Richard Holloway ‘Waiting for the Last Bus’ review Mary Irvine


Tuesday 14th May 2019

Booked! Festival of Words, West Dunbartonshire

For several years now the ‘Booked! Booked! West Dunbartonshire Festival of Words has commenced its series of events with the Alistair Pearson Lecture at the Millennium Hall, Gartocharn. This year a tribute to this extraordinary man was given by James Macrea who gave a brief résumé of the (equal) most decorated soldier of WW2. The full story may be read in ‘A Fierce Quality: The Fighting Life of Alistair Pearson DSO & Three Bars, MC’ by Julian James. ( or (

Richard then took the stage and held the audience in thrall for the next forty minutes. The magic of Richard Holloway, possibly the most well-known and popular Vale man at the present time, had once again drawn a packed house. What a performance!

He began by describing his latest book ‘Waiting for the Last Bus’ as a meditation on the approach to death. He then posed the first of many questions for our consideration – ‘Is it only humans who think, who know, they will die?’ He digressed with the anecdote, which had many in tears of laughter, of being ‘phoned by a journalist from the Guardian newspaper who requested help in writing Richard’s own obituary.

A further question was, ‘What will the last moment be like?’ We have all heard of  famous last words but Near Death Experiences are now being recorded as well from people who have ‘died’ but ‘come back to life’. Such experiences, mostly recorded in the USA, lead to the promulgation of the belief in a soul which ‘lives on’. Cynics and non-cynics alike have dismissed such experiences as illusions which can be explained rationally.

One has to admire that, whether posing a question or answering one, Richard never gives a definitive answer but allows there are often differing answers, depending on an individual’s standpoint. His simple declaration that he has been a practising Christian all his life was a moving testimony to his own commitment.

He continued with an overview of the religious beliefs of some of the major religions, speaking particularly of the Christian belief in Heaven and Hell and the problem that posed. A problem solved by the introduction of Purgatory. Think about it!

Erudition and depth of thought always shine through Richard’s writings and talks but this presentation also resulted in many bouts of humour. In particular his description of modern scientific research into conquering/postponing death reduced the audience to tears of laughter as he explored whether the results of such research were ever successful.

In winding up his presentation he spoke fervently of the need not to leave ‘a wound’, not to leave ‘unfinished business’. His advice was to ‘confess’, i.e. to unload and not necessarily to a priest. Tell your cat, the garden. Above all, if the opportunity occurs, keep control.

His final anecdote concerned ‘the added page’ in the book – which I’m not going to reveal. Buy the book. You won’t be disappointed.

Waiting for the Last Bus: Reflections on Life and Death Richard Holloway ( 

The Booked! Festival has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2001 by Ian Baillie and colleagues. It is possibly the only free book festival in Scotland (correct me if I’m wrong) and relies on funding to be able to continue offering free admission to events. The funding will only continue if the event is found to be successful so the evaluation feedbacks are important. Please ensure you fill them in, online or on hard copies available from West Dunbartonshire libraries.


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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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