Seven thirty p.m., a smattering of people. Was this going to be the worst attended meeting of the year? Were the numbers normally attending boycotting me especially! By the start at half-past 7 there were some fifty plus people ready to hear all about Margaret Harrison. Should have had greater faith. The name of Margaret is magnetic.
I first met Margaret through the Leven Litts writing group and as I came to know her a little I decided her life needed recording. So many valuable resources are lost because they are not recorded in some way. So my first intention was to lodge all the research, tales, transcripts, testimonies in the GWL where they would be available for future generations. The Leven Litts have had a shelf dedicated to Margaret in that library. A copy of the final write-up will also be placed in the Dumbarton Library archives as there is, at present no general museum in Dumbarton. (Plans are afoot to change that. Said she, placing one finger to the side of her nose.)
I am not an expert on Margaret although researching her life for nearly four years. I have boxes of material but now I’m beginning to collate and write it up. I am still discovering new insights. There are gaps and anomalies which I’m trying to sort out.
I have had the help of many people and some were in the audience. The majority knew Margaret through the various peace movements to which she belonged and I have thousands of words of testimonies, personal interviews on tapes, email contact and telephone calls that involved several countries. Resources, family, diaries, documents, newspapers, Margaret’s own writings, Bobby’s writings, recollections of friends/neighbours, people from CND, Christian fellowship, various denominations, Amnesty, Iona to Canterbury Pilgrims, police, politicians.
I am greatly indebted to Margaret herself who gave me permission to begin the research, but she did ask I gave due credit to her sister, Elizabeth, known to some as Bea, to others as Lizzie, and Margaret’s husband, Bobby, both of whom, according to Margaret, did so much more than she herself did! She also commented that, if I wanted to get information on her earlier life I’d better get a move-on as there weren’t many still alive who knew her as a child! I managed to get hold of a few. Margaret’s family, in particular Margaret’s daughters, Ruth and Anne, have also been helpful with time and patience, giving contacts, offering hospitality. They generously allowed me to take away 40 years of Bea’s diaries which were a mine of information on the Burnett’s early lives.
Margaret’s story would take hours to relate. Peace activities being widely known and most documented and given the time restraints I chose to concentrate on Margaret’s life as a daughter, a wife, a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
With the help (once again) of Tommy Crocket of the Dumbarton Photographic and Cine Club I had prepared a power point presentation lasting 40/45 minutes. Approximately 5/6 minutes into my spiel that went by the board. I finished at 8.55pm. Rapport and interplay with the audience were excellent, no sniffling, coughing or shuffling. A few texts, emails, telephone calls and a lovely bouquet through interflora re-inforced my belief I’d got it right! One email suggested a book…
I did receive a cheque - not expected. I tried to return it - unsuccessfully. To keep the money would have gone against everything in which Margaret believed so I have decided to pass it on to Scottish Pen.