Crime writer Val McDermid ‘moved’ by honorary degree
Kirkcaldy-born author becomes Doctor of Letters at ceremony
Best-selling crime writer Val McDermid admitted being “very moved and very touched” as she had an honorary degree conferred upon her at St Andrews University yesterday.
Ms McDermid has sold more than 15 million books which have been translated into 40 languages and has even been awarded the coveted Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger for outstanding achievement.
However, she is also the author of award-winning standalone novels, nonfiction, short stories, radio and stage plays, a children’s book and a conceptual installation among many highlights in an incredible career to date.
Wishing graduates well, Ms McDermid said she approached every project with the same sense of preparing for an “awfully big adventure” that she did when she started university in Oxford – and urged students to do the same.
“I should not be here,” she said.
“I say that not out of any false modesty or impostor syndrome, but I say it because when I was growing up people like us didn’t aspire to the life I have had.”
The 63-year-old was also recognised for her work as a tireless advocate of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights.
In her laureation by Professor Gill Plain, Ms McDermid was described as having “held a mirror up to society and unflinchingly revealed its prejudices and flaws” before receiving her Doctor of Letters honorary degree.
“It would be fair, I think, to categorise Val as an over-achiever – and she has been all her life,” she explained. “Born in Kirkcaldy to a working class family, she benefited from a quality state school education, inspirational teaching and the opportunities enabled by a grant-funded university system.
“Indeed, she became the first Scottish state school pupil to win a place at St Hilda’s College, Oxford.
“She felt, back then, that she had to leave the parochial confines of 1960s Fife – not least because it was a place, and I quote, ‘where there simply were no lesbians, it wasn’t even a word that crossed people’s horizons’.
“Much has changed since then, and Val’s has been one of the voices helping to change it.”
More than 1,000 students have received awards at winter graduations.
Top: Val McDermid with her honorary degree; left: Time to text family and friends with the good news; right: friends share a hug and congratulate one another following the graduation ceremony.