A haphazard record of experience, feeling and thought . . .
 The McIlvanney Prize - Bloody Scotland 2016

This year’s Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing festival is the first since the passing of the great William McIlvanney, the man who, more than anyone, established the tradition of Scottish detective fiction. Bloody Scotland 2016 is dedicated in his honour and the winner of the Scottish Crime Book of the Year will now be awarded The McIlvanney Prize at an awards ceremony on the opening evening, Friday 9 September, in Stirling. The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones.

Sandstone Press.

 Hugh McIlvanney in conversation with Graham Spiers

Willie's brother, sports journalist Hugh McIlvanney, will be in conversation with Graham Spiers at a number of Scottish venues during September and October 2016. The dates posted so far on Graham's Twitter are as follows: Oran Mor, Glasgow on Sept 29th; The Albert Halls Stirling on 30th Sept; The Brunton, Musselburgh on 1st Oct; University of the West of Scotland, Paisley on 4th Oct; City of Glasgow College on 6th Oct; and Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock on 12th Oct.

Once described as “the greatest sportswriter in the English-speaking world”, Hugh McIlvanney is garlanded with awards and held in as high regard by those he has written about as by his readers.  He remains perceptive and passionate after six decades of travelling the globe to chronicle landmark sporting events, including 11 World Cups and 10 Olympic Games, in a career that has spanned generations of celebrated sporting figures – a veritable A–Z encompassing everyone from Ali to Zidane. - Culture Stirling

 This Website

This website features writing by award-winning author and journalist William McIlvanney. When Willie, Euan and I created it back in 2013, one or two new Dispatches were posted regularly and were archived on this site. A lot of the writing featured was new and unpublished, although extracts from Willie's existing body of work - journalism, essays and short stories - were also included. Willie, whose technological limitations were legendary, was excited about the project. The Personal Dispatches name was chosen by Willie who was keen to see his "fragmentary record" of his personal experience published in print.

In late 2015, Willie's health deteriorated and he died on 5th December. At the time I posted:

"On the 5th of December 2015 my uncle, William McIlvanney, passed away peacefully at home in the presence of those he held dearest – family and friends.
Scotland has lost an inspirational writer as well as a passionate, sincere and eloquent voice. Those closest to him have lost a wonderful partner, brother, father, step-father, grandpa, uncle and friend. We will miss the wisdom and the warmth, the generosity and the kindness, the laughter and the songs. To those who knew him, he was much more than a great writer and his passing leaves an empty space in our lives that even his words can’t fill."       Neil McIlvanney


Click here for all of the Dispatches posted.









To read Doug Johnstone on William McIlvanney click here.
Willie and his website are featured on page 3 of S on S. Click here.

To read Susan Mansfield's article on William McIlvanney click here

 William McIlvanney Remembered                                                  From Willie's Memorial Service, 2nd April 2016

by Hugh McIlvanney
Willie’s literary status and the fact that I was doing some writing of another kind could produce a few peculiar effects years back in our home town of Kilmarnock.  A bar we visited together from time to time was run by a couple we knew quite well and when Marie was in charge she had a standard greeting for us.  “Ahhh,” she would say as we entered, “the Brothers Grimm.”
I don’t think Marie was implying that our company was particularly gothic, though we had to plead guilty to turning barroom discussion a trifle intense occasionally. (Read on)

by Francis Bickmore

Willie and I first met with Jenny Brown, his devoted and tireless agent of recent years. It was in a tent one memorable Edinburgh book festival in 2012. I was immediately in awe and a bit in love with the man.

His composure. The grace of his language. Each sentence considered, correct and transcribable. His handsome face and immaculate suited style, like an Ayrshire Clark Gable. And the dignity with which he spoke.  What an inspiration and example. What a true gentleman. (continue reading)

by Ali Smith

We had no idea how lucky we were about to be.
I was one of the intake of first years at Aberdeen University in 1980.  In those days the notion of a creative writing fellow was exotic.  The notion of meeting a writer at all was quite exotic. The notion that you might be able to show something you’d written to not just a writer, but a writer who’d actually published real books – it was like a dream.  So, first of all, there was that.  And now, when I look back at that time and realise that the writer we were about to meet was Willie – William McIlvanney  – I really can’t believe our luck. (continue reading)
by Hugh MacDonald

There is a voice nagging in my head at the moment. Its familiarity is comforting though its absence beyond my napper is deeply vexing. But it says: “For God’s sake, Hughie, let them away for a hauf.”

In memory of Willie McIlvanney, I will thus be brief. I will also, almost in tribute, stray somewhat from my brief of talking about Willie’s journalism.

Willie, after all, was known to take a commission as a mere suggestion. The eloquence and artistry of this afternoon will thus be replaced here... (continue reading)
by Val McDermid

The last time I saw Willie was not in the flesh but in a recent television documentary about the late, great Jim Baxter. In the documentary, we saw part of Willie’s eulogy to one of the finest footballers Scotland has ever produced and it feels entirely appropriate to me that this was the last glimpse I had of Willie. He was speaking from the heart about a man who was a genuine working class hero, who gave joy to millions. And when I think of Willie as a crime writer, I can never forget the way the Laidlaw trilogy gave a voice to the working class people of Scotland. Like Baxter, Willie was a working class hero whose work embodied grace, elegance and wit. (continue reading)
by Allan Massie

It’s an honour to have been asked by the family -  Siobhan, Liam and Siobhan – to speak about Willie today, and to pay tribute to his life and work.

It’s an honour to have been asked by the family -  Siobhan, Liam and Siobhan – to speak about Willie today, and to pay tribute to his life and work.

There are many here who knew Willie much better than I did. We met only occasionally, corresponded only occasionally. But there was liking and respect, a high regard on my side. (continue reading)

William McIlvanney Remembered                                           From Willie's Funeral Service, 16th December 2015
by Siobhan McIlvanney

Today I would like to read a poem by the American poet Emily Dickinson in memory of my Dad.  I have chosen this poem for a couple of reasons.  First, while my Dad was a very proud Scot, he was also someone who was acutely aware of the importance of openness towards other cultures and languages.  My Dad had a confidence in his own worldview, whether political or literary, which meant he was comfortable with himself and consequently comfortable with digesting an eclectic range of opinions. Which he did  - whether at the level of his literary taste or his daily papers which some of you may be surprised to learn comprised The Herald...  (continue reading)

by Hugh McIlvanney

I hope you’ll forgive me if restraint isn’t particularly conspicuous when I talk about my brother.  I think it’s a realistic hope because so many of you feel, as I do, that Willie was more than a wee bit exceptional.

That I loved him deeply is no more than natural.  Blood alone would account for that.  Our lives could hardly have been more entwined when we were young -- sleeping in the same bed for quite a few of the early years and mingling our boyish adventures and dreams of the future. (continue reading)

 Memorial Service, 2nd April 2016
 William McIlvanney - Obituaries and Tributes

William McIlvanney at the BBC Arts Website   (click on pics below)                    




At the Haye Festival on Sunday June 2nd 2013, Irvine Welsh interviewed William McIlvanney. Check it out here. After one particularly dark question about the socio-economic conditions in eighties Scotland, Irvine lifted the mood with: "Anybody got a question about puppies, bunnies & kittens?" Love it! And what an infectious laugh!

Canongate TV
Check out William McIlvanney in conversation with Doug Johnstone at Canongate TV.

 The Laidlaw Trilogy
 When they were first published, they  won Silver Dagger awards and were  nominated for Edgars. With Canongate  Publishing due to re-launch the Laidlaw  novels, starting  in May 2013, We  feature  extracts from the novels,  selected and  introduced by Willie, as  well as a few interesting extras.
 Sean Connery
 "Any attempt to understand such a life  can’t seek to be definitive.  What it can  possibly do is like archaeology , sink  some speculative shafts into those  times and, from what it finds, elicit  some impression of the nature of the  person, arrive perhaps at the salient  features of the life...".
 "I'm on a late-night train leaving Central  Station. I have the compartment to  myself until the train begins to pull out. I  can hear the scuffling sounds in the  corridor outside that announce the man  with drink taken who has just made it.  Experience tells me he will soon be my  travelling companion. He soon is....".
 TV-ing it...
 "At one stage, being even shorter of  money than usual, I agreed to do a TV  column for the Glasgow Herald. I  enjoyed it but, finding I did virtually no  other writing during that time, I soon  gave it up. A few samples may give a  flavour of that phase, round about 1979  - 1980, I think."
What other people say about William McIlvanney

While putting this site together for Willie, I decided to add some quotes of what people have said about him and his work over the years. Being a modest elder statesman, Willie was less than enthusiastic about the idea. However, despite Willie's objections, I have gone ahead and included the quotes anyway. They make interesting reading.
Neil McIlvanney

‘This is a man temperamentally incapable of writing bad prose’ – Jan Bell

‘Illuminating and thought-provoking’ – Irvine Welsh

‘Delightfully funny’ - Sunday Telegraph

‘On almost every page it offers matter for reflection’ – Scotsman

‘A natural of the transfixing phrase’ – Sunday Times

‘Fiercely evocative and witty with it’ – Literary Review

‘Inspiring and harshly funny’ – David Hughes

‘Brilliant’ – Ken Dunion

‘McIlvanney writes with appealing grace and thoughtfulness’ – Daily Telegraph

‘Telling observation and clear, perceptive writing’ – Spectator

‘Maturely reflective and insightful’ – Rosemary Goring

‘Hilarious, moving and incredibly articulate’ – Irish Times

 ‘Beguilingly brilliant’ Sunday Times
William McIlvanney: Living with Words

Known as the ‘Godfather of Tartan Noir’, William McIlvanney has enjoyed a career resurgence in recent years. Landmark novels like Laidlaw have returned to print and earned him a new generation of admirers whilst Docherty was recently voted one of the top ten Scottish novels of all time. Living with Words, produced by Gill Parry, offers an intimate portrait of McIlvanney in his own words and those of family and colleagues, including his brother, celebrated sports writer Hugh McIlvanney . A welcome profile of a writer whose passionate sense of Scotland and socialist ideals have made him inspirational.

Connectfilm Ltd.

Director: Maurice O’Brien
Cast: William McIlvanney, Hugh          McIlvanney, David          Hayman, Ian Rankin
Year: 2014
Running Time: 30m
Country: UK
  e-mail: neil.mcilvanney@personaldispatches.com