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Women and Scotland

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Marie-Odile Pittin-Hedon

Women in Politics and Culture

Woman Readers and the Scottish Imaginary

Alistair McCleery, David Finkelstein et Linda Fleming

Résumé

This essay addresses whether women readers in Scotland in the twentieth century consciously read material that was Scottish in terms of its content or origins. A representative sample of women interviewees demonstrated little sense of participating as readers in a distinctive and living Scottish tradition of writing. Scott and others were associated with the dull but worthy set texts of education rather than books to be read for pleasure or entertainment. There was little or no awareness of contemporary authors or titles. The exception to this lack of interest in material of Scottish provenance was magazines such as the People’s Friend and the stories of Oor Wullie and The Broons particularly in their collected republication as annuals.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Scottish Readers Remember has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Carne (...)

1The twentieth century saw an increased sense of a distinctive Scottish literary canon, both in terms of the line stretching from Henryson and Dunbar through Burns to MacDiarmid and Gunn and in terms of contemporary literary fiction from the 1950s onwards. This canon became institutionalised through its adoption within education and its propagation through secondary publications. However, in terms of the reading that went on in private spaces, the range of Scottish material proved more limited both in its origins and in the perception of Scotland it promoted. Much of the oral evidence that will be cited in support of this contention comes from the reading reception project, Scottish Readers Remember (SRR), an initiative of the Scottish Archive for Print and Publishing History Records (SAPPHIRE).1 This study has collected oral testimony from Scots born before 1945. The oral histories take a life-course format but have drawn out the implicit themes of reading undertaken, and reading practices engaged in, across the course of the subjects’ lifetimes – from childhood to the present. SRR delved into the individual memories of Scots on the subject of their reading and examined those memories as part of the collective experiences of Scots who have lived through a particular moment in history – that is, the twentieth century. In this type of research, gender cannot be avoided as a key influence on both personal reading tastes and behaviours, and on the circumstances that created a social relationship with print culture.

2The importance of reading for the individual comes across strongly in the interviews, even though the interviewees themselves were not pre-selected on the basis of their interest in books. One of the respondents, who wished only to be known as Bunty, replied to the question “can you sum up what reading has meant in your life”:

  • 2 SRR, accession 2008/22, interview with “Bunty”, interviewed by Linda Fleming 9 April 2007 – and fol (...)

It’s a companion, it’s a comfort, it does get you away from the everyday worries of the world. So, I suppose, it’s better than a gin and tonic !2

3Bunty, when interviewed in 2008, was a woman in her eighties, who was still living in the tenement flat in the south side of Glasgow that her parents had moved into during the First World War. It was a household that contained books, although, from her comments, some of these may have been on display for their presumed cultural capital, and a status that was particularly Scottish.

We had a large bookcase which my brother took away when he was married and a “Minty” bookcase and it was full of the Scott, “The Waverley Novels”, and all of Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson – all beautifully bound in leather – and when the war [1939-45] came along they asked for books for the soldiers and my father gave all these books away and my mother said “Silly old man, these are not the kind of books that soldiers want to read”.

4The “Minty” bookcase had glass doors that underlined the purpose of the books as exhibits rather than everyday reading material, a purpose evidently understood by her mother but not her father. Bunty herself had not read any of these books. Indeed, she was deterred from reading the Dickens, for example, because she had to read him at school (specifically Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities). This is a theme that recurs throughout many interviews, that prescribed reading of classic novels resulted in an abiding disdain for all that author’s works, and one that will be returned in looking at the position of Scott in reading by Scots. Collected sets of the Waverley novels, and of Dickens and other novelists, were readily available in the early twentieth century – often the reward for subscriptions to particular newspapers at a time of cutthroat press competition – and, now displaced from their aspirant working and lower middle-class living rooms, are commonly found, unsold and unloved, in second-hand bookshops.

5Bunty, born in 1927, had had a very worthwhile life and part of that was the pleasure she found in reading, an activity that was inspired by the example of both her parents.

[My father] liked books, books on philosophy, books on logic… All of George Bernard Shaw in sixpenny Penguins. His reading matter would be serious. I don’t think he read crime novels and my mother never read the “People’s Friend”. They both read quite seriously, I suppose.

  • 3 See Linda Fleming, Alistair McCleery and David Finkelstein, “In a Class of their Own: the autodidac (...)

6The household took the Herald and the Bulletin on weekdays and the Sunday Express, although the primary motive, according to Bunty, was the prize crossword. The picture emerges of a lower middle-class family (Bunty’s father worked in the Employment Exchange and her mother had to give up a teaching career on marriage) with quite firm views on what was suitable for reading and what was not. Bunty’s mother, for example, never bought any magazines – let alone the People’s Friend. As with gender, social class, and the influence of family origins, represents a key influence on personal reading tastes and behaviours but not necessarily a determining one as far as both the individual’s development and the convergence of reading preferences with others from different backgrounds are concerned.3 For the former factor, Bunty received two pence a week from her working sister with which she bought The Schoolgirl. Her friends bought The Schoolgirl’s Weekly and The Girl’s Crystal and they used to swap copies between the three of them. Her sister would read romance fiction but the mother –rather sniffily, one imagines– would point out that these were not so well written as other novels, such as the Agatha Christie she preferred. For the latter factor, the coming together of reading preferences in adulthood and the ability of readers to transcend class, there are numerous examples.

  • 4 SRR, Bibliography of Margot Alexander (b.1945), accession 2008/46.
  • 5 SRR, accession 2007/1, interview with May Reid (b. 1932), interviewed by Linda Fleming 11 January 2 (...)
  • 6 SRR, accession 2007/127, interview with Mary Sinclair (b.1936), interviewed by David Finkelstein 22 (...)

7One interviewee, born in 1945, reported reading over the summer of 1961, several works by Oscar Wilde, Dickens, Conrad, Tolstoy, Lewis Grassic Gibbon and Vera Brittain, alongside Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and a classic of popular self-help – The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.4 As with a minority of her contemporaries, this woman from a working class background did manage to attend university. However, her reading history shows that a will to become well read, often indiscriminately exercised, started long before she became an undergraduate. In other words, lack of money and lack of availability did not necessarily block an individual love of books; in fact quite the opposite as oral testimony includes strong and fond memories of the purchase of books second-hand. Mrs Reid, born in 1932, was raised by her grandparents in the east end of Glasgow. Her grandfather and his brother were trade union activists and, as she says, “they always sort of used their brains”.5 In this locality, second-hand books were available cheaply at the Barras – a well-known Glasgow street market – and Mrs Reid recalls the family favourites as being the works of Dickens. Second-hand book purchase was indeed extensive amongst the Scottish working classes, and has even been reported in the oral testimony of western islanders who were often seasonal migrants to lowland towns and cities.6 In both urban and rural areas, the second-hand principle was endemic; books, newspapers and magazines might be read by countless members of extended families and neighbours.

  • 7 SRR, accession 2007/153, interview with Janet Murphy (b.1941), interviewed by Linda Fleming 21 Nove (...)

8Janet Murphy, born in 1941, to provide another example, who was also a child of Glasgow’s east end, had an even more ingenious way of nurturing a love of reading: as she put it, they used to “rake the middens” or go through rubbish left for collection at the rear of tenement dwellings. The bounty of the “middens” was not high-class literature, but it meant children otherwise deprived of reading matter were able to read. Mrs Murphy recognised the influence of Conan Doyle in the cache of out-of-print Thriller comics (published 1929-1940) discarded in a nearby but more salubrious neighbourhood than her own and memorably raked from what she described as this “snobby midden”.7 It was the sheer love of reading that flourished in this way.

We used to rake the middens an’ it was, it was only for comics or books an’ we’d take them hame and brush them and you know, an’ have a good read. But I remember, ah must have been aboot 12 or something, I was in this particular midden, it was a kinna snobby midden you know [laughs]. An’I got this big, big bundle –it wis the Thriller magazine and that was lots and lots of years before ah wis even born, so these must have had them in their attic, if they’d an attic in the top flat hooses at the time, ye know. An’ oh I was thrilled to death wi’ a’ this murder! An’ ye know I think it would go back to the times o’ Conan Doyle– they kinna stories ‘cos ye could tell bi the printin’ and the pictures that they were auld, auld, fashioned ye know; ah got stuck intae them an’ ah kept them for a long time!

  • 8 SRR, accession 2008/2, interview with May Park (b.1922), interviewed by Linda Fleming 8 January 200 (...)
  • 9 See Alistair McCleery, In Search of a Hero: Looking for Allen Lane (PCS: London, 2006).

9Bunty, one could speculate, would have read these too, just not from the same source. One of the other interviewees, from a wealthier background than either Bunty or Mrs Murphy, recalled: “I just read the maid’s Red Star, when she was on her day off… she was a friend, but she didn’t know I went into her bedroom – out of sight of my mother… forbidden fruit is always more enjoyable! ”8 Bunty, once a student at Jordanhill College, also disregarded her mother’s strictures and plunged into the world of historical romance: Jean Plaidy, Georgette Heyer, and Mary Stewart. Price was no longer a barrier nor was leather binding a necessity; books were for reading, not for display. “In those days it was sixpence for a Penguin. So you bought your nice cheap book and you didn’t care if you left it in the train but… lots of books! ”9 Indeed, in later life, it was the eclecticism of her reading that was noticeable. She consumed books: from literary fiction such as novels by Anita Brookner and Penelope Lively to the Mills and Boon romances despised by her late mother.

I had a cousin who had a friend who gave her a set of Mills and Boon every year and my brother was ill one year and I’d gone in to see my cousin and I said “Haven’t a book to read” and she said “I’ve got a cupboard full of Mills and Boon”. So I took them away by the handful and I read them and then his daughter and granddaughter would come up and they would take them back to read in the train, so the Mills and Boon cupboard went down. We read them all… I think they’re rubbish
laughter.

10 In her eightieth year, Bunty discovered the Rebus detective novels of Ian Rankin. Her appetite for new books and new (to her) authors was unabated. Yet, while identifying Rankin as a Scottish writer, and the setting of his novels obviously as Scotland, she professed no interest in Scottish writers and writing per se and in the long list of titles mentioned in the course of her interview, there are none from the Scottish canon with the exception of the unread Scott and Stevenson. Books and reading had been part of her social life and her working life and, in her particular case, her love of stories and reading had been passed on to generations of children who made her acquaintance as a teacher. In that personal and professional engagement with reading, the elements that were distinctively Scottish were minimised and the fictional world she immersed herself in, from the boarding schools of girlhood to the romances of maturity, was essentially a British, if not English, construct.

11It has already been noted that the purpose of a reading reception study, such as SRR, is to move from the personal insights provided by individual interviewees, about an activity that can remain largely hidden from history because it is in many ways so mundane and so much a part of the everyday, towards a generalised picture of the role of reading in the cultural, social and economic life of the nation. The evidence provided by SRR enables the comparison of individual experiences, such as those of Bunty, to those of other, different respondents to create a wider awareness of the part reading has to play in the construction of our social reality: the social imaginary that, according to John Thompson, represents “the creative and symbolic dimension of the social world, the dimension through which human beings create their ways of living together and their ways of representing their collective life” Thompson 6). No other historical source matter can possibly provide such first-hand insights into this dimension.

12However, we must consider other life histories in addition to that of Bunty before we can claim such insights. Johan Meechan, born in 1912, spent her childhood in Musselburgh. An early love of books was nurtured by her mother (but, unlike Bunty, not through example – particularly as Johan’s mother did read the People’s Friend and the People’s Journal) and developed during her employment in the private subscription library of Douglas and Foulis in the 1930s.

  • 10 SRR, accession 2007/131, interview with Johan Meechan (b.1912), interviewed by Linda Fleming 19 Jul (...)

No, Mum wasn’t a reader but funnily enough she started me off being a reader. I can remember her one evening she was painting the place and she sent me out. She said: “Go up and buy yourself a book.” And I’d be about five. I think it was Hans Andersen’s “Fairy Tales”… I can’t be a hundred per cent sure but I can see that book, and I think that’s what it was. But there was certainly, that is something Mum did do for me, she didn’t have any money or anything, but she always saw that I had books and yet she wasn’t a reader herself…10

13In the micro-picture of Johan’s life experience, we also get glimpses of the macro picture of the fabric of life generally in interwar Scotland. Her father worked in the mines and was killed in a collapse when she was only fifteen months. Her mother re-married at the end of the First World War and the family moved to Musselburgh. Her stepfather worked as a compositor, prince among printers, for the large Edinburgh-based publisher, Thomas Nelson and Sons, and the family eventually moved again, to Edinburgh to be closer to his employment. During the Depression years, Johan’s stepfather experienced ill health (an effect of being gassed in the war), and Nelsons paid him off. This left the family in a bad way economically, so Johan was unable to remain in school. She was sent to night classes at a commercial college, and, provided with this type of vocational education, she was able to find what was a good job for a young woman in 1930s Edinburgh, within the library of Douglas and Foulis. She obtained this job because she was a reader and loved books; nevertheless, employment in this subscription library entailed in-service training, as this excerpt describes:

Well, when I joined the library, before you were allowed down to the counter, you were shut in a room upstairs and you were given three classics of different authors [to read]… It was an education. I remember one lady came in who wanted to know about second sight and that sort of thing. And I hadn’t given her the answer she had expected and so she went and complained to the boss that I was not well enough educated. Because she was a spiritualist and I didn’t really know a great deal about spiritualism. But I should have known Conan Doyle.

14Johan’s life intersected, therefore, in a very particular way with the reading habits of the Edinburgh middle classes and the upper middle classes of Britain.

We had Lords and Ladies and there used to be great big book boxes sent down to maybe the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. We had a country department and a town department and the counter, where I was.

15Yet her own tastes when she left school were more circumscribed: although she used Stockbridge Public Library, it was not until her employment at Douglas and Foulis that she began to read more widely, particularly classic novels such as those of Dickens (perhaps, by contrast with Bunty, a benefit of having her school education curtailed). The subscription library also introduced her to authors from Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers to Leslie Charteris and his Saint series of books. Staff were allowed free access to stock with two exceptions: those titles that were in particular demand, most often because just recently published; and those risqué titles that were locked away in “The Blue Room” and could only be accessed, upon request from a male customer, by one of the gentleman managers. The reading tastes of the Edinburgh bourgeoisie were not necessarily highbrow and the packages of books Johan remembered being picked up by their chauffeurs contained many popular bestsellers of the day. Apart from detective novels, she read avidly anything by H.E. Bates, J.B. Priestley and Warwick Deeping and had decided tastes in romance, preferring Mazo de la Roche and Georgette Heyer to Ethel M. Dell and Pearl S. Buck. In terms of Scottish authors that she read, the one that Johan recalled most easily was A.J. Cronin and specifically his Hatters Castle (1931). However, she also read “one or two” by Eric Linklater because she used to serve his mother and sister at the library. Her reading life really began while she was working at Douglas and Foulis and, when she left the library to look after her children and to pursue a later career in nursing, ending up as Matron of Loretto School, her reading faltered until she recovered her appetite for books in her retirement. With the possible exception of Eric Linklater, for what must be a relatively exceptional reason, that reading history, like Bunty’s, reveals little engagement with Scottish authors and books. Her catalogue of books borrowed (she bought very few) reflects a very mainstream taste and again reinforces a British rather than a Scottish sense of self and society.

  • 11 SRR, accession 2007/66, interview with Stella Sutherland (b.1924), interviewed by Linda Fleming 22  (...)

16Nor was that taste confined to Glasgow and Edinburgh in the Central Belt. Stella Sutherland, born in 1924, spent part of her childhood on the island of Foula, one of the most northerly parts of Scotland, and made famous in Michael Powell’s 1938 film – The Edge of the World – that was filmed on location there. Her mother was the teacher on the island and possessed her own small library of volumes by G.K. Chesterton, John Ruskin, the plays of Shakespeare, and “a lot of Sir Walter Scott and some novels of Dickens”.11

Then there was Coventry Patmore and the poems of Longfellow and Tennyson. Palgrave’s Golden Treasury, poems by W.E. Henley and Lionel Johnson, not all that well known, also riveted me – and the two Rossettis. James Elroy Flecker was a firm favourite, Rudyard Kipling, and I don’t know how many more.

  • 12 See Katrina M. L. Sked and Peter H. Reid, “The people behind the philanthropy: an investigation int (...)

17This was very much a catalogue of the nineteenth-century great and good – and now neglected – probably acquired during her mother’s period at Training College or presented as gifts or prizes. This personal collection was supplemented at the school by “a tall glass-fronted bookcase filled with all kinds of books” that had been gifted by James Coats, of the Paisley thread-manufacturing company. (Coats had donated some 4,000 such bookcases, each containing 300 to 400 books, to village communities throughout Scotland.12)

There were classics of fiction; there were books of history, poetry, philosophy, sermons and lectures. Most of them far above our heads but we read [looked up] the meaning of the words if the meaning were obscure. A whole shelf of slim redcovered volumes were “Books for the Bairns” edited by the once well-known W.T. Stead, a controversial journalist of his day.

  • 13 See Sally Wood, W.T. Stead and his “Books for Bairns” (Salvia Books: Edinburgh, 1987).

18The latter, it should be noted, were not at all, despite the series title, Scottish in provenance or content.13

  • 14 SRR, accession 2007/127, interview with Mary Sinclair (b.1936), interviewed by David Finkelstein 22 (...)

19Other Hebridean readers also benefited from the Coats library, which had a particularly enduring legacy in Scottish islands lacking in reading amenities. A 1907 donation of a Coats library, sent to the small schoolhouse of Mingulay, would a few years later make its way to the schoolhouse in Barra, its nearest neighbour, where it remained as a small collection in a cupboard, occasionally viewed and read. The lending register from Mingulay showed that the most popular works taken out were classics such as Robinson Crusoe, The Arabian Nights and The Pickwick Papers (Buxton 114). By the time Mary Sinclair, born in Barra in 1936, was attending the local primary school, the library had dwindled to nothing, and the books children had access to were either bought by family members or shared amongst neighbours and friends. The first book Mary could remember owning was a copy of Alice in Wonderland, gifted to her on her seventh birthday by her aunt. She recalled the sheer joy of owning a book which could be looked at whenever it suited: “This was just absolutely amazing, just to get, to get a book and just by looking at the pictures and by reading and re-reading it, because that was all [I had].”14 During wartime, it was newspapers rather than books that would become a key source of reading material in Barra. “There was no shop that you could buy a book in,” Mary Sinclair recollected. “During the war when the weekly papers would come in, we would try and get ‘The Sunday Post’ and read ‘The Broons’ and ‘The Beano’ and ‘Dandy’, and whatever else that we could get our hands on, but certainly [there was] a shortage of books throughout our young lives.”

20 One particular aspect of Barra and other Hebridean islands often overlooked in assessing general Scottish reading habits was Gaelic culture, and the way orality and song culture could fuse into individual reading experiences. Mary Sinclair lived next door to Annie Johnston and her sister Elizabeth Simpson, who were close friends of the husband and wife ethnologists and folklorists John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw. Their house would be the venue for many impromptu ceilidhs when Campbell and Shaw visited, and they would become important sources of Gaelic song and verse informing Campbell and Shaw’s subsequent, pioneering gathering of such cultural material. Johnston encouraged Mary to read, providing her with access to Gaelic songbooks and stories from her collection, displayed in a special, glass-fronted bookcase much like those noted by other interviewees. When Mary was ten or eleven, Annie Johnston, noticing her interest in Gaelic song, gave her a special songbook she read and treasured for many years. Mary recalls the effect that reading this book had on her, and its role in sparking an interest in Gaelic song and culture:

Well, I can remember when I was about, probably ten or eleven, I developed a liking for songs, so I was given this book by my next-door neighbour. It was a small red book that I had treasured for years, gave it away and never got it back. Now this must have been really very sort of special to me, because I can always remember sitting, you know, sitting down at my granny’s, sitting and reading that book, and I think that my interest in song was sort of awakened by it at a very early age. I used to go across to my neighbour, over at Glen, and she was also interested in song and she would have a few songbooks, so we would sit and sing, sing some Gaelic songs and, you know it was something I enjoyed.

21Despite being smaller in size, Foula seemed to have had a slightly better print culture infrastructure than Barra during the same period. The Foula schoolhouse where Stella and her family lived was also the outpost of the County Library and she became the de facto Librarian for Foula.

On Fridays after school it was my welcome duty to issue and receive back books. An exercise book served as a register of who got what and when and returns. Authors were Zane Gray, Edgar Wallace, Hugh Walpole, Rafael Sabatini, Mary Webb, Howard Spring, Maurice Walsh, Compton Mackenzie, L.M. Montgomery, Annie S. Swan, Ruby M. Ayres and a score of others.

  • 15 “I remember magazines like ‘Argosy’, ‘Strand’, ‘Quiver’, ‘Wide World’, ‘Cavalcade’. Bundles of ‘The (...)

22The advent of Penguins selling at sixpence enabled the family to increase its own collection of books, while her mother’s membership of a bookclub in the 1930s (which one is not specified) provided a book a month for either two and sixpence or five shillings. Magazines and newspapers – arriving late on the mailboat but “we never minded how old the bundles of newspapers were that we received, nor did anyone else in Foula” – were eagerly read and exchanged with neighbours.15 While levels of literacy on the small island were obviously high, and reflected in the range of reading material, there seemed to be little interest in Scottish writing: Compton Mackenzie was not then necessarily identified as a writer dealing with Scottish subjects or settings as The Monarch of the Glen (1941) and Whisky Galore (1947) had yet to appear; the ubiquitous People’s Friend offered the most consistent source of Scottish fiction; but Stella herself developed a lasting liking for the Scottish novels of O. Douglas (Anna Buchan) and, even in her eighties, could recall them in detail.

Well, what I liked about her was that… you could tell that the whole thing was authentic and her quotes of the old servants and she could get into their minds and just… for me they’ll always live as people. She was a rare [writer]. Now here’s the other thing, with John Buchan, her brother, it was a long, long time before I could get into his books because he never had any female heroines.

23In later life, Stella worked as a librarian and was able to obtain access to a wide range of novels of which she remembered particularly Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle (1948) and Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber (1944) – “the one that was always asked for with bated breath over the counter and it was under the counter”. Only in retirement, did Stella really begin to read Scottish material, particularly non-fiction, although she became “hooked on” Neil Gunn and read through all of his novels.

24Nancy Johnson, born 1944, also grew up in a remote part of Shetland in a farming community. During her childhood, reading took place after the day’s work on the croft and by oil lamp. She attended the Senior Secondary School in Lerwick and went on to university in Glasgow. Her childhood experience, twenty years on from Stella’s, differed in that the distribution of reading material (originating in Dundee) had become much easier.

  • 16 SRR, accession 2007/67, interview with Nancy Johnson (b. 1944), interviewed by Linda Fleming 23 Apr (...)

We always got The Broons book, either The Broons or Oor Wullie. I can remember the first one I got, I’d be about, it must have been about seven. It was at a sale of work in the Voe hall and there was this Broons book on one of the stalls and I really wanted it [laughter] and it was our neighbour who was on the stall and he could see that I really wanted it but I didn’t have enough money for it and so he sort of put it underneath so that’d go for half price later on in the sale. So I got it for half price. I think that would have been the 1951 Broons book. I liked The Broons best, I think…16

  • 17 SRR, accession 2009/1680, interview with Bernice Sibbald (b.1953), interviewed by Linda Fleming 13  (...)
  • 18 SRR, accession 2007/154, interview with George Rountree (b.1935), interviewed by Linda Fleming 11 N (...)

25 The Broons recur again and again in the course of the SRR interviews. In particular, a pilot extension of the project to the Scottish diaspora in Canada (Toronto) and New Zealand (Dunedin) examined, with a relatively small sample, the role of reading in the maintenance, creation and dissolution of identity. The results, in terms of what was being read, were remarkably consistent with the Scotland-based interviews. Bernice in Toronto remembered that: “we used to get annuals at Christmas time. I always remember the Beano book, and we always got the Broons or Oor Wullie. You know to this day my husband still gets them”; while Margaret in Dunedin recalled that: “My sister used to send The Broons book to my kids, of course they couldn’t read it. [laugh] ‘What does this mean, Mum?’ It was quite funny. They used to try and read it out to me in a New Zealand accent.”17 George Rountree, while undertaking his National Service in the Canal Zone in Egypt, had the Sunday Post sent to him so that he could follow the Broons and Oor Wullie.18 Indeed, the Sunday Post appears almost universally in the reading experiences of the Scots interviewed within SRR; and the People’s Friend followed as a close second, held in great affection by many readers – without necessarily being gender-specific.

  • 19 SRR, accession 2008/2, interview with May Park (b.1922), interviewed by Linda Fleming 8 January 200 (...)

When I was a bit older I saw a bit more of my maternal granny and grandpa. And people would say, “where is Robert? Oh! He’s gone to bed with Annie S. Swan!” He went a bit peculiar and liked the People’s Friend !19

26On the other hand, the one canonical Scottish author who turns up time and again in interviews is Walter Scott. To say that Scott has been unpopular amongst our respondents would be to understate sensibilities. This may be because Scott was prescribed reading for so many at school, and as such this is the type of reading experience that readers do not care to revisit: “I wasn’t a Walter Scott fan, no never, never, never – dreary”. This hostility towards Scott derived from his old-fashioned style and the density of his description rather than from his settings or any sense of Scottishness he embodied. Indeed, it is clear from these interviews that the Scottish imaginary for most of these women readers of the twentieth century was a construct drawn from the graphic anecdotes of the Broons or the idyllic narratives of the People’s Friend, that is, for those who read anything of Scottish provenance at all. Yet equally notable was the manner in which such books, newspapers, songbooks and print in general enabled many to shape personal outlooks that were more outward facing than inward looking. Inspired by books, newspapers and songbooks to explore Gaelic culture or shape careers as librarians, teachers, nurses and other professional workers, the individuals interviewed offer testimony to the capacity of print to change lives and open minds.

Bibliographie

Bibliography

Buxton, Ben, Mingulay, and Island and its People, Edinburgh: Birlinn Ltd., 1995.

Fleming, Linda, Alistair McCleery and David Finkelstein, “In a Class of their Own: the autodidact impulse and working class readers in twentieth-century Scotland” in K. Halsey, S. Towheed and R. Crone, eds., The History of Reading, vol. 2: The British Isles, Routledge 2011, 189-204.

McCleery, Alistair, In Search of a Hero: Looking for Allen Lane, PCS: London, 2006.

Sked, Katrina M. L., and Peter H. Reid, “The people behind the philanthropy: an investigation into the lives and motivations of library philanthropists in Scotland between 1800 and 1914”, Library History 24, 1 (2008) 48-63.

SRR, accession 2007/1, interview with May Reid (b. 1932), interviewed by Linda Fleming 11 January 2007.

SRR, accession 2007/127, interview with Mary Sinclair (b.1936), interviewed by David Finkelstein 22 July 2007.

SRR, accession 2007/127, interview with Mary Sinclair (b.1936), interviewed by David Finkelstein 22 July 2007.

SRR, accession 2007/131, interview with Johan Meechan (b.1912), interviewed by Linda Fleming 19 July 2007.

SRR, accession 2007/153, interview with Janet Murphy (b.1941), interviewed by Linda Fleming 21 November 2007.

SRR, accession 2007/154, interview with George Rountree (b.1935), interviewed by Linda Fleming 11 November 2007.

SRR, accession 2007/66, interview with Stella Sutherland (b.1924), interviewed by Linda Fleming 22 April 2007.

SRR, accession 2007/66.

SRR, accession 2007/67, interview with Nancy Johnson (b. 1944), interviewed by Linda Fleming 23 April 2007.

SRR, accession 2008/2, interview with May Park (b.1922), interviewed by Linda Fleming 8 January 2008.

SRR, accession 2008/2, interview with May Park (b.1922), interviewed by Linda Fleming 8 January 2008.

SRR, accession 2008/22, interview with “Bunty”, interviewed by Linda Fleming 9 April 2007

SRR, accession 2008/46, Bibliography of Margot Alexander (b.1945).

SRR, accession 2009/1675, interview with Margaret Ritchie (b.1931), interviewed by Linda Fleming 12 February 2009.

SRR, accession 2009/1680, interview with Bernice Sibbald (b.1953), interviewed by Linda Fleming 13 June 2009.

Thompson, John B., Studies in the Theory of Ideology, University of California Press: Berkeley, 1984.

Wood, Sally, W.T. Stead and his “Books for Bairns”, Salvia Books: Edinburgh, 1987.

Notes

1 Scottish Readers Remember has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland. As described above, this study collected recorded interviews with a representative cross-section of Scots born before 1945 and these have been archived by SAPPHIRE. The project was the first sustained attempt to understand reading practices within twentieth-century Scotland. The SAPPHIRE initiative is a partnership between Edinburgh Napier University and Edinburgh University. Recordings and transcripts are held in the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Library.

2 SRR, accession 2008/22, interview with “Bunty”, interviewed by Linda Fleming 9 April 2007 – and following quotations.

3 See Linda Fleming, Alistair McCleery and David Finkelstein, “In a Class of their Own: the autodidact impulse and working class readers in twentieth-century Scotland” in K. Halsey, S. Towheed and R. Crone, eds., The History of Reading, vol. 2: The British Isles (Routledge 2011) 189-204.

4 SRR, Bibliography of Margot Alexander (b.1945), accession 2008/46.

5 SRR, accession 2007/1, interview with May Reid (b. 1932), interviewed by Linda Fleming 11 January 2007.

6 SRR, accession 2007/127, interview with Mary Sinclair (b.1936), interviewed by David Finkelstein 22 July 2007.

7 SRR, accession 2007/153, interview with Janet Murphy (b.1941), interviewed by Linda Fleming 21 November 2007 – and following quotations.

8 SRR, accession 2008/2, interview with May Park (b.1922), interviewed by Linda Fleming 8 January 2008.

9 See Alistair McCleery, In Search of a Hero: Looking for Allen Lane (PCS: London, 2006).

10 SRR, accession 2007/131, interview with Johan Meechan (b.1912), interviewed by Linda Fleming 19 July 2007 – and following quotations.

11 SRR, accession 2007/66, interview with Stella Sutherland (b.1924), interviewed by Linda Fleming 22 April 2007 – and following quotations.

12 See Katrina M. L. Sked and Peter H. Reid, “The people behind the philanthropy: an investigation into the lives and motivations of library philanthropists in Scotland between 1800 and 1914”, Library History 24, 1 (2008) 48-63.

13 See Sally Wood, W.T. Stead and his “Books for Bairns” (Salvia Books: Edinburgh, 1987).

14 SRR, accession 2007/127, interview with Mary Sinclair (b.1936), interviewed by David Finkelstein 22 July 2007– and following quotations.

15 “I remember magazines like ‘Argosy’, ‘Strand’, ‘Quiver’, ‘Wide World’, ‘Cavalcade’. Bundles of ‘The Daily Mirror’, ‘Glasgow Bulletin’, ‘Picture Post’ arrived from mainland friends. ‘The Christian Herald’, ‘ People’s Journal ‘ and ‘People’s Friend’ were passed on to us and we had Arthur Mead’s ‘Children’s Newspaper’ of our own. I must not forget the Shetland papers, ‘The News’ and ‘The Times’. Most people took both or arranged an exchange. We had no comics as such although we enjoyed the comic strips featured by most newspapers. Sensational stuff like ‘The Red Letter’ and ‘Secrets’ were the only printed matter we could not relish and I do think it showed something about our tastes.” SRR, accession 2007/66.

16 SRR, accession 2007/67, interview with Nancy Johnson (b. 1944), interviewed by Linda Fleming 23 April 2007.

17 SRR, accession 2009/1680, interview with Bernice Sibbald (b.1953), interviewed by Linda Fleming 13 June 2009 in Toronto; SRR, accession 2009/1675, interview with Margaret Ritchie (b.1931), interviewed by Linda Fleming 12 February 2009 in Dunedin.

18 SRR, accession 2007/154, interview with George Rountree (b.1935), interviewed by Linda Fleming 11 November 2007.

19 SRR, accession 2008/2, interview with May Park (b.1922), interviewed by Linda Fleming 8 January 2008 – and following quotation.

Auteurs

Director of the Scottish Centre for the Book and Professor of Literature and Culture at Edinburgh Napier University. He is co-director of the SAPPHIRE initiative with Professor David Finkelstein and of the Scottish Readers Remember project on which Dr Linda Fleming was a research assistant. Professor McCleery is also co-author of An Introduction to Book History (Routledge second edition 2012) and The Book History Reader (second edition, Routledge 2006). He has recently contributed the chapter on ‘Publishing’ to The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book (CUP 2015), the chapter on ‘Publishing History’ to The Oxford Handbook of Publishing (OUP 2019 forthcoming), and co-authored ‘Publishing 1914-2000’ for The Cambridge History of the Book in Great Britain vol. 7 (CUP 2019 forthcoming). He is Editor of the annual Neil Gunn Circle.

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