Margaret of Beverley by Will Bailey-Watson (Institute of Education, PGCE History lead) #HistoricalDesertIslandDiscs

Our second blog from the Institute of Education here at Reading comes from PGCE Secondary History Lead Will Bailey-Watson. We all love working with Will and his prospective history teachers here in the History Department; the relationship Will has forged challenges all of us to think about how History is taught in Schools and develop our own strategies for the transition from A level to University. Over to Mr Bailey-Watson Sir…


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Today’s castaway is Margaret of Beverley, a devoutly pious woman for whom a life on a desert island would have been no less unusual than the one she actually lived.
Margaret was born in Palestine in the 12th century. Her first disc would need to reflect her unconventional upbringing. As her intrepid parents journeyed home to Yorkshire with young Margaret, she recalled her dad having to defend the family from a ravenous wolf, so maybe she’d start with a bit of Duran Duran.

Duran Duran – Hungry Like the Wolf

Straddle the line in discord and rhyme
I’m on the hunt, I’m after you
Mouth is alive with juices like wine
And I’m hungry like the wolf


Van Morrison – Be Thou my Vision

Be Thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight
Be Thou my armor and be Thou my might
Thou my soul shelter, and Thy my high tower
Raise Thou me heavenwards, oh power of my power

Margaret spent the remainder of her childhood in Yorkshire, and by 11 she had to educate her brother, Thomas. In the 1180s, she decided to return to the Holy Land and arrived in Jerusalem not long before Salah ad-Din’s army reclaimed that most prized of cities. Margaret famously claims to have been stood on the ramparts with a cooking pot on her head, firing making shift missiles at the Muslim forces. Van Morrison would allow her to combine her gung-ho spirit with her religious fervour.

Destiny’s Child – Survivor

We comin’ in this game like some survivor’s
And we leavin’ this game like some survivor’s
So from now, until we dead and gone
We gon’ be some survivors, ya heard me?

For 15 days Margaret was on the front line of battle. She was hit, wounded, bloodied, and carried the scars for the rest of her life. Perhaps she would choose Beyonce and co. at their anthemic best for her third disc.

Fontella Bass – Rescue Me

Come on baby and rescue me
‘Coz I need you

Despite managing to pay her share of Salah ad-Din’s ransom price, Margaret was captured after leaving Jerusalem and spent 15 months in slavery. She later recalled the ‘chains rusted from my tears’. It wasn’t until a benevolent stranger paid for her release that she was let go. Margaret would need something euphoric and uplifting to bring back those memories.

Bob Dylan – Only a Hobo

A blanket of newspaper covered his head,
As the curb was his pillow, the street was his bed.
One look at his face showed the hard road he’d come
And a fistful of coins showed the money he bummed.

This was by no means the end of Margaret’s woes however. For several months she roamed the near East, garbed in little more than a sack. When bread wasn’t available she ate the roots of plants. Perhaps Bob Dylan would have captured her feelings for disc number 5.

Tina Turner – Proud Mary 

You know that big wheel keep on turning
Proud Mary keep on burning

Disaster struck again for Beverley when, for the second time, she stumbled into the heightened tensions of the Third Crusade. This time a Muslim army at Antioch believed she had been plundering from the dead. Her life was only spared when she invoked the power of Mary, thus converting the leader of the executing party. A bit of Tina Turner would have captured Margaret’s mood as she finally headed home.

Otis Redding – Sittin’ on the Dock of Bay

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes

On the way home, Margaret learned that her brother Thomas was in France, living as a monk. He convinced her to join a nunnery and Margaret spent the last two decades of her life in relative peace. After the incredible life she’d lived thus far, something wistful and calming would highlight the change of pace for the penultimate disc.

The Cast of Hamilton –  Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story 

But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame?
Who tells your story?

Finally, surely even Margaret would have to concede that what we know about her life doesn’t give us the fullest picture of events. She told the story of her adventures to her brother, and this devout pair wrote it as a series of leonine verses. As Aaron Burr muses in Hamilton, it really matters who tells your story…


A book for the island: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, simply because I think she might feel an affinity with Anya.

Luxury item: Margaret’s story has captured people’s imagination in part because of the weaponizing of a cooking pot. I’d like to think that Margaret’s sense of humour would have stretched to recognising the absurdity of this image. Therefore, I think she might have chosen MOB Cookbook, so she can continue using that famous cauldron on her desert island.


Those who can


You can find out more about Will and his incredible work as Subject Lead for PGCE Secondary History here Will Bailey-Watson, Institute of Education, University of Reading

You can also find Will on Twitter @mrwbw and his inspirational podcast series including the reflective series for teachers Those Who Can 

You can also find out more about PGCE History at the Institute of Education University of Reading here: PGCE History at the University of Reading

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