Monday, 4 April 2016

Just the Other Side of Nowhere

Writing this 'Sunday morning (coming down)' in Glasgow, reflecting on the Willie McIlvanney memorial service yesterday. Kris Kristofferson's song about a Sunday comes to mind because Saturday's service concluded with a slideshow of photographs of Willie from childhood to old age set to the accompanyment of Kris singing 'Just the Other side of Nowhere'.

The last item on the formal service programme was a video of Willie himself reading his poem 'Bless this House'.  It is his vision of a Glasgow house where he'd shared digs with a myriad of young people on their way to adulthood. His wonderful perceptive eye, his kindness, his questioning, his love of people with all their errors, hopes and dreams was a perfect finale to our time contemplating the man, the intellectual, the artist, the thinker, the writer, the charismatic human being that Willie was.

Conferment of Honorary Degree by University of Glasgow

I felt privileged to sit in that audience at the Bute Hall, all of whom loved Willie in their own way. Later some of us sat together at Oran Mhor and talked of how we at Bloody Scotland in particular would continue his legacy. He is, was, and will forever be, the heart of Bloody Scotland. Our own Godfather. But his legacy is so much greater than that.

Ali Smith

Listening to the writer Ali Smith talk of her days as a student of Willie's at Aberdeen University, and the renaissance Willie had thanks to Canongate, a tale beautifully told by Francis Bickmore, and seeing images of the covers of his books in a myriad of languages, told a tale of an international literary star, once almost forgotten, but no longer.

Francis Bickmore of Canongate

The ordinary people Willie wrote about never forgot him however. They still approached him in the street to thank him for his words. They slipped notes along counters at pubs that simply said 'thank you for the books'. He was ever one of theirs. He is ever one of ours.

To Willie... Thank you.