Joseph Glackin a lone star weeps

Joseph Glackin, author of debut novel 'A Lone Star Weeps'

It’s a funny old place the Old Town of Edinburgh.  Thursday last, 14 November, in the Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland on one side of the Royal Mile, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was delivering the last of his six Gifford lectures: highly searching and intellectual investigations into the nature of human language and its relation to the sacred and the divine.  On the other side of the Royal Mile at Riddles Court first time author Joseph Glackin was introducing a murder mystery at his first ever book launch.  The Gifford lectures are arranged this year by the University of Edinburgh, an institution that has a national and international reach and reputation, but also a considerable physical presence in the Old Town of Edinburgh.  Joseph Glackin’s book launch was arranged by the Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust as part of the first series of events under the banner of its Word Bank project.  Both free events, the Gifford lectures were delivered to a large audience of theologians, philosophers, academics and general public and will no doubt be broadcast on-line and probably published.  Joseph’s book launch took place in front of a small audience of predominantly local residents, amongst whom no doubt were the odd academic and philosopher as well.  With great honesty Joseph described the process of how a book comes out of a person for the first time.  A development worker in Africa for nearly 20 years, he was often told that he must have some interesting stories to tell about his work; he started to write these down as an autobiography, but soon found that this was boring to both him and to his imagined readers.  Finding writing stories a pleasant break from writing strategies and reports, he picked up his pen again and had soon found Gloria, an Inspector in the Liberian police, who gradually became the pivot of the story, to such an extent that Joseph has now finished two books and sketched four more, all led by Inspector Gloria.

Whereas the Gifford lectures took place in the Old Town, the Word Bank is for the Old Town, and part of the Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust’s attempts to create a thriving community of people living in the Old Town using gardening, cultural and other activities in a process of renewal in part inspired by the work of Patrick Geddes end of the same place 100 years and more ago.  Next year the Old Town Development Trust will be working together with the University and other bodies in a project for the Old Town, again inspired by Geddes, which takes his Evergreen publications and reinvents for the 21st century their combination of writing for and about places from both a global and a local perspective.  Collaborative projects like this - combining international learning and expertise and local gardening and engagement - are what makes truly rich places.  Funny old place the Old Town of Edinburgh – an important place - and if institutions and communities can work together, on its way to being a much richer, truly successful local and international community.

Andrew Guest