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Tom Morton: even bad people are allowed to love books

Introduction speech for Millie Vigor’s book launch

Shetland Library, 30th April 2014

*Tom Morton is a journalist and broadcaster as well as editor of ‘Shetland Life’ magazine, to which Millie contributes.

It is a great pleasure to be here in the Shetland Library, the first book launch I have ever been to in these august surroundings. Among so many thousands of books. I believe that Millie is one of the most borrowed authors here and I am certain she would join me in praising the work done by the librarians, and indeed by libraries throughout the country.

Libraries are precious things. Don't know if any of you are watching the new TV version of the Coen Brothers film Fargo, but in the last episode two horrible hitmen arrive in town and their first complaint is - there is no library. What kind of town, they ask - and one is deaf and dumb, so asks in sign language (don't ask) - what kind of town doesn't have a library? Fortunately no assassin could have cause to complain in Lerwick. Though doubtless Jimmy Perez would send them back to Norway before they could land. After all you can see Stavanger from here.

Libraries are places for people who love books. And even bad people are allowed to love books. Books are not good or bad in themselves - they can contain good and bad things, wise and stupid stuff, uplifting or evil content. Books can and do continue to change the world, and their availability through libraries is key to that.

The internet is all very well - and obviously you can log on to the internet here - maybe some of you are already wishing you could if I don't finish soon - but the physical space of a library, the ability to handle books, to discover, by chance, new books, whole new worlds, is something we need and must treasure.

It's the same with bookshops. But libraries are magic, because libraries are free. I remember when I first discovered this. My mum took my to Troon Library in Templehill when I was seven. I didn't know the difference between a library and a bookshop, and I thought you had to pay. I remember the joyous astonishment on discovering you didn't. Children were only allowed one book, and I craved, literally craved the day when I was old enough for an adult ticket and could borrow up to six books. Six free books. I still get excited at the thought. I still feel as though I'm getting away with some great theft when I take books out.

Of course, in the days of the Templehill library in Troon there were fines. I would worry myself sick about those fines. And then one day, library fines were abolished. It was like God leaning down from heaven, tapping you on the shoulder and saying, hey, you know the stuff about hell? Forget it. It's not real. Oh, and by the way, I recommend PG Wodehouse, he's very popular in Heaven. And that Millie Vigor's good too!

It’s a great pleasure to pay tribute to Millie Vigor, who has been a long standing and hugely popular contributor to Shetland Life Magazine, which I have edited for the last three years.

Before that, of course, the editor was the late Jim Nicholson, JR Nicholson, who originally commissioned Millie.

I have to say that I always look forward to Millie's contributions. And it is a source of some amazement that she, and she alone in the past three years is the only contributor to Shetland Life I've ever had to censor. Vigor by name and Vigorous in language she certainly is.

I did feel slightly ashamed to read in a Shetland Times article that Millie's first fee for a published article was a mere £25 in I think the Farmers Weekly. A paltry amount! But a bit more than Shetland Life paid her a couple of months ago for a contribution. I do apologise, but times is hard.

And so what to say about Millie? Her friendship is treasured by those who know her, who also stand in amazement at her talent, her energy and her commitment to Shetland. Launching Paying Davy Jones here is a real tribute to the islands and everyone who lives here, and it's very much appreciated. As is her journeying the length of one country, and possibly two, if you're that way inclined, to be here.

So congratulations to Millie on not just the publication of this current book, but the achievement of a conclusion to her excellent Shetland series. We're hoping for more books, more visits, and in my case more articles for Shetland Life. Just Millie - keep it clean and we will get round to paying you that 15 quid we owe you. Honestly.

 

Shetland Library thanks Tom Morton for his contribution to our evening, for his appreciation of libraries, and for telling us we could 'do whatever we wanted' with his speech.

 

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