Brian Whittingham was born in Charing Cross, Glasgow, and grew up in Drumchapel, to the north of the city. After leaving school at the age of fifteen, he went to work on the Clyde shipyards, progressing to oilrigs and the QE2. Subsequently qualifying as a draughtsman, he managed a design drawing office until 1998. He drew on his experiences as steelworker and draughtsman in both poetry and plays, performing his steel-working poems as part of the BBC’s ‘Ballad of the Big Ships Live’ in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall in 2007. His book Clocking In Clocking Out (Luath, 2012) is a collection of ‘labour poetry’ focusing on various aspects of work, which Whittingham completed during his time in America.
Whittingham held a writing fellowship at the Yaddo artist colony in New York state in 1994, and in 2008 received a Robert Louis Stevenson fellowship at Chevillon Grez in France. In 2011, he was visiting professor of creative writing at Seattle University, and latterly lectured in creative writing in the further education sector in Glasgow.
Renfrew Council made Whittingham the first Tannahill Makar, an appointment he took up in 2018 and threw himself into, considering it the honour of his life. He visited many schools and functions, writing poems commemorating the events, places and the characters he met in the Renfrew area.
In all, he published five full collections of his own poetry, edited two Scottish literary magazines in the 1990s, West Coast and Nerve, then New Writing Scotland from 2006 to 2008.