Janet Paisley: Falkirk writer’s death is a loss to many

Janet Paisley at her home in Glen Village in 2010
Janet Paisley at her home in Glen Village in 2010

Warm tributes have been paid to the writer Janet Paisley who died on Friday at the age of 70.

Her immense talent made her admired and loved around the world – but nowhere more so than in her home town of Falkirk.

A successful poet, playwright, screenwriter and novelist, she won countless awards and plaudits but she is also remembered by those who knew her as being funny, warm and great company.

Local historian Ian Scott said: “She was one of Falkirk’s great gifts to modern Scottish literature and a champion for writing in the Scots language.”

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Falkirk-born novelist and playwright Alan Bissett, who cites her as a huge inspiration, said: “I believe she was the most important artist, of any kind, Falkirk has ever produced. She was certainly the most important writer.”

Janet Paisley was born in 1948 in Ilford in Essex but moved to Avonbridge as a child and later to Glen Village.

She had six sons and her writing career began after the break-up of her marriage when she had to find a way to look after her family and earn a living.

Her first short story published in 1979 and she went on to publish five collections of poetry, as well as short stories, several scripts for film, television and radio and three critically acclaimed novels.

Ian Scott remembers her well from the 1980s when she was a leading member of Falkirk Writers Circle.

He said: “I recall the circle and the History Society organising a joint competition for a poem about Mary Queen of Scots. There were several excellent entries but Janet’s poem was outstanding.

“Clever, original, bold ... almost shocking but with all the signs of the genius that was to develop.”

There was no doubting her talent and an array of awards followed as she moved effortlessly between genres.

A former primary teacher she was a popular visitor to schools around the country and she also taught creative writing at Glasgow University.

Alan Bissett, who grew up in Hallglen, recalls her as an inspiration.

He said: “She was writing in a broad Falkirk dialect at a time when it would have been more commercial to write in standard English – but it wouldn’t have been authentic.

“That was hugely inspiring to me and to others who were trying to write in an authentic way. She could write in all sorts of styles and on different themes but it always came back to that voice – she had a unique voice.”

But while her writing was authentically Scottish, she was in no way parochial and her work has been translated into several languages including German, Russian, Lithuanian, Spanish, Hungarian,and Ukrainian.

She was confident in her talent without ever being boastful.

“On a personal level, she was wonderful company – she was very funny, with very dry humour,” said Alan.

“Some artists have a swagger and an ego but she was very humble, considering how huge her talent was and she always took the time to encourage other people’s writing.

“She will be hugely missed – her death has left a massive hole in Scottish literary life.”

Ian Scott agrees that her death is a huge loss.

He said: ““She will be greatly missed by all those lucky enough to have known her through her work or in person.”