At the Ringwood AGM on 9th February 2023 it was reported with great sadness that the previous few months had seen the loss of three much loved members of the Ringwood family; two authors, Leela Soma, author of Murder At The Mela, and Brendan McLaughlin, author of The First of May, and long time Director and Shareholder, Jo Kelly.
The AGM noted their loss with regret and great sadness, and agreed that Appreciations of all three should appear on the Ringwood website over the forthcoming weeks.
The first of those Appreciations, on Brendan McLaughlin, has now been posted on the Authors Pages section of the website.
Brendan McLaughlin, the name and the man who bore it with pride and humility, will be a central character in any credible social, cultural and political history of Glasgow, the city he loved and served so well.
In this social and cultural history of Glasgow, he will probably be best remembered as Brendan the culturally creative Publican. He owned the two oldest pubs in Glasgow, the Scotia Bar founded in 1792 and the Clutha Vaults established in 1819, located a few hundred yards apart. Single-handedly he transformed them from rundown decrepit bars into Glasgow’s two most significant cultural salon centres; the Scotia Bar for Literature and the Clutha Vaults for Music. Brendan dreamed a dream, and for a while came close to making it a reality, of creating a Stockwell Village that would rival the intensity, cultural productivity and social excitement of that other cultural village, Greenwich. Even now many years after he sold both, they continue to be a major legacy; the Scotia still a beacon for literature lovers and writers, and the Clutha Vaults for music lovers and musicians.
The other areas of his contribution to Glasgow life reflect three of the great loves of his life; music, politics and people. Everyone in Glasgow, or so it often seemed, knew at least one version of this man, particularly the Publican, the Musician, and the Political Activist. They will soon know the Writer too.
Brendan, the literature lover, had been a good friend of Ringwood for many years. We first met him in 2012 when he turned up at the launch of Brian McHugh’s first novel, Torn Edges, held in the All Bar One Bar. After the official launch business, Brendan kept the party going, singing and playing his guitar, joined in a few songs by his wife, Joni. That set a pattern that continued for the next decade. Brendan came to almost every Ringwood Launch, Event, AGM or Party thereafter, usually with his guitar, almost always singing, and became good friends with Ringwood staff and authors alike.
After selling both pubs, he determined to fulfil a long-time ambition to become a writer of literature as well of music. It took around 16 years of constant work but he finally managed it. An autobiographical memoir, the events described in The First of May take place on one specific 1st of May in the very early years of the 21st Century. Around the skeletal framework of these events, Brendan wove a tapestry of reflections, ruminations and recollections, accompanied by a few rants, on his whole life, encompassing his passionate devotion to his interests, music, politics, people, and literature.
Unfortunately, several years ago Brendan was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He stood up to it with his normal ferocious response and amazed his doctors with his success in holding it at bay far longer than they had predicted. He knew it would win in the end but he held on as long as he could, determined to finish his book and leave it as his memorial.
It was a source of great pride and joy for him to learn in early April 2022 that he was being offered a contract by Ringwood Publishing that would guarantee his book would definitely be published. By the time he eventually formally signed the contract, he was already in the Beatson Centre, before being moved to the Hospice where he died shortly after arrival, on the 13th July 2022, aged 71 years.
His funeral was a massive one, held in Linn Crematorium on 1st August. Crowded, with standing room only and a couple of overflow rooms as well as a live webcam broadcast, it was further proof of the extent of the regard his city and his people had for him.
Click HERE to read the full Ringwood Appreciation of this amazing man.
His wonderful book The First of May is being launched by Ringwood on Monday 1st May 2023 in his beloved Clutha Vaults.
It will be another chance to honour the memory of this marvellous Glaswegian and to welcome the book that will prove to be a fitting lasting memorial of a life well lived.
The Ringwood Appreciations of Leela Soma and Jo Kelly will also appear on the website in the next couple of weeks.