Margaret returned to higher education in 2014, studying for a Master of Research on a part time basis whilst still working full-time as a teacher. She graduated from the course with a distinction but her journey with Ulster University was only just beginning.
“The MRes programme was a turning point for me as far as my career was concerned; my passion for learning was rekindled. Having taken encouragement and being inspired by my research supervisor, Dr Peter Smith, I decided to apply for a career break and a scholarship that would enable me to become a PhD researcher. In September 2017, having won a research scholarship, I enrolled as a full-time researcher at Magee.”
Margaret’s PhD project was entitled Paidreacha Traidisiúnta, Dánta Diaga agus Stair na Comhaimsire:
Lánléargas ar Mheon Spioradálta Chaitlicigh Uladh, ón Ochtú hAois Déag go dtí an Fichiú hAois (Traditional Prayers, Religious Poetry and Contemporary History: A Panorama of the Mindset of the Catholics of Ulster, from the Eighteenth Century to the Twentieth Century).
The research was conducted through the lens of a thoroughgoing examination of a representative corpus of religious text in verse form that had its roots in the Counter Reformation of the 17th century but evolved during the Penal Era of the 18th century.
Margaret compiled and analysed a corpus of traditional prayers and religious poetry and completed a contextualising study of contemporary social and political history.
Central themes of the prayers and poems were examined and correlated with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Reference was also made to popular non-orthodox religious beliefs in Ireland.
Margaret embraced her new role as PhD researcher with diligence and enthusiasm,
“As a native Irish speaker from the townland of Mín Doire Dhamh in the Gaeltacht parish of Gaoth Dobhair in northwest Donegal, it is not surprising that I possess a deep-rooted love and passion for my mother tongue.
“I was blessed to have two experts to guide me on my path of discovery, i.e. Dr Peter Smith, whom I previously mentioned, and Dr Éamonn Ó Ciardha. Dr Smith is a Reader in Irish and course director while Dr Ó Ciardha is a renowned historian. I will always be indebted to these fir uaisle for unconditionally sharing their in-depth knowledge and wisdom with me along with countless numbers of books from their own personal and private libraries.”
From day one Margaret was determined to finish the programme within the allocated three year period and graduate in the winter of 2020.
“I remained motivated throughout, and I am proud and delighted that I managed to achieve my goal.”