Dr Val McDermid - English, 1972

Although Val is now best known for her crime fiction, she has also worked as a journalist and dramatist. As well as standalone works she has written several series of books, including the Lindsay Gordon mysteries and the Tony Hill & Carol Jordan novels. The Mermaids Singing won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year in 1995 and her work has also been adapted for television – including the popular ITV screening of Wire in the Blood which has run to six series. In November 2007, she won a Stonewall Award for Writer of the Year.

Reflections on my time at St Hilda’s

Coming to St Hilda’s changed my life. It’s a big claim, but there’s no doubt in my mind that those three years made a major contribution to making possible the career success I’ve enjoyed since.

I grew up in a working class mining community in Fife.  When I wanted to apply for Oxford, I was told by my teachers that people like us didn’t go to Oxford. Luckily, I grew up in a family where I’d been trained to think that I was as good as anyone else, so I stuck my neck out at the age of 16 and was accepted by St Hilda’s. 

I’d feared I might face snobbery.  I was wrong. I found myself in a community where people were judged on the quality of their minds, not their backgrounds.  The only social problem I had was that nobody could understand my accent. Once I’d learned to speak English, I was fine.

 I have so many strong and abiding memories of my years at SHC, it’s hard to know where to start or how to stop. I learned how to think for myself; how to hold my own in any situation; and, as JCR president, how to juggle politics and pragmatism.  But most important to me are the friendships forged during those three years, friendships that have sustained me and brightened my life.

Dr Val McDermid