Hawick’s James defies MS to prove he’s got write stuff

A budding young writer from Hawick diagnosed with multiple sclerosis four years ago has overcome bouts of ill health and injury to gain a master’s degree from Edinburgh University.

James McPherson.

Life was tough for James McPherson during his year of studying for a degree in creative writing.

Soon after starting his studies, he collapsed in the street after his body went into spasms and he was forced to miss the first few weeks of the course.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Then, at the turn of this year, there was more misfortune when he broke his ankle and had to return to his parents’ home in Hawick to recuperate for two months.

However, he battled on and has been awarded a master’s with merit and is now hoping for a full-time career as a writer.

James, now 28, was 24 when he received the shock news that he had the debilitating condition.

His condition has gradually deteriorated in the last four years and he now gets about with the aid of a four-wheeled walker.

That hasn’t stopped him completing a four-year degree in English literature at Edinburgh Napier University, writing a 20,000-word novella about a lost William Shakepeare play and, in the meantime, working at a bank’s call centre in Edinburgh.

James says he has his parents, Bernadette Ferguson and Alex McPherson, his friends and NHS and social services staff to thank for helping him cope with the setbacks he’s faced.

The former Hawick High School pupil said: “I was diagnosed back in 2015, and it has gradually been getting worse over time.

“It makes it very hard to walk and I use a four-wheeled walker to get about and walking sticks occasionally.

“I have been diagnosed with relapsing and remitting-type MS. However, I have never really had a relapse. It has just become worse over time.

“When I was diagnosed, it was a shock.

“I have dealt with it by having a lot of support from people around me, my family and friends, and a lot of help from the NHS and social services.

“I broke my elbow at the start of this year, so I’m staying with the walker for the moment. Unless things radically change, I’ll be sticking with the walker for the rest of my life essentially.

“One of the hardest things about it is when you have MS, you just have to deal with, so I can’t say what my life is going to be like.

“On one of the first days of going into class, I collapsed in the street, when I was having what I describe as spasms, so I missed the first set of classes for the first few weeks, until I got medication for that.

“After that, I was OK for a while but ended up quitting my job at another call centre because I thought I either have to quit my job or quit the course because I can’t go on working in the condition I was in, and I really wanted to do the course.

“Then at the start of this year, when I was using two sticks in the street, I fell and broke my elbow and I was in Hawick with my parents for two months.

“The way my legs are it makes it very hard for me to walk, and not having the use of one of my arms made it really, really tough.

“I am proud but I don’t want to make a fuss of being disabled and managing to achieve this. I’m just happy that I managed to achieve it.”