Alumni Services

Norma Allan

Blue Badge Guide for Scotland Norma Allan talks about special memories, interesting vacation jobs and her love of poetry.

Name Norma Allan
Degree Course MA
Year of Graduation 1965
Norma Allan

Your time at the University

I did not choose Edinburgh University; it was chosen for me by my school, James Gillespie’s High School for Girls - the Jean Brodie school. It was either Edinburgh or St Andrews unless one was a candidate for Oxbridge. I did not sturdy hard, completely lacking motivation. I was more interested in enjoying my new-found freedom from school and discussing the meaning of life in the Old Quad Common Room. In spite of my lackadaisical approach, I emerged with a degree and a good education.

Special memories were the One O’Clock Jazz Club at Wednesday lunch-times in the basement of the Old College, Saturday night dances in the old Men’s Union in Bristo Square and steel band music at the West Indian Society dances in George Square. You can see how frivolous I was!

In the summer vacations a student friend and I went off to Switzerland to work as waiters in hotels on Lake Lucerne; early starts, long hours and low pay. Still, it was an opportunity to travel and to experience how the other half lived. It made me more determined to finish my degree. At Christmas time, I worked for the Post Office, delivering letters to some real slums in the Jamaica Street area of Edinburgh. Some of the old tenements were five or six storeys high with no lighting in the common stairs. I recall once climbing to the top in the darkness and knocking on a door to ask if this was the recipient of the Christmas cards. Before I could say ‘Jack Robinson’, a long, bony, hand reached out and snatched the mail from my grasp! The next day I was so stiff I could barely move my legs. The Post Office took pity on me and assigned me thereafter to parcel van delivery, a much more comfortable job.

In spite of my lackadaisical approach, I emerged with a degree and a good education.

Norma Allan

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

I went into teaching and, after many years’ service, I took early retirement and became a Blue Badge Guide for Scotland, a job which is full of variety and interest. I am self-employed and this suits my character perfectly.

The other string to my bow is writing. I have written poetry since I was a student and now spend my winters abroad, working on my various writing projects. To date, I have self-published nine booklets of poetry, a biography of my mother and a book of selected folk-songs and poems of an Edinburgh folk-singer. I am currently finishing a book of humorous geology poems working in conjunction with a University of Edinburgh geologist and a memorial edition of the folk-singer’s complete works. Meanwhile I have started two more books, my memoirs and a book of stories about tourism.

I also served for a few years on the Business Committee of the General Council of Edinburgh University.

Alumni wisdom

My advice would be to make the most of your opportunity at university. Don’t waste your time as I did. Get to grips with your subjects and work hard to achieve your maximum potential. Believe in your worth.