Written by Louise Scollay, Archive & Library Assistant
Back in August, we held an online seminar and Q&A with Dr Hugh Hagan, Martine Robertson and Hannah Wood where they discussed their fieldwork and research into the lived experience of women in the shipbuilding community of Port Glasgow.
Dr Hugh Hagan, Head of Public Records Act Implementation at the National Records of Scotland, is passionate about the shipbuilding communities of Port Glasgow and Greenock on the lower reaches of the River Clyde, particularly in the inter-war period. These towns, being removed by some distance from the large and diverse economy of Glasgow, depended entirely on shipbuilding and they developed a very particular sense of community. This was the subject of his PhD research at the School of Scottish Studies in the 1990s and he drew from that research for the talk, specifically the role of women in these communities.
Martine Robertson and Hannah Wood, of GaelGal Productiions, were undertaking studies at the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies, when they attended a lecture by Hugh about his Port Glasgow work. They were galvanised to revisit this fieldwork, recording new material with the family of Cassie Graham, one of Hugh’s contributors. They have also been inspired to take these stories to centre stage, lifting the voices and experience of women of the Port Glasgow community and using these recordings in their creative practice. At this event, they presented a post-card sized version of their creative project, What a Voice.
The event was well attended and we had some excellent questions for the panel. However, because our speakers were all connected with SSSA through their studies and fieldwork, we decided to arrange a further conversation for our blog, as part of our ongoing celebrations of our 70th Anniversary.
As Hannah, Hugh, Martine and myself are all alumni of The School of Scottish Studies, you can imagine that there was a lot of shared memory and a lot of enthusiasm for oral history – we talked for over an hour and so we have split this conversation into three parts to be more digestible. Included throughout these are extracts of the original fieldwork recordings and excerpts from Hannah and Martine’s work What a Voice.
A point to consider: This is a zoom recording, so we were at the mercy of connections. As such there are one or two frozen images and moments of patchy audio.
If you are a University of Edinburgh Ease-user, you can also view these on our Media Hopper Channel.
Memories of The School of Scottish Studies and studying at The University of Edinburgh
Creative use of Oral History Recordings and the future for OH in Scotland
It is always incredible to see how people interact and respond to oral history recordings in the archive.
As we discuss here, the experiences of women in Port Glasgow aren’t found in official statistics or in public records. Memories and lived experience can only be captured by talking to someone from that community, someone who experienced that life. It is an incredible privilege to have these recordings in the collection at SSSA and it is thrilling to see how archive material can be used creatively – opening up the lives and experience of Port Glasgow women to new audiences.
As we stand on the cusp of Scotland’s Year of Stories in 2022, whose are the voices and what are the stories that you want to hear or draw out of archives? Indeed, whose are the voices and stories you wish to put into the archives, with your own fieldwork or creative practice? Do you have a story to tell? We would love to hear from you. Contact us via email , or leave us a comment on this post.