The Society’s project archivist, Alasdair Bachell, tells us more about this pioneering campaigner.
It is only right that my second blog for the Brittle Bone Society project I talk about the founder of the Brittle Bone Society: Dr Margaret Grant MBE. Margaret passed away in December 2020, after a life dedicated to advocating for people with Osteogenesis Imperfecta and much of her work is captured in the BBS archive.
Margaret was born in 1933 with OI and spent years in hospital with numerous bone breaks and fractures. Despite the condition being described and named by Willem Vrolick in 1849, few doctors knew about OI and support for people like Margaret was very limited. Due to her time spent in hospital and reluctance from schools to accommodate her, Margaret had just three years of formal education, and was taught to read and write by her parents.
Margaret married David Grant after meeting at a Scottish country dance and soon after their daughter Yvonne was born who was later discovered to also have OI. After David lost his job in the jute industry and money became scarce, Margaret began to enquire as to what help was available for people with brittle bones, to which she was told there was none. At this stage Margaret had begun to write to other people with OI, funding the cost of stamps by knitting baby clothes.
With no other help available, a small support network was formed which would be the start of the Brittle Bone Society in 1968. The society was made official in 1972 (you can see the first society newsletter here), but Margaret and the society had already begun to make their mark and links were being made across the pond with the American OI society “Breakthrough”. By October 1973, the society had a dedicated research fund standing at £1000, and local branches of the society were forming across the UK.
The society eventually purchased a charity shop which also served as an office, however there was an issue with space as they needed to store the specialised wheelchairs and other equipment for the society’s members. An unusual solution was soon found – a disused mortuary, as Margaret explains:
In 1974 Margaret was named as Disabled Scot of the Year, the first in what was to be numerous awards and accolades for her work. Margaret was determined not to let the opportunity go to waste and appealed for improved accessibility for disabled people in Dundee.
The following year Margaret was then named as Dundee’s Citizen of the Year, and she expressed hope that this would lead to further recognition of the BBS.
Among many other accolades Margaret earned over the years, she was also honoured with an MBE in 1989, and in 2018 was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Dundee.
But I want to return to the poem as it turns out that Margaret was also an ardent poet, and would frequently write them for society newsletters, to appeal for funding, or to simply thank someone for a donation.
Margaret was interviewed in 2011 as part of the archive’s Oral History Project, and this interview (as well as some of her poetry) is one of the recordings being used in “The Archive Project” – an annual collaboration with DJCAD’s illustration students. The work will be available to view online later this month, and you can see last years fantastic array of artwork here https://www.dundee.ac.uk/djcad/archive-illustration-exhibition-2021.