Margaret Thomas Johnston Grant neeWilson was born on 29th June 1933. Her mother was Margaret Johnston, a school catering assistant and jute mill worker at Cox’s Mill, Dundee; her father Charles Wilson was a lead painter at the docks.  She was born with a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) more commonly known as Brittle Bones; the name means just that: bones break very easily. Some people have a mild version, but Margaret’s was moderate to severe and slowly deteriorated. The condition put her in a wheelchair by the time she was in her mid-30’s. In the course of her life she had approximately 400 breaks; she never really counted the small digits such as toes or fingers. 

Although she was intelligent Margaret had very little formal education, attending the Trefoil School in St Abbs between the ages of 13 and16. She then worked as a Printer’s Assistant in the company Valentines of Dundee. In 1960 she married David Grant, whom she met at a country ceilidh at a local church. Margaret was selling the tickets and had made the costumes for her brother’s Scottish dance group, her brother had the dance team and David bought a ticket to the event at the church. 

The next year they had a daughter, Yvonne, who was born with inherited BB.

 Our daughter’s birth brought many cheers
 But all too soon they turned to tears.
 Alas, the doctors were proved wrong,
 Our daughter’s bones were not strong.

When Yvonne was born in 1961 Margaret left work. Nothing much had changed for sufferers with BB. No support, no extra finance. Something had to be done. Margaret wrote to hospitals and put an article in the Sunday Post; twelve families responded, and so the Brittle Bone Society (BBS) was created in 1968, with Margaret its driving force. It was the first charity organisation for brittle bone sufferers in the world and is still (2021) the only charity organisation in the UK for the condition.  

Margaret collaborated with friends in USA and helped set up the European collective of patient organisations (OIFE).  Awards: The Norman Kark Award Disabled Scott of the Year, Dundee Citizen of the year 1975, OIF Award 1990, Tunstall Telecoms National Caring Award. In 1989 she was awarded an MBE and in 2018 she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of Dundee in the Golden Anniversary of the Brittle Bone Society from the city that she loved and admired.

Her work was, remember, all done from a wheelchair, with huge support from David, who could sometimes be seen pushing two chairs at once. They lived in a 2-bedroom  council house (where the BBS was started) and were also stressed financially. In 1968 her husband David was made redundant but they always managed to go to visit their daughter Yvonne at school in Edinburgh, even although this meant selling their possessions to do so. Yvonne then had employment in a photographic firm before gaining a degree in Information Management from the University of Abertay Dundee.

At last the government began to recognise families’ needs. Margaret got a car (Morris Minor) but she was required to keep it in a garage so had to sell belongings to buy one.

The BBS went steadily forward. Meetings were always very important, as OI sufferers more often than not felt very isolated. She felt especially fond of child sufferers.  1972 saw their first newsletter, and in 1974 Nuffield funded a first research grant. There followed a national conference and scientific symposium, with the first support grants shortly after. The 1977 AGM was held in Surrey and on TV the popular ‘Magpie’ programme made an appeal and raised £350,000 (the equivalent of £2.4 million in 2020).

 In 1978 two separate caravans were bought, one in Monifieth and the other on the Isle of Wight. During 1979 the office at City Road (a former baker’s) was turned partially into a charity shop. In 1982 the First International gathering was held at St Andrews College, Edinburgh.

In 2010 she and David fund-raised for their golden wedding, and the next year for her 80th birthday. Her last seven years were difficult, but she died peacefully at home on 2nd December 2020 at the age of 87.

By this time the BBS had thousands of members and worked with NHS and medical foundations.

 In 2010 Patricia Osborne was appointed as CEO. The charity continues to offer support to the OI community, and host numerous events and meetings. They still fundraise for specialised wheelchairs and equipment. They are members of the AMRC Association of Medical Research Charities, with their own Medical Advisory Board and Scientific Advisory Board with healthcare professionals from around the UK who specialise in metabolic bone health.

The Society remains active and forward-looking; documentation is held in Dundee University archives, and BBS gifted their archive materials to the University of Dundee in 2011 (History Bones) Archive which is being carefully catalogued for future projects at the University.

Let’s end with Margaret’s own words: 

“ May the only bone that is broken be the Wishbone, and not those of little Children.”