Irvine Welsh reflects on how he got into drugs during 'reckless' years and cheated death many times

The Edinburgh author said drink, drugs and total recklessness had led to a few ‘close shaves’.
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Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh has spoken out about how he has cheated death at least five times and now feels lucky to be alive.

The award-winning author, who grew up in Leith, revealed in an interview how he’d been ‘reckless’ in his youth but was now feeling more settled and ‘conservative’.

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Tragic events including the deaths of two friends when he was a teenager, a fatal bus crash that left him in hospital and the passing of his father all led Welsh to go through a dark phase of being 'nihilistic’ and getting into heroin, he said.

Irvine Welsh says he's cheated death many timesIrvine Welsh says he's cheated death many times
Irvine Welsh says he's cheated death many times

Two friends died in a crash on the Forth Road Bridge after they stole a vehicle to get them home after a night out. Welsh wasn’t in the vehicle because he left to go and get chips.

In another close call, he had a bad electric shock when he was working as an apprentice TV repairman after leaving school in Edinburgh.

A few years later he was almost killed when a double-decker bus he was travelling on to a Hibs match crashed. Welsh was hurled through the front windscreen onto the motorway near Perth. Another young passenger died.

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Irvine, 64, said in an interview: “I was probably about 19 or 20 when the bus crash happened. Mark was killed and it was a horrible death.

“I had a bad electric shock one time when I was an apprentice and I was hospitalised by that. I had a drowning experience in the Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco, in the pool, in the 1990s. I was saved by a vodka promotions model from Boston.

“They gave me her email and I wrote to her and the first thing she said back was, ‘I don’t know why I was in that pool’ – she was the only other person there – ‘I think God told me to be there.’

“Another time, at a big rave in Chicago, I fell down this mad hole. My mate Bill Hillman just basically swung on the bar and grabbed a hold of me and pulled me back up because it was a massive sheer drop.”

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He told the Sunday Mail: “One was getting arrested at eight years old for playing football in the street. The other one was the bus crash, which was compounded with my dad’s death at the same time.

“The bus crash was almost the start of me getting involved in hard drugs. I was getting involved with heroin. The old man had died, I almost died myself in this bus crash – and a young guy died in it – so there was a nihilistic thing, like, ‘What the f*** is this all about? I’ll just do what I want to do and I don’t care,’ basically.

“Another thing was that a couple of pals died when I was 16. We were all, four of us, out for a night out on the town and they nicked a car to get back to the scheme and they crashed on the Forth Road Bridge and they died.

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“The only reason me and the other guy didn’t was we weren’t in the car because we were in the chip shop.”

The second series of TV hit drama Crime, set in Edinburgh, started on ITVX last week. Crime, written by Welsh and Dean Cavanagh, won Dougray Scott an International Emmy Award.