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24 January 2022

Cathy MacPhail

2 September 2021

We were sad to learn that beloved children's author Cathy MacPhail passed away last week.

Our member Floris Books who published some of her books have provided this tribute:

Cathy was a best-selling author of over thirty children's books including Run Zan Run, Roxy's Baby, Out of the Depths, Grass, Devil You Know and Between the Lies. She won three Scottish Children's Book Awards, alongside another numerous accolades, and a film adaptation of her novel Another Me was released in 2014. Best known for her challenging teen novels, Cathy was praised as the "master of the unexpected twist" by Julia Eccleshare.

Eleanor Collins, Editorial Director at Floris Books, says:

"Cathy was warm and wonderful to work with - a natural, gifted and compelling storyteller. Her generosity and humour engaged and inspired her readers both on the page and in person.

"She loved speaking to young people and her diary was choc-full of high school visits, library events and festivals. She not only talked to them; she took them seriously and listened closely to them. With her magpie-mind and a finely tuned ear for adolescent conversation, she created books for young teens that are threaded with jewels of dialogue entwined with magnificent plotting and, at the centre of each of them, a great thumping heart."

Floris Books' relationship with Cathy began in 2005 when (their now Publisher and CEO) Katy Lockwood-Holmes dared to approach this legend of children's literature at a Scottish Book Trust event. Katy's mission was to ask Cathy to present the first-ever Kelpies Prize for Scottish writing for children. Cathy was immediately gracious, enthusiastic and offered wisdom and generosity to aspiring authors at the inaugural ceremony. Cathy remained a respected friend of Floris and in 2015 they excitedly published her first novel in their Kelpies imprint, Devil You Know, which was followed two years later by Between the Lies.

Cathy's family, her readers, her home town of Greenock and the world of children's books, including her agent Caroline Sheldon and her many publishers, have lost a remarkable person: someone who shared their passion with openness and warm-heartedness, always with an arm outstretched and often a mischievous glint in her eye.


And from Cathy's agent Caroline Sheldon:

Cathy MacPhail, prize-winning Scottish children's author, has passed away following a long illness.

Cathy MacPhail was born in 1946 in Greenock. Her father died when she was only 2, leaving Cathy and her three sisters to be raised by their mother. Cathy had to leave school at 15 to work in a mill.

Despite these early difficulties, Cathy joined a local writer's group, and later got to live her dream of becoming an author and comedy writer. Her BBC Radio 2 Sitcom 'My Mammy and Me' ran from 1993 to 1995. In 1994 she published her first children's book, Run Zan Run, inspired by her daughter Katie's experience with bullying. The book went on to win the Kathleen Fidler award and the Vergheretto in Italy.

Catherine subsequently published many children's books with publishers such as Bloomsbury, Puffin, Barrington Stoke and Floris.  Her trademark as a writer was to produce gritty and topical novels on important subjects that were totally accessible to her readers.  She was a brilliant sharer of her work with children indefatigably  giving talks in schools  and libraries.  A film based on her novel Another Me was released in 2015, starring Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner.  Cathy MacPhail's work won  multiple awards including the Scottish Children's Book Award (under its various names)  three times,  The Stockport Book Award, The Red Book Award and the Grampian Book Award.    

Cathy is survived by three children, one of whom is also an author, and six grandchildren.


See also the obituaries in The Herald and The Bookseller (1 September 2021).