This was an event that caught me right off guard. I knew John Hartson had been through a cancer scare, quite how that had occurred and what he’d been through I was unaware of. Hartson, an ex-Celtic player (as well as various other clubs) who played for them during a particularly fruitful time in their history, is also a proud Welshman having played for his country over 50 times.
But when cancer hit him, it him hard. After living for seven years unaware what the lumps on his testicles signified, it wasn’t until the blinding debilitating headaches did he check himself into a hospital.
Within minutes he had been referred and diagnosed with cancer. As the cancer spread, a brain operation effectively meant that as supportive as his family and friends could be, he thought himself he was as good as dead.
Hartson told a silent audience beforehand how hard he was going to find the hour, and indeed, when it came to reading from a passage of the book written by his wife, he was unable to go through with it. Instead, Pat Nevin read the passage from Please Don’t Go, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house by the time he finished.
Possibly one of the bravest men I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting, John Hartson has risen above the banalities of life in the Old Firm and admitted himself how much he “appreciates the little things in life, like being able to get out of bed in the morning and make a cup of tea.”
As moving an hour that this was at the Edinburgh Book Festival, due to Hartson’s positive and uplifting nature, the audience left with a buzz of inspiration and hope.