The Grantidote and Calderglen High School English Department worked together to discuss the importance of women’s stories and experiences and how both are so often overlooked when we consider the fact and fiction-based storytelling surrounding our lives. This forward-thinking school’s English department runs a yearly project for second years, asking pupils to research and write-up family history around World War I and teachers had observed the stories coming back were never about women. So, to address the missing archive and representation, Calderglen High’s Herstory Project was bravely born.
Elizabeth’s story is skilfully told with great imagery and detail and a wonderful sense of legacy by her Great-Granddaughter, Kayleigh.
My great-grandmother Elizabeth Harper is a major inspiration to me and I feel her story should be shared.
My great-grandmother was born Elizabeth MacMillan in the summertime of 1933 in the west highland village of Kinlochleven, Scotland. She lived with her mother, also Elizabeth, her father, James and her sister, Jean. When Elizabeth was just six years old, the Second World War was announced during the church service she was attending and the following year Jean was born. Elizabeth told me she remembers having to go to the nearest air-raid shelter and that in school they were told that if the black water dam in the surrounding hills was set off it would warn them the dam had been bombed. They’d then have only a short amount of time to get up high enough as the whole village would’ve flooded. Elizabeth also told me she remembers a day a trainee pilot was flying really low and she hid behind a lamp post and cried, scared it was a bomber.
As a child, Elizabeth paddled in the burn, played in the woods, skipped and played hide and seek. She went to Kinlochleven Primary School and then later to Fort William High School where she studied English, Maths, Geography, History, Latin, French, Art and Home Economics. She told me she went on holidays to each of her grandmothers’ homes in Blairgowrie and Dundee and that whenever she went, the buses and trains were very often crammed with soldiers.
Elizabeth left school and home at seventeen and went on to a nursing career in Glasgow. She achieved two certificates; an Orthopaedic qualification and an RGA and became a ward sister. She married Francis Harper and they had five children; four girls and one boy.
Elizabeth now lives in East Kilbride, Scotland. She is a very positive, caring, tidy person and I love her very much. She goes on a holiday or a cruise nearly every year and is always active as part of the women’s team at a bowling green as well as being part of the women’s guild in church. I don’t see her that often, I used to when I was a child, but when I do it’s always lovely. This woman has had a huge impact on my life as I wouldn’t be here without her and I chose to tell her story as it can show people that, even if your life has been rough, there can always be a positive outcome. I think Elizabeth will be remembered for how lovely she is and her positive outlook. I think it is important to share stories and tell future generations as I think these people shouldn’t be forgotten.
I have learned so much about my great-grandmother from this Herstory Project that I wouldn’t have known otherwise and I am so thankful to be able to tell her story.