William Angus McIlvanney

Biography of William Angus McIlvanney

William Angus McIlvanney was posthumously awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature (DLitt) at a memorial service in Bute Hall in April 2016 for his outstanding contribution to Scottish literature.

William McIlvanney was born November 1936 in Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, the son of a miner. He graduated from English at the University of Glasgow in 1960. After this he worked as a teacher prior to becoming a full-time writer. He wrote nine books of fiction, three books of poetry, and also radio and television scripts and dozens of pieces of journalism. His crime novel Laidlaw, published in 1977 is credited as being the first example of the Scottish crime fiction genre which became known as “tartan noir”, although he disliked this term and saw “police procedural” merely as another genre to be used in his characteristic exploration of the bad things humans do to one another.

He won many prizes during his career as a crime fiction writer: the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Whitbread prize, the Glasgow Herald People’s Award and the Crime Writers’ Association Macallan Silver Dagger (twice). He also won a BAFTA for a screenplay he wrote based on his short story, ‘Dreaming’. In 2013 he was awarded the Saltire Fletcher of Saltoun Award, for his ‘outstanding contribution to Scotland’s life and culture’.

Respected by writers and other professionals, he received many tributes following his death in December 2015, aged 79. Fellow crime writer Val McDermid doubted that she would be a writer without him, “he shouldered open a door.” Actor David Hayman thanked him for embellishing and enriching our lives, saying, “a light has gone from the earth with that passing. Take care, big man."

William McIllvanney is survived by his partner, Siobhan Lynch, his daughter, Dr Siobhan McIlvanney, and his brother, sports journalist Hugh MacDonald.


William Angus McIlvanney
Born 25 November 1936.
Died 5 December 2015.
University Link: Alumnus, Honorary Graduate
GU Degrees: DLitt, 2016; MA, 1960; English,
Occupation categories: teacher; Writer
Record last updated: 3rd Jun 2016

University Connections

University Roles

  • Alumnus
  • Honorary Graduate

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