Biography:

Mary Gladstone


 
 

Mary’s Biography

 
Mary Gladstone is a poet, short story writer, playwright and literary critic.  She is a journalist who writes for the national press and broadcasts on Scottish literature (including poetry) and the arts.

Born in Berkshire, 1948 of Scottish parentage and educated at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, School of Drama and at Glasgow University. When she was 5 years old Mary and her family settled in Scotland where she has lived ever since, apart from a short period when she attended a secondary school in Bristol.

Her specialist training in speech and drama was beneficial especially when she began to write and broadcast reviews of Fringe shows at the Edinburgh International Festival for the Scotsman and BBC Radio Scotland. Later, she broadened her scope as an arts journalist to include features, interviews, radio programmes and talks. In addition to writing for the press she has published, poetry, short stories and had a play performed at the Traverse theatre in Edinburgh and a reading of another at the Little Lyceum.

She has helped with publicity and performed in shows ("David’s Gift" and "Oh, What a Lovely War") at the Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh.

Being a trained drama teacher she has used some of these skills in her work as a tutor of creative writing and has taught secondary school pupils and adults. She is currently a tutor at the Office of Lifelong Learning, University of Edinburgh and with the City of Edinburgh Council’s adult education programme.

Mary has also researched and written a number of booklets and guides on Scottish subjects: its craft workshops, the Harris tweed industry, contemporary Highland crafts, the A9 (Scotland’s road to the north) and has ghost-written "Cooking the Books", the memoir of an Edinburgh restaurateur.

 Mary lives in Edinburgh within a stone’s throw of the Botanical Gardens with her daughter.

 

IN GREATER DEPTH 

Poetry has always been important for her. Nobody was more surprised than she when in the summer of 2009 she discovered that during World War 1 her maternal grandfather (the author of a multi-volume history of France) when working as a medical orderly served alongside two famous poets. They were John Masefield (a former poet laureate) and Laurence Binyon whose words from his famous poem, "For the Fallen" have become an intrinsic part of our annual Remembrance Day service.

Her mother’s father was a Macdonald from Largie situated half way down Argyll’s Kintyre peninsular. This branch of the clan settled in the region in 1431 after the battle of Inverlochy when under Alexander of Islay, Lord of the Isles they helped defeat the king’s forces. Not only were her mother’s family staunch Jacobites but one of her distant cousins was Flora Macdonald who before emigrating to Carolina in America stayed with Mary’s ancestors, the Largie Macdonalds. She used to visit Kintyre regularly both as a child and an adult. Recently she has returned to carry out research into her family’s recent past and to find out more about the childhood of her uncle, killed after the Fall of Singapore during World War 2.

Most of her childhood was spent on a dairy farm in a remote part of Wigtownshire on the banks of the Solway Firth where she rode a pony, helped in summer with the hay-making and skated on frozen ponds and lochs in winter. Unsurprisingly Mary draws from the natural world and her childhood memories in her poetry and fiction.

In her youth she was interested in France, its language and culture which won her a place on a course one summer in the French alps where native French teachers learned how to incorporate drama into their teaching methods and the classroom. Her undistinguished performance as a hysterical housemaid (with a strong English accent) was nevertheless received with much amusement.

Apart from teaching and working as a freelance journalist and writer, Mary has had other jobs. She has been a shorthand typist at Lambeth Palace Library in London, a personal assistant to an editor at the Bodley Head publishers, an office temp with a machine parts firm in Glasgow and a receptionist for a recruitment agency in the same city; she has cleaned floors at an Edinburgh bowling club, worked at the box office of a theatre, been a gardener, a care worker and assistant for a wheelchair user and a teacher of English as a foreign language in Mantova, north Italy where she taught English to children at a language school and to workers in a factory that manufactured plastic goods. Most recently she was employed as a dog walker for a rottweiler until it bit her!

She began to write for the press when after graduating in the mid seventies she saw a feature in The Scotsman about a woman’s experiences of being "the second wife". Mary responded immediately by sending the editor a piece with the headline, "The Second Time Around", an account of her life as a twenty-six year old divorcee. When the article was accepted she wrote other features covering her work in a typing pool and the winter when she rented a damp cottage near Oban in Argyll.

Although she agrees with Ralph Waldo Emerson that travel can narrow the mind, she decided in 1983 to realise a dream and go to the western Himalayas and visit New Delhi and Rajasthan. While staying at a hotel in Jaipur she read a section of an Indian newspaper used to line the shelf of a wardrobe in her room and noticed a feature about India’s foremost feminist magazine based in New Delhi. On her return to the city she interviewed the editor and wrote about the enterprise in the Scottish press. As a result of her travels she has taken an interest in Indian literature (written in the English language) and the politics of the sub-continent.