Obituary: Gavin Wallace, 53

Gavin Wallace was very supportive of writers. Picture: Douglas Robertson/SAC
Gavin Wallace was very supportive of writers. Picture: Douglas Robertson/SAC
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GAVIN Wallace – the portfolio manager for literature, publishing and language at arts body Creative Scotland – has died at the age of 53.

He was described by renowned crime novelist Ian Rankin as a great supporter of Scottish writers and a genuine “good guy”.

Gavin’s passion for local literature went as far back as two-and-a-half decades, earning him a doctorate from Edinburgh University in 1987 for his critical study of Sir Compton Mackenzie – a prolific writer best known for Scottish comedies Whisky Galore and The Monarch of the Glen.

Born in Hull, Gavin’s first job in his profession involved working on Scottish culture and political magazine Cencrastus from 1991 to 1994.

He then spent four years co-editing literary journal Edinburgh Review alongside poet and novelist Robert Alan Jamieson.

That experience made Gavin the frontrunner when it came to appointing a deputy head of literature for the Scottish Arts Council in 1996.

Gavin drew on his time spent working as an associate lecturer at Edinburgh University and a two-year lecturing stint in Japan at Shinwa Women’s University.

The overseas tenure was done in the company of long-term partner Pauline Jones, whom he first met as a fellow student at Edinburgh University in 1987.

Ms Jones said the Scottish Arts Council position was the one Gavin had set his heart on.

She said his great strength was his individual support for writers, adding: “It was the logical conclusion of everything he wanted. To get that opportunity to work with Scotland’s literary community was very special to him.”

Gavin was instrumental in setting up the Literature Forum – an assembly of literary and writers’ organisations – that was later disbanded.

He was also a driving force behind Edinburgh’s application to be the world’s first Unesco City of Literature.

Janice Galloway, a Saltire Book of the Year award winner, was among other writers to praise Gavin’s contribution.

She said: “His dedicated love of words and great loyalty to those who struggle to make them into books was invaluable.

“It formed part of what made the 1990s resurgence of work in this country possible.”

Author Rankin said: “When writers had grievances, Gavin was always on their side.

“He didn’t seem to be part of the system, but he always tried to make sure that they got what was their due.

“He was a really good guy to hang out with too.”

Gavin is survived by Ms Jones and their two sons, Patrick, 20, and Alasdair, 15.

An inquest is still to be held to determine the cause of his death.