Ross Duncan interviews Rev Margaret Shuttleworth- Church of Scotland

It was reported in 2015 that the Chaplin for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, Rev Murray McBride, was dyslexic and running a very successful dyslexia support group for his local fire service and for local Ministers. Rev Margaret Shuttleworth, the Minister for Sauchie and Coalsnaughton Parish in Clackmannanshire, is unaware of any support offered to Ministers who are dyslexic. But she admits that there is a danger because of the emphasis placed on the word ‘Dyslexia’.  There is a real danger that those who are dyslexic can be excluded, where the mission of the church is always to the margins. For the church to be properly involved will require the need for a central champion or an advocate to bring awareness of the issues to the whole church.

It’s not that uncommon having that awkward feeling being preached to by someone in a lofty position whom you, frankly, don’t agree with.

In October 2017, Keith Brown MSP invited one of his constituents to give a short portrait about a time of Reflection at an assembled audience of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and to give a description of their life with dyslexia.  When Rev. Margaret Shuttleworth stood to speak, she wasn’t preaching, she was informed as a person of impassioned authority to an elected legislative authority.  For Rev Shuttleworth it was an honour to be allowed to tell her story because had she been asked years earlier she would have refused.  Her opinion is that dyslexia goes beyond an education deficit, it affects the whole view of yourself.  She doesn’t want to embrace it, she wants to strangle it.

Like a number of people with dyslexia, who have been identified post mainstream education, this has meant years of struggle and difficulties.  Likewise, Rev. Shuttleworth she only found out at the age of 47.  Much of her educational experience was spent in, as it was known at the time, remedial class.  There she felt bullied and would have done anything not to be at school.  Her difficulties at school was reading, reading out aloud and writing of any kind.  Trying to be kind and helpful one of her teachers advised her to try a career in hairdressing.  She was eventually to leave school with no qualifications.  The generation at the time went on to join a government backed schemes like Youth Training Scheme, specifically set up to give school leavers work experience that would eventually lead to a permanent job. Or at least that was the hope.  Rev. Shuttleworth’s achievement expectations were either low or non-existent.  Even now, knowing what she has achieved, she thinks her teachers would have been astonished.  With confidence she now no longer considers herself to be stupid when in the past she may have measured herself against clever people who assumed she was stupid.  In fact, the company she kept tended to be those who found education and had achieved.

Ross Duncan

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