‘Selfless’ charity founder inspires Dundee student’s work

A Dundee woman who founded a pioneering charity to help people living with a rare disease has inspired the artwork of a local student.

Nicole McLaughlin, an Illustration student at the University of Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, described Margaret Grant MBE as ‘an incredible, selfless woman’ after handing over four, specially-produced clay plates to the Brittle Bone Society at its headquarters in the city.

The 27-year-old made the gesture after learning about Margaret’s story and the work of the charity she founded through a project for her studies.

“A part of our course is the Archive Project, where the students are given a box of random items that we use to form new work,” explained Nicole, from Airdrie.

“My box contained comics and in there was one about Margaret that had been produced ahead of her receiving her Honorary Degree from the University last year. I started to learn more about Margaret and was blown away about the story of this incredible, selfless woman and what she has achieved.

“I think mum’s are the most amazing people anyway, but to learn about Margaret and what she has achieved to help her daughter is simply incredible and something I wanted to celebrate in my work.”

Born in 1933 and diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) – the medical term for Brittle Bone Disease – Margaret established the Brittle Bone Society in 1968 following the birth of her daughter, Yvonne, who inherited the condition.

With no support and very little medical knowledge of the affliction at that time, Margaret placed an advert in a newspaper looking for other affected people, the first step in forming the society that she hoped would provide Yvonne with the support network she had bravely coped without.

Having raised millions of pounds throughout its 51-year history, the society continues to assist those whose lives are touched by the illness. Such has been the impact of Margaret’s work that in 1989 she was honoured with an MBE, and in 2018 was awarded an Honorary Degree by the University of Dundee.

The four plates created by Nicole represent different milestones in Margaret’s charitable career, highlighting the birth of her daughter, the televised Magpie Appeal from the 1970s that raised significant sums of money for the society, the awarding of her MBE, and the receipt of her Honorary Degree last year. The plates were produced from red clay, a material chosen deliberately by Nicole to represent the fragility felt by those living with OI.

Nicole added, “There are times when I feel stressed about things in life, but this project has allowed me to put things in perspective. Margaret is a truly incredible person and I am thrilled that the Brittle Bone Society has accepted my work.”

Accepting the plates on behalf of the charity, Yvonne Grant, Margaret’s daughter and charity trustee, said, “My mum really appreciates art and used to craft items for sale in the Society’s early days. She is delighted that her story has been chosen as part of Nicole’s studies.

“We wish her well in her exams and thank her for choosing the Brittle Bone Society as a theme for her submission piece.”