Irvine Welsh - writer


Born in Leith in 1961 and author of gritty narratives of urban Edinburgh.

He moved with his family to Muirhouse, in Edinburgh, at the age of four. Welsh left Ainslee Park Secondary School when he was 16 and went on to complete a City & Guilds course in electrical engineering. Welsh then worked as an apprentice TV repairman until an electric shock persuaded him to abandon this work in favour of a series of other jobs, before leaving Edinburgh for the London punk scene in 1978. There, Welsh played guitar and sang in The Pubic Lice (only web reference)and Stairway 13. Later, he worked for Hackney Council in London and studied computing with the help of a grant from the Manpower Services Commission. After working in the London property boom of the 1980s, Welsh returned to Edinburgh where he worked for the city council in the housing department. He went on to study for an MBA at Heriot Watt University, writing his thesis on creating equal opportunities for women.

Welsh published stories and parts of what would later become Trainspotting from 1991 onwards in DOG, the West Coast Magazine, and New Writing Scotland. Duncan McLean published parts of the novel in two Clocktower pamphlets, A Parcel of Rogues and Past Tense: Four Stories from a Novel. Meanwhile Kevin Williamson, a member of Duncan McLean’s Muirhouse writers’ group, published sections of Trainspotting in the literary magazine Rebel Inc. Duncan McLean recommended Welsh to Robin Robertson, then editorial director of Secker & Warburg, who decided to publish Trainspotting, despite believing that it was unlikely to sell.

When Trainspotting was published in 1993 Irvine Welsh shot to fame. The novel was apparently rejected for the Booker Prize shortlist after offending the ‘feminist sensibilities’ of two of the judges (Purlock, 1996). Despite this unease from the critical establishment, Welsh’s novel received good reviews. Harry Gibson’s stage adaptation of the novel was premiered at the Glasgow Mayfest in April 1994 and went on to be staged at the Edinburgh Festival and in London before touring the UK. In August 1995, Irvine Welsh gave up his day job.

Since Danny Boyle’s film adaptation of Trainspotting was released in February 1996 Irvine Welsh has remained a controversial figure, whose novels, stage and screen plays, novellas and short stories have proved difficult for literary critics to assimilate, a difficulty made only more noticeable by Welsh’s continued commercial success.