School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences

Catherine Czerkawska

English graduate Catherine Czerkawska tells us about the vivid memories she has from being an undergraduate student in the early 1970s.

Name Catherine Czerkawska
Degree Course English Language and Literature with Medieval Studies
Year of Graduation 1972
Catherine Czerkawska

Your time at the University

I was one of only two people from my year at school to go to the University of Edinburgh - most of my friends went to Glasgow.

I was only 17, an only child, and adventurous. I loved Edinburgh and wanted to live there. Plus, the course and the University seemed to offer exactly what I wanted. I was writing even then, poetry and plays. I got involved with poetry readings at university, including a couple of massive and well attended poetry festivals, with some very starry poets .

It was a good time to be in Edinburgh and I remember it as a particularly happy time of my life. ‘I expect you were a bit of a hippy, mum,’ said my son, recently and I think he was probably right. But then so many of us were: it was a time for floaty Indian cottons, bell bottoms, old (and smelly) Afghan coats and - for the boys - an odd collection of vintage army greatcoats and uniforms.

The Meadows in the 1970s

I still have a group photographs taken on The Meadows, which shows my friends and I fooling about.


Studying can be stressful, finances can be a worry, but remember to enjoy yourself as well.

Catherine Czerkawska

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

I’m a Scotland-based novelist and playwright. I’ve written many plays for the stage and for BBC Radio 4 (more than 100 hours of produced drama) and have published eight novels, historical and contemporary.

My short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies too numerous to mention and as eBook collections.

I’ve also written non-fiction in the form of feature articles and books and have reviewed professionally for newspapers and magazines. Wormwood - my play about the Chernobyl disaster - was produced at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre to critical acclaim in 1997, while my novel The Curiosity Cabinet was shortlisted for the Dundee Book Prize in 2005 and subsequently published by Polygon.

My most recent historical novel is The Physic Garden. I’ve also taught creative writing for the Arvon Foundation and I spent four years as Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the University of the West of Scotland. I think this would have been rather hard to do - I was helping students with their academic rather than their creative writing - without the experience of studying in Edinburgh.

Currently, I’m working on a trilogy of novels about a cross cultural relationship, set mainly in the Canary Islands.

Alumni wisdom

There will probably never be another time in your life when you know so many like-minded people. Studying can be stressful, finances can be a worry, but remember to enjoy yourself as well.

This should be a time of freedom and exploration, especially intellectual exploration. Your time at university passes by much more swiftly than you’ll imagine. Make the most of it.