It’s been said that “you can never go home…” – and there is truth to it, as it’s never what you left behind that you return to.
Billy’s life story has been chronicled, in brutally honest detail, over two previous books, Billy and Bravemouth, by his wife, Dr Pamela Stephenson. Now in his mid-seventies, Billy, in his own indomitable style, brings us the companion book to his soon to be released series, Made in Scotland.
Sparked by his Knighthood and the ignorant question, “This must mean a lot to you, coming from nothing?” – to which he replied, “I didnae come from nothing, I came from something!” That something being the working class of Scotland.
As Billy faces the ravages of aging – his own and that of those he knew and loves (“The departure lounge is getting very crowded…”) and his daily battle with Parkinson’s disease (“…it’s not going away…”) – he returns to the country of his birth and upbringing, acknowledging what went before and reliving the journey that made him the man we know and love to laugh along with today.
Over six chapters, Billy takes a stroll down a bittersweet memory lane, from his childhood (one of traumatic experience and violent behaviour), to his working life in the Shipyards; from his discovery of music, which lead him to the banjo, to his discovery of his renowned gift for comedic storytelling; closing with his personal views on religion and what it means to be Scottish, both then and now.
Each chapter bar the last is a two-parter: beginning with his own reflections and remembrances of his life and the times he spent – the good, the bad and the downright horrendous – and following on with what I suspect is an extract from the coming television series. He meets with old friends and old Scots, to talk about what it meant then and means now to be a Scotsman.
It reads like Billy sounds: full of his witty and wise observances, combined with brutal honesty, but never self-pitying, be it for his past or present. This is a song of Billy’s Scotland and his generations’ land, a tale of survival, fortuitousness and rising above it all, but never forgetting where he came from while rediscovering what it is, today.
Reviewed by Glen Christie
Rating out of 10: 10
Distributed by: Penguin Random House Australia
Released: October 2018
RRP: $45 hardcover $35 trade paperback