Irvine Welsh’s Begbie to feature in Big Issue

Robert Carlyle as Begbie in the 1996 film Trainspotting. Picture: Comp
Robert Carlyle as Begbie in the 1996 film Trainspotting. Picture: Comp
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HE was the psychotic hardman who terrorised his friends and enemies throughout the Irvine Welsh novels Trainspotting and Porno.

But Francis Begbie has been revealed as having an unexpected soft side in a new short story by the Scots author, in which one of his most infamous characters is rehabilitated through art and falling in love.

Welsh has written the exclusive short story featuring the character who was memorably brought to life by Robert Carlyle in the 1996 film adaptation of Trainspotting.

The new chapter will be played out in The Big Issue and other street papers around the world to help tens of thousands of homeless people at Christmas.

Welsh said there will be even more revelations about the character in the exclusive story, called He Ain’t Lager.

The story was written for the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), a charity based in Glasgow that supports The Big Issue and 121 other street papers in 40 countries. Welsh is an ambassador for INSP.

The plot centres on Begbie visiting his family at Christmas after being released from prison. His brother Joe is homeless.

But far from the sociopathic hooligan who featured in Welsh’s earlier works, the updated Begbie has mellowed and swapped violence for an appreciation of art.

It is a far cry from the character in Trainspotting, who spent much of the book and the film visiting random acts of violence on anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path, from American tourists lost in Leith to his own friends.

Welsh – who now lives in Chicago, Illinois, said: “I’m not sure where this [story] came from. I never really know. I just think the character has to be full of surprises and I quite like this little twist in his [Begbie’s] life.

“I became an INSP ambassador not because I’m disadvantaged in the current housing market, but privileged by it. I see so many friends struggling to keep a home together, or trying to rebuild one. They deserve the same rights that I enjoy. Homelessness issues are now sadly ubiquitous across the western world, and very much a product of the weak priorities our political leadership has set.

“The social aspect of housing policy is almost existent, but is in reality how people aspire to live: a home, family, friends, within a community and a concerned citizenry.”

Maree Aldam, general manager of INSP, said: “We know that the story of this infamous character will appeal to readers worldwide and therefore help our vendors to earn their own living over the winter months.”

Interest in Welsh’s work has been renewed by the recent release of the movie Filth, starring James McAvoy and based on the author’s third novel telling the story of a corrupt policeman.

Paul McNamee, editor of The Big Issue, said: “It’s always a thrill to read anything by Irvine Welsh. On the back of the success of Filth, interest in the great contrarian outsider of modern Scottish literature is heightened and we hope that people will be queuing at their local Big Issue vendor to read what he has created when we run it in a couple of weeks.”

Kevin Gopal, editor of The Big Issue in the North, said: “We are really pleased that an author of the stature of Irvine Welsh has recognised the importance of street papers and kindly written this story for us. I’m sure readers will be eager to find out what has happened to such an awfully compelling character as Begbie since we last heard from him in Trainspotting.”