Waving at soldiers

Richardson, Heather (2015). Waving at soldiers. European Journal of Life Writing, 4 C7-C18.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5463/ejlw.4.158


For most writers the first experience of narrative comes from within the family. Facts, opinions, distortions and – very occasionally – truth, are shaped into family stories. A first-time memoirist such as myself has to acknowledge her own unreliability as a narrator, and must unpick real from false memory, the accidently misremembered from the downright lie. In this piece I chart the uncomfortable experience of remembering and writing about growing up during the Northern Irish ‘Troubles’, focusing on the life and death of my Aunt’s husband. He was a British soldier serving in Northern Ireland during the worst years of the Troubles in the early 70s and latterly a constable in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). From their peculiar wedding in my parents’ front room to his death in a car crash five years later, exploring his story has confronted me with the long-denied impact of the Northern Irish conflict on my practice as a writer and teacher of creative writing.

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