Secondary – English

Introduction to the project. Who are we? Examples of stories and poems about Motherwell. Discussion of how to collect stories and memories, how to conduct an interview and to record conversations. Discussion of Motherwell-born Liz Lochheads poem Some Old Photographs, and how objects may inspire us to write. This work is in preparation for creative writing in the second phase of he project.

You can collect stories and memories in one of two ways – either by recording on a phone if you have one or can borrow one, or by writing down notes. You do not need to write down the whole conversation. You only need sufficient words to remember what was said.

When you ask people, particularly members of your own household, to tell you their stories or share their memories, you need to approach them properly. You have to make sure you can sit quietly with the person concerned, and make them feel at their ease. And like all professional interviewers you will need to be modest but a little formal. You may prepare some questions in advance, for example: What is your happiest memory of childhood? Do you remember your first day at school? Did you often visit the centre of Motherwell (or your home town)? What did you do there? How did you spend your spare time? What was your first job? What do you remember about your life at home and other members of the family? Do you have any interesting stories to tell? etc.

So for example, someone’s grandmother may say We were poor people, but we were proud people. Although my father had a job at the steelworks that made him very hot and sweaty, and he would return home with overalls dirty from the days work, he always washed himself scrupulously and changed to clean clothes before sitting down for his tea. I remember the strong scent of carbolic soap.


Although we girls had very few clothes, we looked after them well. And for Sundays and special occasions we had special clothes, which I loved wearing. Everyone said we looked like well-to-do girls. I particularly remember a white linen blouse I liked.

Which do you think are the important words?

Our team suggest – Granny – father – steel – sweaty – dirty overalls – soap – Sunday clothes – linen blouse. We call these “key words” and you can use them to put the story back together again in your own way.

If you record memories or stories using a phone, you may either listen to the words sentence by sentence and write them out, or ask the team to copy the recording. You may also look for objects or pictures they may inspire memories and creative writing. Here is an example of a poem by Liz Lochhead inspired in the same way.

Some Old Photographs

weather evocative as scent3
the romance of dark stormclouds
in big skies over the low wide river
of long shadows and longer shafts of light

of smoke
fabulous film-noir stills of Central Station
of freezing fog silvering the chilled, stilled parks
of the glamorous past
where drops on a rainmate are sequins4
in the lamplight, in the black-and-white

your young, still-lovely mother laughs, the
hem of her sundress whipped up
by a wind on a beach before you were born

all the Dads in hats
are making for Central at five past five
in the snow, in the rain, in the sudden 6what-a-scorcher,
in the smog, their
belted dark overcoats white-spattered by the starlings

starlings swarming
in that perfect and permanent cloud
above what was
never really this photograph
but always all the passing now
and noise and stink and smoky breath of George Square

wee boats, a duchess, bunting, there’s a7
big launch on the Clyde
and that boat is yet to sail

Liz Lochhead
from A Choosing: Selected Poems (Polygon 2011)




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it wis January
and a gey dreich day
the first day Ah went to the school
so my Mum happed me up in ma
good navy-blue napp coat wi the rid tartan hood
birled a scarf aroon ma neck
pu’ed oan ma pixie an’ my pawkies
it wis that bitter
said noo ye’ll no starve
gie’d me a wee kiss and a kid-oan skelp oan the bum
and sent me aff across the playground
tae the place Ah’d learn to say
it was January
and a really dismal day
the first day I went to school
so my mother wrapped me up in my
best navy-blue top coat with the red tartan hood,
twirled a scarf around my neck,
pulled on my bobble-hat and mittens
it was so bitterly cold
said now you won’t freeze to death
gave me a little kiss and a pretend slap on the bottom
to the place I’d learn to forget to say
it wis January
and a gey dreich day
the first day Ah went to the school
so my Mum happed me up in ma
good navy-blue napp coat wi the rid tartan hood,
birled a scarf aroon ma neck,
pu’ed oan ma pixie an’ ma pawkies
it wis that bitter.

Oh saying it was one thing
but when it came to writing it
in black and white
the way it had to be said
was as if you were posh, grown-up, male, English and dead.

Kidspoem / Bairnsang by Liz Lochhead.