Feb 24 2010 by Judith Tonner, Airdrie & Coatbridge
John and Margaret Mallaghan
A FORMER Calderbank resident has published a book inspired by poems written by his inspirational father.
John Mallaghan has produced a “fictionalised memoir” entitled The Knitter, telling the stories of his family and their life in Airdrie.
It is named after his favourite of the many poems written by his coal miner father John senior, and derives its themes and structure from his dad’s writings.
Author John said: “The background to the original poem is that life is about a collection of memories, people and family.
“The book is a memory tale, intermingling my memories of growing up around here and a lot of my dad’s stories which came from his poems; for some of those, I had to think up the detail as they’re from before I was born.
“It’s set in and around Calderbank and spans a large part of the 20th century – I've tried to bring to life a unique place, the unforgettable characters who lived there and the vivid language they used!
“A lot of people who read it will know the family and recognise people and places as it’s very much about the Airdrie area.
“It’s written as a collection of self-contained stories where a bunch of themes go all the way through, and it bounces back and forward in time.
“My dad wrote poems all through his life, and before he died I started to read them again and be inspired by them.
“The idea of writing a book started to gel over a year or two and it took 18 months to write the first draft; I found that it flowed quite easily and I’ve been very heartened by the good feedback so far.”
John was brought up in Calderbank, where his mother Margaret, 96 – the subject of The Knitter poem – still lives; and he is a former pupil of St Patrick’s High in Coatbridge.
Now living near London, having moved south 30 years ago having graduated from Strathclyde University, he wanted to write his first book in celebration of his father’s fascinating life and talents.
He said: “My dad spent his working life either down a coalmine or working above one, with a break somewhere along the way to help the country fight a war.
“With no formal training, he spent the rest of his time raising a family and writing poems, reading philosophy books, painting beautiful canvasses, and playing piano, accordion, mouth organ and anything else he could use to make music.
“Even though I’ve been in England for a long time now, my memories of this area – Calderbank, Chapelhall and Airdrie – have stayed very strong.
“I plan to spend this year promoting the book and hope it will become as successful as possible; I’d love to go on to write another so we’ll see how it goes with the feedback from this one.”
John’s book is available from online retailers and from his own website, www.theknitterbook.com, where visitors can read extracts and listen to readings of his father’s original poems as well as ordering signed copies.