Meet a very inspiring woman


With an OBE for services to Early Childhood Education and a DLitt for two of her research papers on reading, 96 year-old Margaret Clark is a Member of the Reading Hall of Fame, a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and an Honorary Life Member and former President of the United Kingdom Literacy Association.


Margaret, who was born in Scotland during the General Strike in 1926, now lives at McCarthy Stone’s Retirement Living PLUS development, Ryland Place, Edgbaston in the West Midlands. During World War II she attended Glasgow University and after training as a teacher taught in a primary school for three years. While teaching, she took a further degree in Education and Psychology as a part time student and was later awarded a PhD for her research into left-handedness. As part of the National Foundation for Educational Research she also researched the teaching of arithmetic in primary schools in Kent. 

On her marriage she moved to Newcastle, where she worked as a clinical psychologist, but in 1963 she returned to Glasgow as a single parent of two young boys. There, for many years she lectured at the Psychology Department at Strathclyde University, where now prizes are awarded annually in her name to the two top part time students in education – this is funded by one of her sons. In 2022, at the age of 96, Margaret presented the prizes herself accompanied by some of her former students.

Margaret continues, “In 1979 I was invited to become one of the five Professors of Educations in the Faculty of Education and Head of the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Birmingham. I was the only woman professor in the university at that time, and one of few senior female academics, and, with an all-male staff. So, it was quite a lonely position. I am now an Emeritus Professor. I took early retirement in 1988 but since then I have continued to speak at conferences in different parts of the world and to publish articles and edit books.”


From her retirement apartment in the West Midlands, Margaret has used her spare time to direct research into literacy, publish two research reports and edit two books with international contributors. Last year she gave a paper at a UKLA International Conference in Birmingham on, ‘the development of a research-literate teaching profession and evidence-based literacy policies’. 


Margaret is still a Visiting Professor at Newman University and planning further articles from the study in her apartment. A whizz on her computer she is in contact with former students and colleagues all over the world, but to the retirement community at Ryland Place she is just Margaret Nairn. To most of them, this article may come as a surprise! “I found it valuable to retain two parallel lives – as to be a woman professor, and a psychologist, were both conversation stoppers in social situations… I was known only as Margaret Nairn and a mother of two boys!”, Margaret explains. 

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