FOR almost fifty years Jonathan Wills has been a kenspeckle figure on the Scottish scene, writes journalist, author and playwright George Rosie.
The son of a Shetland mother and an English father, he was the first-ever student rector of Edinburgh University, the boatman for the Muckle Flugga, Britain’s most northerly lighthouse, author (and illustrator) of some popular bairns’ books, the Labour Party’s candidate for Orkney and Shetland, the Scottish affairs correspondent for The Times, editor of The Shetland Times, the founder of a rattling good online news agency, environmental advisor to the folk of oil-scarred Alaska, member of the Shetland Islands Council, and a tour guide to the sea caves and gannet-haunted cliffs around the Shetland islands of Bressay and Noss.
All of which means that Wills has many a merry, intriguing and sometimes worrying tale to tell. And tell them he does in his book Reporter on the Rocks: Memoirs of a Recovering Journalist.
Anyone looking for a different take on Scottish life (particularly at the far northern end) will find it in this book – a brisk, nicely-written, often funny, sometimes chaotic and always intriguing account of Wills’ exploits and encounters in his diverse careers as journalist, broadcaster, environmentalist, politician and boatman.
Nor is the book confined to Scotland. Wills’ eye for a story has taken him from Alaska to China to the Russian Far East, mainly to reveal the truth about those mega-polluting tankers Exxon Valdez and Braer.
His forays into the wider world make for fine journalism. Wills is an amiable and witty man, with a talent for mockery and satire that shows in his writing. But underneath it there’s a real and abiding concern for the welfare of Scotland and the landscapes and seascapes he loves.
Wills’ book is proof that there’s life be had outwith Scotland’s central belt. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that. All in all, a grand read.
The book, published on Amazon, includes an account of the start of Shetland News, which may be of particular interest.
Wills has also just published a new edition of his popular children’s book The Travels of Magnus Pole, also on Amazon.
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