As a photojournalist who has worked regularly in Africa I have always been exasperated by UK media coverage of the African continent. My biggest irritation is the persistent and biased coverage of Zimbabwe. So it was with great pleasure that I came across a piercing letter to the editor in the Guardian. Two short yet poignant sentences suggested that the journalist responsible for the very one dimensional article on President Mugabe should read more British Imperial history; signed Willy Maley University of Glasgow. As a (photo) journalist I have worked with many academics, often historians or anthropologists. Impressed as I was by their abundance of knowledge, I often thought that they were slightly “weltfremd” (Quixotic). This is not the case with Willy; he does not embrace academia to protect himself from the world. He does exactly the opposite, he utilizes it to engage. Willy Maley’s vast academic proficiency in combination with a very informed grasp on contemporary society provides him with unique insights. This sharpened awareness is of great value to both his students and his readers.
Pieter van der Houwen, photojournalist
I first met Dr Willy Maley in 1992 when he was the co-writer of “The Lions of Lisbon” with Ian Auld, a play that celebrated the 25th anniversary of Celtic winning the European Cup; I was an actor in the play. The play was a success and went to community venues throughout Glasgow before eventually going to The Tron Theatre. Firstly, Willy was obviously an intelligent, thoughtful man. He was happy that Ian was getting deserved credit for writing the play and he played his own contribution down. He was happy to see the audience/supporters enjoying the performances. I also realised that while Willy is obviously an academic he has a love of Celtic Football Club and the culture that surrounds it that rivals my own. I liked to try and catch him out with obscure, some would say “get a life” facts about Celtic and he always had an answer, before testing me with an obscure fact of his own. The experience in 1992 left me with genuine affection and admiration for Willy.
His generosity of spirit and enthusiasm meant it was always a pleasure to come across him in the years that followed. I watched in admiration as Willy’s academic career went from strength to strength and with envy as he wrote articles for The Celtic View and The Celtic Opus. Then I did a tour of “From the Calton to Catalonia” as a series of rehearsed readings as a director. Willy had co-written the play in the early 1990’s with his brother John. The subject matter was The Spanish Civil War and Willy and John had real knowledge and passion about the subject matter as their father James Maley had been a prisoner of war held by Franco’s forces during that conflict. It was easy to reconnect with Willy – his enthusiasm and passion hadn’t diminished in the intervening years.
In 2017 we turned full circle as I mounted a series of rehearsed readings of “The Lions of Lisbon” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Celtic’s finest moment. I spoke to Willy about adapting and updating the play, which he agreed with and allowed me to do. This again was something I admired about him. There is no ego there or want of personal glory, he is all about the team and is delighted that he and Ian’s play is getting a further life. We did another short tour in 2018 and have another planned in 2019, so we are still going strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up doing another project with Willy because I admire and like him and hope to be testing him with more obscure Celtic facts in 25 years’ time. Martin McCardie, writer and director
I think seeing inside Willy’s brain would be like watching a very expensive pyrotechnical show of electrifying neural activity. For such a respected academic Willy Maley has a highly developed sense of the absurd. This makes him one of the funniest people on the planet. He could have taken the easy (for him) route and become a world class comedian but academia’s gain has been comedy’s loss.
Laura Marney, writer and tutor
When I first met Willy in 1996 he was my PhD supervisor, and at our meeting in the old English Literature department in the West Quadrangle, I thought I’d met a garrulous Glaswegian cross between a member of The Pogues and a young William Shakespeare. Coming from Phoenix, Arizona, I think I understood about 60 percent of his quick and witty patter, but his personal concern for my PhD project was clear. We met pretty much every two weeks for years in his cramped office and during that time he patiently mentored me as an academic researcher and teacher in the best democratic Scottish tradition—open, generous, and warmly encouraging. He was always in my corner, as a steady advocate for my career and ready emergency helper during times of challenge. I’m now settled in Scotland, with a family, career and love of Celtic inherited from Willy and he is a principal reason for this materialisation of my life in Caledonia. He’s also my colleague now, just down the stairs, and a welcome friendly face that I’m lucky to see at work. Thanks Willy!
Alex Benchimol, lecturer
Willy was in at the beginning, middle and end of my novel Cold City. I would have given up a dozen times if he hadn’t talked me round – I couldn’t have done it without his insight, guidance and support. Like so many other writers in Scotland today, I’m proud to be one of Maley’s people.
Cathy McSporran, writer and tutor
What to say about Willy Maley? First and foremost, he feels like a brother to me. My brothers emigrated 40 years ago and having known Willy for thirty or more, I adopted him as a bro. And he has not failed. I know if I needed any thing, he would do his best. Heart solid and true. Willy has ever exceeded all expectations of his students at Glasgow university. I know he puts in time like few others in that regard and this clearly demonstrates his absolute commitment in facilitating their aims and resilience. Head and heart on the task. His political credibility and knowledge is an inspiration to listen to. He has a glance that rests into preparation for the onslaught of detail and research to support his position but he picks his targets with due care. Teaching with empathy.Watching him happy and free on the dancefloor with Dini makes me smile with my heart when I am up there singing because I know he has ALMOST given that huge mind a wee rest. The dancer, his family, his friendships, Celtic football team – what can I say? There he is, the Malium. (My wee nickname).
Linda Jackson, singer, writer, tutor
Testimonials from Willy’s previous website:
“Willy Maley is an ebullient, schtreetschmart, Derrida reading facilitator of so much modern Scottish literature, as head of creative writing at Glasgow University. He’s also a pal I don’t make enough of (NewYear resolution No. 303). But after denying himself the right for years, he’s now writing himself, and the results are as impressive as I would have expected. (BTW, his Glaswegian dad fought in the Spanish CivilWar as an antiFascist communist, so you can imagine that in the West of Scotland, Maley can dine out on that forever).”
Pat Kane, musician, writer and activist
“Trickster, enthusiast, wily wordsmith, potent punner,speedtalker, scholar, encyclopaedist (with muchbetween the lugs), Maley is the warmhearted dynamo that nestles at the centre of so much that is good about Scotland and its writing. No one can match him for sheer energy and generosity of spirit, for his wild spinning of first class ideas, for the recognition, joy and encouragement he brings to new work and new writing. If he didn’t exist it would be necessary to invent him, though how one would go about getting the recipe is anyone’s guess. Most of all, it’s the democratic spirit he brings to art and to life which is so necessary and meaningful. If he was a sign in Scottish semiotics he would read: THE FUTURE IS NOW!”
Marc Lambert, CEO Scottish Book Trust
Willy Maley is Glasgow University’s finest literary cheerleader, a great supporter of writers at all stages of development, and was key in encouraging me long before I showed any real promise. Without Willy, me and others like me may never have become writers at all. But as well as being a fantastic talent spotter and teacher he is also the University’s High Master of Bad Puns, something I thoroughly disapprove of!”
Rodge Glass, writer, tutor, and biographer of Alasdair Gray
“As a creative writing tutor, Willy Maley is endlessly generous with his time and wonderfuly supportive of his current and former students. He has a sharp critical eye and a huge range of knowledge about writing. Willy is wonderful at making connections; rather than tell you what’s wrong he does it by pointing you in the direction of someone who got it right. When I was struggling with an ending he suggested I go and read a particular short story, very different from mine. Immediately I understood what was wrong. I am eternally grateful for Willy’s encourgement and help.”
Anne Donovan, author of Buddha Da
“I was demolishing a peat shed in Orkney, in my mother’s garden, when I got an email from Willy telling me I should send my novel to Penguin. If I’d been at my desk in Glasgow, reticence would have kicked in: What novel? It’s not ready to send out. His timing was great – the sledgehammer worked as effectively on my inhibitions as it did on the shed. It is one of Willy’s great skills that he sees the opportunities for writers to publish their work, before they do themselves. He represents the missing parts of many writers’ personalities: the extrovert, upbeat, optimistic bits that they need when they emerge blinking into the light from self imposed isolation and introspection and wonder what to do with what they’ve written. For a professor on the Creative Writing course, this is an extremely valuable, occasionally maddening attribute. Many times during and since my time on the course, Willy and I have had robust discussions and sometimes fierce disagreements about politics, literature, the nature of the course, among other things. Thanks to his passionate engagement with all of these (often masked by terrible puns!) we’ve never managed to fall out yet …”
Alison Miller – Author of Demo
“I think of Willy as the reader par excellence. He’s read all my books in their various draft stages, and his observations have always been trenchant, but it’s more than that; I don’t know anyone else so well and widely read. Willy has a kind of Rolodex brain: pick a subject and he’ll flick through his internal card index and name the key works to consult. Five minutes with Willy, and your research horizons have already expanded. My prediction: come the middle of the century, he’ll be the linking element in any number of literary biographies.’’
Rachel Seiffert – Author of The Dark Room
“When I first met Willy Maley, I suspected there were a few screws missing. Now I KNOW the missing screw toll to be very high indeed. But what a charming man, despite his many quirks. I will never forget the first day of the MPhil in Creative Writing meeting the tutors and students. That was when I had my first encounter with Greatness. Then I met Willy Maley! boom boom! And was lucky enough to secure his services as my tutor. When I first went to University, decades ago I was in a bit of a state, drunk morning noon and night. When I sat my final English exam, my tutor hissed: “I didn’t know you were doing English. Thirty years later, I, literally, could not wait to get to my tutorials with Prof Maley. I always arrived exactly one hour before, sat in the café beneath his old room and prepared myself. OK, I admit, I have always liked the younger man, as Willy was back then, in 2005, nothing but a black bearded man boy with a gold hoop earring. So much can change in the space of three short years. No matter. He helped me begin to believe in myself; in the writing I was so desperate to do. He listened, he encouraged, he never talked down to me. Here was an academic who spoke my language. No matter how unpleasant the ramblings of my painful past, Willy forced me to jot them all down in book form .I never expected to have (my book) Mother’s Ruin published. Nor did I expect my life to turn out as happily as it seems to be doing at the moment. Professor Maley had more to do with all of this than he will ever really know.
Nicola Barry – author of Mothers Ruin