whilst not distracting from the main theme of the blog itself. In terms of research, the same idea applied. Overall, I now better understand the process of blogging better. The concept of frequently posting themes was daunting to me, but I was pleased with myself to rise to the task. It was an incredibly unique experience of combining historical events with the life of a person. Sometimes the stories were so fascinating that I had to remind myself I was reading an auto-biography and not a work of fiction. It was an incredible experience learning about the life of Olga Pyne Clarke.   

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