Saturday, 9 February 2013

Gavin Wallace

I was very sad to learn of the death this week  of Gavin Wallace - with the portfolio ('whatever that is', as he is reported to have said) of head of the Literature at Creative Scotland, (the Scottish Arts Council). Latterly in charge of bursaries.  He was that rare thing, the friendly face of bureaucracy.

I am one of the myriad of writers, and in my case poet, who will always remember him as someone who made a huge difference in their lives.  By awarding me a New Writer's Bursary in 2007, he not only gave me money for time to concentrate on my poetry, but it was the first official recognition that yes, maybe I could consider myself a poet.  The money was not large, but the sense of encouragement and self-belief was immeasurable.

I cannot say I knew Dr Wallace well but I did meet him.  We were standing in a queue together, by chance, for an event at the Edinburgh International Book Fair and as the queue inched forward, I plucked up courage to introduce myself and tell him how grateful I was for the bursary, and what a difference it had made to me.  I apologized that I had not yet found a publisher for my poetry pamphlet.

Gavin (as I think of him, rather than Dr Wallace) was not at all intimidating but pleasant and interested and said that he had not expected me to find a publisher so quickly, and  not to worry...that it usually took some time, but that the main aim was to encourage and he was so pleased that the bursary had done that.  We went on to discuss whichever poet it was we were queuing to see.

Over the years, Creative Scotland (aka Gavin Wallace) have awarded me several grants for my trips to Shetland to work on my poetry and each time I have known it came from Gavin, not a faceless bureaucrat, (though I suppose there is also a committee, but in which he would have had the final say.)
So I remember him with great warmth and sadness that Gavin will not know that my pamphlet has indeed been accepted for publication.  Also sadness that he should have died so young, in his fifties and my condolences go to his family.

See  Gavin Wallace obituary Scotsman

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