Sunday, 24 May 2009

Happy Birthday, Margaret

It’s the birthday of one of my favourite people on the planet, Margaret Thomson Davis. For anyone out there who doesn’t know Margaret she is the author of (forgive me if I get this wrong) 41 novels.

It’s common knowledge that Margaret had a difficult time as a child (detailed in her biography, Write From the Heart) but she refused to play the part of a victim and at the age of 83 she continues to inspire and delight her fans with a new novel every year. Before she achieved publication she had 10 finished novels in her cupboards. She refused to give up on her dream and carried on sending out her novels to publishers and amazingly had 5 out of the 10 accepted at the same time.

Margaret goes to amazing lengths to research her novels and I’m certain if they were included in the national history curriculum history lessons at school would be a good deal more palatable.
I first met Margaret at a writers’ conference at Swanwick in 1996. She was one of the main speakers that year and I was blown away with the breadth of her knowledge about her craft, her ordinariness (if that’s even a word) and her wonderful sense of humour. When she heard that I was driving home and was willing to go via Glasgow, she cadged a lift. How could I say no? And from that moment on we’ve been firm friends. Every year after that I gave Margaret a lift and in the confessional of the car we got to know each other’s stories very well indeed. This was not always a good thing. Following one journey where the discussion turned to IBS (if familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, it certainly makes you put down your guard), Margaret was again giving a talk. From the stage she mentioned how I was kind enough to give her a lift and how we had compared farts on the way down.
She supports other writers as much as she possibly can and in The Clydesiders, and the more recent Red Alert, she made one of her main characters a poet so she could feature some of my poems.
One of my favourite stories about Margaret concerned a time when we went together to the Royal Concert Hall to attend a “Lunchtime Lecture”. The speaker was Sir Jeremy Isaacs, the guy who started Channel 4 and who was at that time in charge of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. He was a fascinating speaker and afterword there was a queue in the lobby to buy his book, which of course he would sign. In the queue with Margaret, she spent the whole time wondering if she should introduce herself to Sir Jeremy. She was a great admirer of his and she had once been on a speaker’s panel with him. Should she speak to him? Should she even wait in the queue or just go home? He wouldn’t want to be pestered. I told her not to be daft and advised her to stay and speak to him; he was bound to remember her.
At this point I spotted a middle-aged couple who weren’t part of the queue, but who were facing us. I heard the woman say to her husband, there’s Margaret Thomson Davis. Should I speak to her? She won’t want to be pestered. I could just give her my book to sign. The husband persuaded her to say hello and the woman tentatively approached Margaret, who was of course delighted to speak to one of her readers.
When it came to Sir Jeremy, he stood up from the table as soon as he saw her approach and gave her a big hug.
Happy Birthday, Margaret. You’re nothing short of a national treasure.


  1. oh, Mike, that was a lovely tribute and story. You are a very sweet fella.

  2. Very nice of you to say so, Thea, but don't let on. I've a reputation to uphold.