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Paul Reekie: poet, writer, iconoclast

Paul Reekie, who has been found dead aged 48 in his Edinburgh flat, was regarded by anyone who knew him as a living legend.

This was the case whether sharing a record with Joy Division, publishing a novella in Children of Albion Rovers, Rebel Inc’s seminal 1996 collection of Scotland’s underground literati, or sharing stages and wild times with an iconoclastic circle who would change popular culture forever.

Where peers such as Irvine Welsh and Alan Warner were courted by major publishers, Reekie published little and remained on the margins, a classic literary outsider.

Reekie’s influence, however, was as immeasurable as the larger than life persona that made him a garrulous, often unpredictable but never dull presence. Yet beneath the edgy bonhomie there lay a fiercely astute intellect that could go off on any number of diverse tangents. There were, too, it seems, more than a few demons that have finally caught up with him.

Reekie grew up in Leslie, Fife, where he discovered books via his father’s job at the local paper factory. Reekie moved to Edinburgh aged 16, attending Leith Nautical College, where he trained to be a radio officer. He lived in a seamen’s mission, having acquired papers claiming he was working for BP and was waiting on a ship. When BP sold off its merchant fleet, however, the game was up.

By that time, punk had happened. Reekie became president of the Scottish branch of the Subway Sect fan club, and formed his own band, Thursdays. With Reekie on vocals and bass, Thursdays shared bills and attitudes with the likes of The Fall and local contemporaries, Fire Engines and The Scars.

In 1979, Thursdays recorded two songs for Earcom 2, a compilation EP released by Bob Last’s Fast Product label, which also featured Joy Division and Basczax. Thursdays featured one original, Perfection, alongside a remarkable cover of Otis Redding’s (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay. Still only 17, Reekie’s unique vocal sounds fragile and mournfully world-weary.

Reekie hooked up with Mark Perry’s Good Missionaries project, and toured with The Pop Group. He released a solo single, Lovers, and started a cassette label, ID.

Reekie’s public debut as a man of letters came in 1983, when he gave a lecture at Edinburgh University entitled Towards A Royal Arch Built From Broken Ribs.

Reekie would find his full voice in the early 1990s, when he began taking part in a series of Monday night readings in the back room of Edinburgh’s Antiquary bar.

Sporting flying hat and ski goggles, Reekie would read epics that would later appear in the 1993 Rebel Inc pamphlet, Zap – You’re Pregnant, or else extemporise on why Miles Davis was a better bass player than trumpeter.

In 1992, Kevin Williamson’s Rebel Inc magazine championed Reekie’s singular genius as both writer and performer.

In 1994, Reekie’s poem, When Caesar’s Mushroom is in Season, appeared at the frontispiece of Welsh’s 1994 book, The Acid House, and in 1996 the two authors read at a Rebel Inc Hogmanay event across three floors of Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre. By that time, Reekie’s novella, Submission, had appeared alongside work by Welsh, Warner, Gordon Legge, Laura Hird and James Meek in Children of Albion Rovers.

Written in the first-person, Submission’s contents caused a former partner of Reekie’s to threaten legal action. Publisher Canongate withdrew the book until a heavily edited version was released.

Reekie would go on to appear at the Yellow Cafe literary nights, and in 1999 supported Nick Cave in Princes Street Gardens. In 2002, Reekie guest-starred on Subway Sect founder Vic Godard’s album, Sansend. No more new fiction or poetry appeared, although Reekie is known to have written constantly inbetween attending Hibs games, reading Noel Coward or listening to free jazz and reggae.

In 2007, Lovers appeared on an American compilation of DIY music from Scotland recorded between 1977-81.

It is imperative now that Reekie’s unpublished archive should be similarly compiled, and his maverick visions of rebellious joy released to a wider public.

Poet, writer, iconoclast;

Born January 23, 1962;

Died June 2010.

Neil Cooper

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