We were greatly saddened by the recent death of one of our guests. James Hyslop was known to us for many years; he was much loved and will be sorely missed. 

William first met James in Urban. William was in his usual spot, using one of the computers, when he overheard James asking around for a place to stay. He was having a bit of trouble with neighbours and wanted a break. William asked one of the volunteers what was going on and then, with the kindness he extends to everyone he meets, went over to James and said, “I can give you a couch.” James assured him it would only be for a few days… and he was there for about five years!

William reflects on their time spent as flatmates and then friends: “It was alright. We sat and watched the telly, just the two of us. It was no bad, we seemed to get on alright.”

James had to get used to living with animals as well – William had three cats and two dogs. One of the dogs, Bay, didn’t like people at the best of times, but more than put up with James. The other, Tony, would come and put her head right on James’ knee and wait for him to give her a wee clap. James was fond of her.

James and William also came to the Mission together, and were stalwarts of the Urban computers, usually sitting opposite each other. Many of us have fond memories of James’ inimitable sarcasm and quick wit, of his stylish blue glasses making their way down his nose as he peered at you over them, and the way he held a room rapt with attention whenever he read from the Bible at the Gathering. James used the computers to look for work, and to study for the requirements needed to become a carer. He worked in several care homes over the years – this word described him too, with William calling him “a caring person. He never complained about his work – the patients or anything like that.”

James certainly pulled his weight, cooking all sorts – meatballs, mince, lamb chops, steak, fish and chips. William remembers many good things they ate together. On the other hand, James lambasted the new sandwiches we introduced in Urban in 2018. As William recalls, “he went aff his nut!” Our Chief Executive, Charles, in his then role as Pastoral Chef, sourced some beautifully flaky pastries and delicious well-fired baguettes to furnish Urban with both breakfast and lunch. Unfortunately, the baguettes proved tricky for James, who took one bite and promptly broke a tooth! Oh he was furious, but thankfully it became a running joke for many years.

James grew up in Kilmarnock, Stewarton, and Kilmaurs. One of our volunteers, Robert, remembers, “He was the only one of his peers who left the area, and worked in London. When returning 30 years later, he didn’t leave the bus at Kilmarnock but stayed on to Glasgow.” James told William about his adventures in London: he worked in bars and a hotel, and had friends there.

William spent a period of time in hospital, where his friendship with James nurtured his recovery. “He came to visit me in hospital. He would bring fags, juice, sandwiches, and boiled eggs – even though I told him not to bring the boiled eggs… he still brought the boiled eggs. He phoned me every night and every morning when I was in the hospital.”

Our Men’s Project Worker, Joe, supported James for many years. William is grateful for the time Joe spent with James – “Joe got him out the house”. They often sat in a rose garden, and James was one the few people to call him Joseph. He called me Ms O’Sullivan instead of Clare, which somehow always made me feel like I was in trouble! William’s favourite memory of James and Joe’s exploits was when Joe came by James’ new house to drop off some shopping bags. James was asleep and so Joe had to hide the bags in a bush in the garden. William phoned to alert James and thankfully the bags were still there when he woke up!

As I sat with William and collected some of these stories, I found myself smiling as I remembered James’ deep chuckle. I think that the phrase ‘a twinkle in his eye’ was written especially for James.

Clare: “He was such a good guy, wasn’t he?”

William: “Aye. That he was.”