Thomas McLauchlan (1888-1979): Researching Writing Lives

Throughout the duration of my last semester as student at Liverpool John Moores University, it has been a real pleasure taking part of the Writing Lives project. I have relished the chance to work on a ‘one of a kind’ module, contributing to a very real and exciting social history project with a great group of students.

The creation of the author blog has taught me a great many things. As an English student, the majority of the work I have undertaken throughout my time here at University has been essay based and analysing various literary texts. The reason why I chose to opt for the Writing Lives project at the end of my second year of university was because it was a module which offered the chance to work in an entirely different way. The process of researching an individual, crafting blog pieces weekly, publishing posts and marketing them on social media has been a challenge but has enabled me to work in a more creative way as opposed to simply writing essays.

However, I think the most warming thing that I have gained from writing my author blog is having been given the chance to research an incredibly interesting individual. Researching Thomas’s life has been much more than simply reading a memoir. Researching the memoir opened my eyes to a period of history I did not know much about. Because of Thomas’s active role and interest in the politics of the time, I have gained insight into the political struggles of the day. Writing of his work within the Durham mining community opened my eyes to the severe working conditions of the miners throughout that period, something almost unimaginable by todays standards. Writing of his home and family life, it was a fascinating to read about the living, and how at such a young age, he was expected to start providing to the family income. Again, it is something almost unimaginable by todays standards, where for most children, education is perhaps taken for granted!

The chance to write this blog however, has not just benefitted me as an individual. It has also contributed to a far wider project of researching and bringing light to the thousands of working class autobiographies left behind by many, and that have been neglected for many years. The Writing Lives project adds another dimension to social history, as it builds on the words of those who lived through the historical events we can now only read about in history books and through the words of the privileged. The opportunity to shed light on the voices of the silent majority throughout history and unearthing the fascinating individual that was Thomas Maclauchlan has been a real honour.

The fundamental skills I developed over my time working on the project include researching, writing and utilising social media positively to share my work with others. I think the tool of social media was perhaps the most beneficial when giving in giving the Writing Lives project a real voice. Using Twitter to share my blog posts not only allowed me to share my work with my peers but also gave me the chance to reach out to other social historian’s keen to learn and share the experiences of our authors. It was certainly exciting when we started to receive interest about our blogs from others outside of the Writing Lives cohort!

One of the main reasons why I opted to take the Writing Lives project was also because the module was based around blogging. As a student who is keen to start a career in journalism, the opportunity to learn and develop skills in blogging was invaluable. Having never written a blog before this module, it has really pushed me to write in ways I had never before. After two years of writing in an essay style manner, it was challenging but refreshing to break down that mode of writing and allowed me to think creatively to produce a captivating blog. I know the skills I have gathered over the module will certainly benefit me in forging a career in a world where social media and blogging is the most accessible way to share ideas.

The skills I will take away from the being part of the Writing Lives project are tenfold. I have learnt to research effectively, share ideas, respond to feedback from my peers as well as develop a blog. However, I think the most important thing I will take away from the project will be the lessons I learnt from reading Thomas’s memoir. It struck me over the course of reading his work how humble and honest a man he was. He stressed the importance of family, being kind, being grateful for the opportunities you may get in life and making the most of them. Its been real honour getting to know this man from his words so carefully and lovingly written through the wake of his wife’s illness.

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