I’m fighting a losing battle but every eight weeks, I take myself to the hairdresser to banish the grey roots, for another wee while… I’m not ashamed to admit that while I’m there I like to flick through Heat and Closer to see what the celebrities have been up to since my last visit. But I’m more interested in the lives of real people, the ones that aren’t rich and famous. The folk that you walk past in the street without a second glance and haven’t had their lives airbrushed and edited. Minus an injection of Botox, these well lived-in faces carry stories in every wrinkle and laughter line.
It’s rare that ordinary folk have their stories recorded for future generations and that’s why oral history is so important in making sure these tales aren’t lost. I’m a big supporter of gathering stories from working class people and in particular from a woman’s point of view. That’s why I was keen to go along to the Women Making History Group in West Dunbartonshire organised by Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL) to find out more about the project and to meet a very special woman who is a key member of the group.
I travelled to deepest darkest Dalmuir to the Community Centre and received a really warm welcome by Lorna Stevenson who skillfully facilitates the group. The group’s aim is to research and document the life histories of ordinary local women throughout West Dunbartonshire with a focus on the theme of their ‘social lives’ and showcase these through the development of two unique community and educational resources in the form of a Memory Box and an A5 booklet. It was great to hear about their plans to source archive material and record their stories. I think a memory box is a brilliant idea for every family to contribute to and pass on to the next generation to keep their history alive.
I love history and have a fascination for Russia. That might help explain why the idea for my latest writing project highlights the Siege of Leningrad within a contemporary setting but also weaves in a local event in social history. A few months ago, I read an article in the Herald magazine featuring GWL’s Badges of Honour exhibition in which Violet McGuire’s Scotland USSR Society badge was part of the display. I knew that it would be really valuable for me to speak to Violet and thanks to GWL, I got the chance to chat to her about her connection to Russia. Violet is an exceptionally interesting woman who has traveled many times to Russia and I could’ve listened to her talking for hours. I felt very privileged to get the opportunity to speak to Violet who will be 92 years old in December and has a better memory than me. The work of GWL in saving Violet and other women’s stories is important in helping to stitch together the rich tapestry of social history and they do an amazing job on a very limited budget.
My dad died suddenly aged 62 and I wish I’d written down the stories of his childhood but feel in some way comforted that stories like Violet’s won’t be forgotten thanks to GWL.
Have you ever created a memory box? Have you recorded or written down family stories?
4 thoughts on “Keeping Stories Alive”
Your research trip sounds very fruitful. Hope you are able to make good use of those interesting stories coming your way.
Thanks Anne. Yes, it was well worth the trip. Talking with Violet sparked off another idea! 🙂
This sounds really interesting, Helen. I love hearing about working class people’s lives – it’s so important that their stories are told, especially the women often written out because they didn’t ‘work’.
Hi Naomi, Yes, the work of GWL is really interesting and like you I’m a big fan of preserving ‘ordinary’ stories from women who would normally be ignored in history.