Mary Irvine’s Blog: The Living Memory Association, Leith and The Mitchell Library


Two Visits


The first was a visit to THELMA. No, not a new female friend. The Living Memory Association in the Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre, Leith. The association has been in existence for thirty years and recent moved to their new premises where, as a charity, they do not pay rent! It is not a museum as I expected – the clue is in the name! It only displays objects (of all sizes) from the living memory so, as life goes forward, they are constantly looking for replacements. It is very well laid out and everyone is encouraged to pick up, touch, try out etc.
The 30s, 40, 50s and 60s were the most obvious displays but there were some from the 20s and the 70s/80s. A lot of household goods often consigned to the rubbish tip. Examples of handicrafts so prevalent once and no longer passed on in families.    


We were entertained to a slide show of pictures of WW2 based on family/personal snapshots. Some had dates appended but a large number could only be assigned to dates by clothes, building and other clues captured in the moment. People so often didn’t date their photos – unless they were mounted in albums. Some did have stories attached and they made the people come alive. In particular the Down’s Syndrome child who had to be returned from evacuation as no-one would accept him.


An excellent lunch was enjoyed and when the lady serving discovered I had a wheat allergy she nipped out and brought me a gluten-free sandwich. Most of the group then went off for a tour of the Royal Yacht – now used for corporate lunches/dinners I believe, although I also heard Princess Anne was against that idea and wanted the yacht to be scuttled. I’d already had the tour some years ago so went off instead to see the art project based on the dazzle ships of WW2. Very bright and striking but preferred the original black and white versions. Imagine the coloured version would have been a target rather than create confusion.


The visit was organised by Lorna Stevenson who is leading a project looking at the changing roles of women 1939(ish) – 1945(ish). She recently gave a talk to the well attended Lennox Heritage Society on this project in which I surprisingly got honourable mention. Nothing like blowing your own trumpet!!

Further info on this project and the previous one ‘Women making history in West Dunbartonshire’ may be found on:…projects/changing-roles-west-dunbartonshire-women…/womens-history-project-news-in-west-dunbartonshire
For dazzle ships info:


The Mitchell Library

My second visit was to the Mitchell Library for a two-hour session entitled ‘Autumn Voices’. This was part of ‘Scotland’s Festival of Creative Ageing’. I quote from the blurb:

‘Two writers, Larry Butler and Robin Lloyd –Jones, both over seventy and still actively writing, interview each other about their work and about their various projects concerning creativity in later life and writing for wellbeing.’

Robin, an accomplished mountaineer, spoke of the advantages of not striving for the peaks anymore for by slowing down he was more aware of noticing the lower slopes and their richness. He stressed the importance of mental attitude and 70+ roles models each playing its part in positive ageing and with maintaining creativity.

 Robin highlighted two pitfalls of ageing well and continuing to be creative. One was routine – staying in your comfort zone. He advised taking breaks in your routine and stepping outside your comfort zone. The other was having negative attitudes which led to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Larry advocated letting go of ‘things’/creations, not being too precious. This brought to my mind something I saw in Beijing. A Chinese man had a bucket of water and a large paint brush. He would write your name in Chinese characters in water on the tarmac. He took no money. The beautiful picture created soon disappeared in the day’s heat. Makes you think? It did me.

Larry spoke about death as the last big adventure – venturing into the unknown. He spoke of how death was often inspirational in all the creative genres but often a taboo subject, although in some cultures death is celebrated. He commented wryly that death has sometimes a bad press. Again there was a resonance for me as I recalled Roger McGough’s poem ‘Let Me Die a Young man’s Death’.

A.C. Clarke, winner of many awards/prizes read several of her recent poems, illustrating quite clearly creativity had not left her. Such beautiful poetry (Yes, I am an admirer!) and equally beautifully delivered.

We then went on to our ‘Games’ prepared by Larry. In groups of 5/6 we discussed a set of questions. We all had the same ones. Very illuminating and almost confessional – at least in my group. A lot of food for thought. But all that food was positive!

Poems from 90 year old David Donnison, academic turned poet, artist, musician and Sheila Templeton, award winning writer of ‘Scots’ poetry completed a most enjoyable and VERY positive session. Glad I went and I hope the people who turned up on Saturday enjoyed it and found it as ilLUMINAT(E)ing as everyone did on Wednesday.

Mary Irvine, 7 November, 2016

Glen Michael's Theatre of Memories, The Britannia Panopticon, 27 November, 2016
Amy Liptrot, Creative Conversations, University of Glasgow, Monday 7 November, 2016

This section: Books, Talks, Poetry and Creative Writing Events, Mary Irvine: Writer and Philhellene

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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