About The Knitter

The Knitter is for my dad.

He was a coal miner. He was also a musician, an artist, a writer, a poet and a great teacher.

The Knitter isn’t really a book about my dad, although he appears in it a lot. It’s really written to him, a celebration of his talent, his values and the effect he had on me. The book is a “fictionalised memoir” – some parts are literally true, some are a close cousin of real eventsand some have been imagined from stories told, or from the poems he wrote.

Throughout his life, my dad wrote lots of poems, none published and many lost over time. The Knitter was always my favourite and has given the book its name, as well as its theme and structure.

Each chapter of the book is built around a particular memory that fought its way through the crowd as I thought back on things. The Knitter is a memory tale, a patchwork of real events, feelings, stories told by my dad directly or through his poems, or woven out of snippets of conversations and part faded recollections.

Although it can be read as a collection of short stories, it is the connecting strands running through the book that I hope make The Knitter more than the sum of its parts. (As well as the vibrant humour and language of the Glasgow area that bubbles throughout; a colloquial dictionary is included to help the uninitiated.)

What I hope I have done, in addition to telling some good stories, is draw through the entire narrative a feeling for the talent, intelligence and inspiration that can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places, and leave the reader a little wiser and better for the experience.

My dad spent his working life either down a coalmine, or working above one, with a break somewhere along the way to help the country fight a war. With no formal training, and none of the financial and other encouragement his talent would have attracted now, he spent the rest of his time raising a family – and writing poems, reading philosophy books, painting beautiful canvasses, and playing piano, accordion, mouth organ and anything else he could make some music from.

I’d love to have been able to sit down with him today, sitting by the fire puffing away on his pipe, to chat about the way the world is now. He probably would have hated the attention and any recognition coming from it, but this book is my way of celebrating a great life, a life well worth living exactly as it was lived, and of spreading some of the output of that life a little wider.

Apart from my own name, my dad’s and “the knitter” herself – my mum – all others have been changed or combined to protect the innocent.

I hope you enjoy reading The Knitter.

John Mallaghan
December 2009

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