Clare Downham (L 91-93) has written as follows:

 “I studied at St Bees at sixth form level, having already received a super education at Brine Leas Comprehensive School. Back then, I didn’t really like the idea of going into private education. As one of my father’s friends commented at the time, ‘it will be like a finishing school’, to which my reply was ‘what, you mean likely to finish me off?’. However, I have very fond memories of my two years at St Bees, especially the camaraderie and location. I enjoyed the forays into the Lake District for ‘adventure training’ (one of the sporting options) and other forays more locally along the coast and around the village.
After school I took a Medieval History degree at St Andrews, where I developed an interest in Scottish and Welsh history. To pursue this further I started a second undergraduate degree in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Cambridge. After receiving first class marks in all courses, I continued to a PhD. Cambridge was great for me. I had struggled with underconfidence before (I recall collecting a few ‘omega’ tri-weekly marks in History at St Bees) and it was wonderful to find something which I both enjoyed and at which I was capable. I spent two years of my studies living in Dublin and then took a job in the Celtic department at Aberdeen University. Earlier this year I joined Liverpool University to work in the Irish Studies Institute. The Institute, particularly its Director, has been involved in the Northern Ireland peace process. This has heightened my awareness of how perceptions of history influence identities and help to negotiate political situations in the present.

I love both teaching and research - although increasing pressures in higher education risk diminishing quality and placing a huge economic burden on students (a real worry for the future). My research to date has focused on the Viking Age in Britain and Ireland (on which topic I have published a book and over twenty articles), but I have always retained my interest in the North West. To this end I have published a small article on St Bega and currently manage a research project on the medieval author ‘Jocelin of Furness’ (a project co-run with Fiona Edmonds at Cambridge University). For anyone who may be interested in medieval Furness, we are holding a public conference ‘Medieval Furness: Texts and Contexts’ in Barrow-in-Furness on 8th July 2011. The aim is to boost awareness of the region’s heritage through research and publication, so please feel free to get in touch for more information. On a family note, my sister Christina (L 06-08) also studied at St Bees and is doing very well in her medical degree at the University of Aberdeen, where she is also an active member of the Officer Training Corps. My partner David and I have a four year old daughter Jenny, who brings much joy.”

The St. Beghian Society,    St. Bees School,    St. Bees,    Cumbria,    CA27 0DS.
Tel: 01946 828093     Email: