44 Facts About Alasdair Gray


Alasdair James Gray was a Scottish writer and artist.


Alasdair Gray published novels, short stories, plays, poetry and translations, and wrote on politics and the history of English and Scots literature.


Alasdair Gray studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1952 to 1957.


Alasdair Gray's artwork has been widely exhibited and is in several important collections.


Alasdair Gray's writing style is postmodern and has been compared with those of Franz Kafka, George Orwell, Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino.


Alasdair Gray was writer-in-residence at the University of Glasgow from 1977 to 1979, and professor of Creative Writing at Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities from 2001 to 2003.


Alasdair Gray popularised the epigram "Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation" which was engraved in the Canongate Wall of the Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh when it opened in 2004.


Alasdair Gray lived almost all his life in Glasgow, married twice, and had one son.


Alasdair Gray worked for many years in a factory making boxes, often went hillwalking, and helped found the Scottish Youth Hostels Association.


Alasdair Gray's mother was Amy, whose parents had moved to Scotland from Lincolnshire because her father had been blacklisted in England for trade union membership.


Alasdair Gray was born in Riddrie in north-east Glasgow on 28 December 1934; his sister Mora was born two years later.


Alasdair Gray frequently visited the public library; he enjoyed the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, and comics like The Beano and The Dandy.


Alasdair Gray's family lived on a council estate in Riddrie, and he attended Whitehill Secondary School, where he was made editor of the school magazine and won prizes for Art and English.


When he was eleven Alasdair Gray appeared on BBC children's radio reading from an adaptation of one of Aesop's Fables, and he started writing short stories as a teenager.


Alasdair Gray's mother died of cancer when he was eighteen; in the same year he enrolled at Glasgow School of Art.


Alasdair Gray completed the first book in 1963; it was rejected by the Curtis Brown literary agency.


In 1957 Alasdair Gray graduated from art school with a degree in Design and Mural Painting.


Alasdair Gray had an eight-year relationship with Danish jeweller Bethsy Gray and was married to Morag McAlpine from 1991 until her death in 2014.


Alasdair Gray produced hundreds of drawings of the city, including portraits of politicians, people in the arts, members of the general public and workplaces with workers.


In 2007 Alasdair Gray began working with gallerist Sorcha Dallas who, over the 14 years they worked together, developed interest in his visual practice brokering sales to major collections including the Arts Council of England, the Scottish National Galleries and the Tate.


Alasdair Gray said that he found writing tiring, but that painting gave him energy.


Alasdair Gray's first plays were broadcast on radio and television in 1968.


Alasdair Gray regarded 1982, Janine, published in 1984, as his best work.


The Fall of Kelvin Walker and McGrotty and Ludmilla were based on television scripts Alasdair Gray had written in the 1960s and 1970s, and describe the adventures of Scottish protagonists in London.


Alasdair Gray selected the works, wrote extensive marginal notes, and translated some earlier pieces into modern English.


Around 2000, Alasdair Gray had to apply to the Scottish Artists' Benevolent Association for financial support, as he was struggling to survive on the income from his book sales.


Alasdair Gray stood down from the post in 2003, having disagreed with other staff about the direction the programme should take.


Alasdair Gray's books are mainly set in Glasgow and other parts of Scotland.


Alasdair Gray's work helped strengthen and deepen the development of the Glasgow literary scene away from gang fiction, while resisting neoliberal gentrification.


Alasdair Gray described himself as "a fat, spectacled, balding, increasingly old Glasgow pedestrian".


Alasdair Gray's books are self-illustrated using strong lines and high-impact graphics, a unique and highly recognisable style influenced by his early exposure to William Blake and Aubrey Beardsley, comics, Ladybird Books, and Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia, and which has been compared to that of Diego Rivera.


Alasdair Gray published three collections of poetry; like his fiction, his poems are sometimes-humorous depictions of "big themes" like love, God and language.


Alasdair Gray started voting for the Scottish National Party in the 1970s, as he despaired about the erosion of the welfare state which had provided his education.


Alasdair Gray believed that North Sea oil should be nationalised.


Alasdair Gray frequently used the epigram "Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation" in his books; by 1991, the phrase had become a slogan for Scottish opposition to Thatcherism.


In 2001, Alasdair Gray was narrowly defeated by Greg Hemphill when he stood as the candidate of the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association for the post of Rector of the University of Glasgow.


Alasdair Gray designed a special front page for the Sunday Herald in May 2014 when it came out in favour of a "Yes" vote in that year's independence referendum, the first and only newspaper to do so.


Iain Macwhirter of the Herald wrote that it was "striking", and The National said Alasdair Gray's image had "galvanised the 'Yes' movement".


Glass sums up critics' main problems with Alasdair Gray's writing as their discomfort with his politics, and with his frequent tendency to pre-empt criticism in his work.


In June 2015 Alasdair Gray was seriously injured in a fall, leaving him confined to a wheelchair.


Alasdair Gray continued to write; the first two parts of his translation of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy trilogy were published in 2018 and 2019.


Alasdair Gray died at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital on 29 December 2019, the day after his 85th birthday, following a short illness.


Alasdair Gray left his body to science and there was no funeral.


Alasdair Gray's works are archived at the National Library of Scotland.