Tag Archives: Bearsden

a friend for life? i wouldn’t bank on it.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson – April 2021)

It was July 1976 and as a brown envelope dropped through the letterbox, in the far reaches of outer space, the last of the planets aligned.

As I stooped to pick up the envelope, a deep, resounding voice boomed in my head:

“Young Jackson! Your grandfather was a Banker. Your father is a Banker. Your destiny has been ordained – so too shall you become a Banker!”

I had remained in school for Sixth Year, principally for another attempt to pass both Higher Maths and Physics, and somehow fluke the entry qualifications for University. However, the contents of that brown envelope metaphorically sprung forth, stuck two fingers up at me and laughed in my face.

That summer, just like the one prior, I had worked as a student in Bank of Scotland’s Foreign Department, as it was then. A full time job was guaranteed, if I wanted it.

I wouldn’t say I particularly ‘wanted’ it, but I definitely needed it. And so, on 16th August 1976, I rocked up, as directed by Head Office, to my local Branch at Bearsden Cross.

(Unbeknown to me, I was treading the same path as another of this here parish.)

Bank of Scotland, Roman Road Branch. (The clock was positioned between the two central sets of windows – see later!)

This was the branch I used when still at school. I had always hated queueing up to lodge my paper-round / pocket / birthday money feeling the staff displayed a rather aloof and disinterested attitude to youngsters.

But I was now a man. (Eighteen years and eleven days old counts, right?) I wouldn’t become ‘one of them.’ I’d be me. They could like it or lump it. Dressed in my navy blue, double breasted jacket, silk backed waistcoat, baggy trousers with turn-ups and two-inch platform shoes, I was going to revolutionise branch banking. It was going to be relaxed; it was going to be fun; it was going to be filled with happy, smiling faces.

The Manager presumably had many much more important things to do first thing in the morning than greet some cocky little new-start, so after a brief introduction to the Assistant Manager, I was given a seat in a quiet part of the office, facing a blank wall.

“Hmmmn. This might take longer than expected” I mused.

 I was then presented with a huge pile of cheques that had been debited against the customers’ accounts. These had to be sorted into eight-digit account number order, and then further sorted into six digit cheque number order. They would then be passed to the Statement Clerks who would file them in large metal cabinets, ready to be inserted in the customers’ Bank Statements.

And that was it. That was my first day. All of it. Nine o’ clock in the morning till four o’clock in the afternoon. Sorting and filing. Oh, and going to the local shops at tea-break and lunchtime to pick up sandwiches, crisps, cakes, fags, matches, newspapers, etc for most of the twenty or so staff.  

Oh, I was showing them all right!

I toed the line for a few months, keeping my head down and already counting the days to retiral. But the rebellious streak was never far away. When I was one day told to collect a copy of Penthouse or Mayfair from the newsagent (‘top shelf’ magazines in those days) for the Insurance Clerk, I told him to get lost.

For a start, I’d have to ask someone to reach the top bloody shelf on my behalf. A bit of a row kicked off, but I reasoned he wouldn’t grass me up to The Manager for insubordination, given the nature of the magazine he wanted.

A few months later, I received my first ‘promotion’ – if only because another Office Junior was appointed, a lovely girl called Esmé. This slight rise in my personal status didn’t really amount to much. It simply meant Esmé took over cheque duties, while I manned the rather cumbersome and complicated Branch switchboard.

Once mastered, the job was as tedious as that I’d just graduated from. So to lighten my day, I’d imagine myself operating the Transporter Room Console of the Starship Enterprise, seeking out new life and new civilisations while boldly going where no man had gone before.

Hey – I was eighteen. Cut me some slack.

I did actually go one place that no man had been before, as it happens. Though I can’t claim to having used the word, ‘boldly.’

Above the Branch entrance there was a large clock. Three months or so into my career, the new ‘Accountant’ (effectively third in charge of the office) decided we could save money by maintaining the clock ourselves, rather than paying some specialists.

(In those days, Branches were completely distinct cost centres, so effectively the budget on say, toilet rolls, was as important as the lending rates. Anything that could be done to maximise Branch profits, was.)

This new Accountant would become well known in later years for his eccentric behaviour. In some cases, I’m sure he’d now be classed as a ‘bully.’ I worked with him again later in my career, and actually liked him. He was a real loose cannon though, prone to Basil Fawlty type tantrums.

“Go on then, get out there” he told me as he pulled up the sash window that overlooked the bustling Roman Road about twenty feet below.

It was a sunny Friday, towards the end of October, three months into my career. British Summer Time would end that weekend and the clocks would go back.

“Here,” he said, “use this,” and handed me a long window pole. “Just push the small hand back one hour.”

“Are you mental?” I asked earnestly.

“I’ll be holding your jacket vent. You’ll be fine. Now just get out there.”

“Have you seen my shoes?” I drew his attention to my platforms.

“Stop being a *****. They’ll give you more reach. Now move!” he said as he started to prod me with another window pole.

And so, there I was, precariously balanced and attracting the incredulous stares of the town’s shoppers as I edged along the narrow ledge to the clock and reset the time.

Shaking in equal parts fear and rage, I squared up to my office superior: “I am NOT doing that again!”

And I didn’t.

Nobody did.

**

By spring 1977, it was quite apparent The Manager didn’t see me as a good fit for his office and I was transferred to the other office in Bearsden, Kessington Branch.

This was more like it! There was a much more relaxed and welcoming atmosphere to work in, and everyone from the delightful old ‘Mr Pastry’ lookalike Manager to the slightly younger, pretty and completely bonkers Office Junior was up for a laugh.

It was all very childish. We’d do things like teach naughty words to the ‘Mummy’s little darlings’ who were plonked on the counter before us while Mumsie gassed with friends and held up the queue. As Billy Connolly would say, sometimes the best pranks are those where you don’t actually see the end result.

We all so fervently hoped that when dear Mummy invited the local vicar round to discuss the forthcoming Bring-and-Buy sale, that Junior would suddenly remember the word, ‘jobbie.’

**

Now, this sounds like one of those ‘legend’ tales that is passed down through the generations in any office. But it most definitely did happen at Kessington Branch.

An elderly lady approached the teller with a withdrawal slip for fifty pounds – quite a sum back then. She had completed the form before coming to the Bank, but had done so in pencil.
“I can’t take it like that, Mrs Smith,” the teller gently told her. “You’ll have to ink it over.”

Mrs Smith tutted but took the form over to the writing desk.

Five minutes later, she was still sat there.

“Mrs Smith? Are you all right? Is everything OK?” asked the concerned teller.

“Yes dear,” came the reply. “I’ve thought it over, and I’d still like the cash, please.”

**

Two years later, and I was on the move again – a proper promotion this time. To Jordanhill Branch, in the West End of Glasgow. Now, this was one crazy office!

For a start, it wasn’t uncommon for a few of us to leg it up to the Esquire House pub at Anniesland for a game of pool and a couple of pints at lunchtime! It wasn’t uncommon for the Manager to go on ‘business lunches’ and fall over chairs in the staff room, or fall asleep in his office during the afternoon.

It also wasn’t uncommon for Branch Officials to be independently on the fiddle!

While I was there, the staff had suspicions about the Assistant Manager. After I left for Stirling Branch in the early Eighties, his scam came to light in the most bizarre of circumstances.

The Manager who replaced the poor soul with the drinking habit, had started his own fraud! I was by then distant from the investigation, but understand that a routine Inspection raised some questions of one of them … leading to both packs of cards collapsing.

The Assistant Manager I worked with was given a jail sentence.

**

That was it for The Seventies, The Bank, and me.

So, what about the title to this piece?

Well, the four years that remained of the decade when I joined Bank of Scotland were terrific fun.  We had plenty wild nights out, and I was lucky enough to represent the Bank at athletics, cross country, road racing as well as football. So lots of paid absence on ‘all expenses’ trips to London.

The Eighties in Stirling and Manchester and the bulk of the Nineties back in Glasgow were a riot, with great sets of people.

Then the Noughties. And The Halifax.

I had twenty-eight years’ experience; I had been subjected to threats with dirty needles; I’d had an eighteen inch machete brandished at me and a hand gun pointed at my face from about ten feet away. I’d safely evacuated a staff of thirty from a burning building, checking smoke filled corridors and toilets to ensure everyone was accounted for.

Oh yeah – and I was pretty damned good at my job, if my reports were anything to go by.

But I’ve never really been a ‘follower’ and always believed in my own choices. Dude, I was into Sweet when they were still The Sweet and everyone else was worshipping at the alter of Clapton or Yes.

And so it was, with that wee rebel light still burning bright, I refused to sell PPI in the manner which were all instructed. (Payment Protection Insurance – remember that?)

I had ‘disputes’ with Head Office staff over lending the tried, trusted and customer focused way.

But by 2004, rather than aligning, the planets were colliding. New against Old.

Being a ‘Banker’ counted for nothing. It was no longer even acceptable to be ‘me.’ Individuals and ‘characters’ were considered troublemakers and forced into ‘voluntary redundancy.’

I now walk dogs for a living.

Oh yeah – I showed them alright!

*****



teenage kicks – Alistair Fleming

Name: Alistair Fleming (Flum)

Where did you live: Bearsden/Courthill

Secondary school:  Bearsden Academy

Best mates at school: Whole load of friends during my time there but for first 2/3 years it was Andy Nall, Iain Cochrane, Stevie Smith. Ian Russell & Dav Sharp

Funniest memory from school: Apart from my Deuchars episode probably Granny Smith. She gave me lines and I didn’t do them. She told me if I didn’t hand them in the next day I would get one of the belt and it would increase every day until I did them. When she gave you the belt she took you into the corridor and put the lights out because she didn’t like to see you in pain. After four days she gave up as it was hurting her more than me.

First holiday with your mates: First holiday was in 1975 when me, George McKechnie and Geoff Kaczmarek went camping to Arran. It rained constantly and after 3 days and with a river running though our tent we went home.
First proper holiday was 1976 when me, Ian Martin (Teeny), Davie Boyle, Geoff Kaczmarek (Skinny), Ian Fleming (Lugsy) and Gordon McKechnie went to Morecambe.
Outstanding memory was going into first English pub ordering 6 pints of Tetleys bitter and Elton John & Kiki Dee were playing on the jukebox.
Other than that getting questioned for attempted murder!

What was your first job: Worked as a trainee quantity surveyor in Wellington Street for 30 quid a month. Left after 3 years and went to see the world with my brother.

Who was your musical hero in 70s: Bryan Ferry

Favourite Single: Pyjamarama by Roxy Music

Favourite Album: Roxy Music debut album

First gig: Think it was Roxy music at the Apollo with big Geoff Kaczmarek (Skinny), who was a mega Roxy music fan.

Favourite movie in 70s: Blazing Saddles at the Rio with Ian Martin, Neil Mackay, Alan Campbell (Sammy), David Goudal (Bug) & Johnny Reay.
This was the the same night we got pulled up by a team of Drum boys who pulled out there steel combs and walked up the line threatening to slash us. They got as far as Johnny who stuck the nut on one, I booted another one and it was just kicking off when the Polis arrived.


Who was your inspiration in 70s: Pat Stanton (Hibs legend) was my inspiration as regards to football. I didn’t have any posters on my wall.
I shared a bedroom with my oldest brother Brian who was a bit of an artist. He had painted portraits of Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and Leonard Cohen on the walls.

What do you miss most from the 70s: Everything (especially the art of tackling!)

What advice would you give your 14yr old self: Wouldn’t change a thing – I lived it, experienced it and wouldn’t change it.

I was a one woman man in the 70s
Okay maybe I was a two woman man!
Awright I admit it, I was a man-slut!

70s pub session, you’re allowed to invite 4 people dead or alive from 70s: Bill Shankly, Matt Busby, Jock Stein & Eddie Turnbull….. wonder what we’d talk about?

May be an image of Alistair Fleming and smiling
FLUM NOW – A PILLAR OF SOCIETY AND A PICTURE OF CONTENTMENT

wild wild west(erton)

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – April 2021)

Growing up in Scotland’s first ‘garden village,’ sounds absolutely idyllic. And I have to say, I have no complaints – I loved it. But things are not always as they seem.

So, with apologies to my English teacher for starting the previous two sentences with conjunctions, and with tongue firmly in cheek, what follows are some of my personal recollections of that time.

I should though, perhaps insert the caveat that the supposed parallel lines of my memory and imagination do sometimes tend to merge like the proton beams from multiple Particle Throwers in Ghostbusters. The not-quite-so- catastrophic results can very easily be rectified in the Comments section below.

*********

I’ll spare you the full history lesson, but Westerton is a district of Bearsden, which is itself a suburb set to the north of Glasgow, Scotland. The village holds the distinction of being the first ‘garden village’ in Scotland.

By the time my family moved into the area, the ‘village’ had expanded in the forty-seven years since formation in 1913, but the core area remains relatively unchanged in the sixty years hence.

*********

DEEPDENE ROAD:

The number of similarly aged kids living and playing on Deepdene Road and the surrounding streets was quite remarkable.

In those days, you see, it didn’t really matter if you were boy or girl; if you were five years old or eleven. Everyone played together. And even if natural ‘geographical’ splits occurred along each third of the street, there would still be groups of at least fifteen tearing about like noisy, hyperactive rejects from Fagin’s gang.

Street football, with lampposts for street-wide goalposts; kick the can; hide and seek; endless wars between perceived good and bad adversaries. I guess the noise level must have upset certain neighbours; I know the old ‘ball in garden’ most certainly did.

Mr Allan, an old Captain Mainwaring type and also a Bank Manager, was one such. He terrified us, and would often confiscate the ball should it end up in his flower bed. He’d give us pelters if he caught us sneaking in to retrieve it without permission.

I remember vividly, then, one Sunday morning when an attempt on my ‘keepie uppie’ record hit the buffers and the ball was launched a la Peter Kay (“ …’ave iiit!”) over his hedge.
It ended up within reach of his front door. I could easily have picked it up and legged it, but rang the bell. It was a good few minutes before Mr Allan appeared – in his dressing gown. His face was puce with rage. Seems not many kids practice their footie skills at seven a.m. on a Sunday!

THE PYLON:

Where there is now a small power substation, there once stood a pylon. A pylon for climbing and an area of grass large enough and far enough away from any windows to play football and cricket / rounders.

What else could a kid of the Sixties want?

Probably not a bit of a kicking from the advance party of a gang from another neighbourhood! But that’s what happened when three unknown lads approached the ten year old me, and asked what football team I supported.

Remember, this is late Sixties, West of Scotland. To reply either ‘Rangers’ or ‘Celtic’ would offer best odds of 50:50 chance of upsetting the inquisitor. So, thinking on my feet, the streetwise, wee, ten year old me looks one of the lads straight in the eye and says, “Dunfermline Athletic.”

Next thing, I’m lying on the grass nursing a few rapidly appearing bumps and bruises, and watching these ne’er-do-wells laughing and run off with my football. “Raith Rovers fans in Westerton? Who’d have thought,” I pondered, before busting into tears.

THE BLOCK:

One side of Deepdene Road formed a continuous pavement that ran best part of four hundred metres (four, forty yards in those days) around onto Monreith Avenue and to Wheatfield, then back to Deepdene. This was our racetrack: be it on home-made bogies; running in our gym shoes; on space-hoppers or even just hopping – we’d organise races around it.

Without the benefit of smart watches, stop watches, or indeed, watches, the recorded times relied heavily on the veracity and concentration of the designated timekeeper. World records were set and repeatedly broken throughout the course of an afternoon. Disputed results often resulted in black eyes and tears … but everyone reconvened the following day, ready to take on some other challenge – like who could climb to the greatest height on the pylon.

JAMIESON’S:

This was the small grocery store closest to our house. There was a newsagent / sweet shop next door.
“You got money for Jaimie’s?” would be the common question to and from school, in the hope your pal would either lend you some or at least buy you a gobstopper.

I’d have been about Primary Four, I think, when it converted to a self-service convenience store. All of a sudden, ‘dogging’ lunch became the in-thing. Beef olives with turnip and potatoes from the school canteen didn’t seem quite so appealing when chocolate bars, chewing gum and Lucky Bags could be had for the same price at Jaimie’s.

Same price? Word soon came back from the older kids that these goodies could all be had AND you certainly didn’t need to spend all your lunch money.  These new self-service stores were like manna from heaven. Kids of all ages now discovered just how light their fingers could actually be. They would later find just how red and sore they could be when Headmaster Mr Thompson found out what they’d been up to.

THE VILLAGE:

The village centre was the community hub: there were three shops as I recall. A Co-op to which we’d be sent to for ‘the messages’ by our Mums; the butcher shop, and I think, a sort of haberdashery shop.


These are now long gone, as is the old Library / Village Hall which sat beside them. It was here that as a young, impressionable Cub Scout, that I witnessed the older Boy Scouts have a real set-to, clubbing each other with the long wooden staves they carried.

“It’s character building. It’ll make a man of you,” was the level of concern expressed by my ex-Boy Scout father when I told him I wasn’t sure I wanted to join when old enough.

The original Primary School was also on that site.

An abiding memory of my first day at school is a sort of plasticine mixed with wood varnish smell … and Blair McKellar and Wallace Drummond knocking seven bells out of each other at the back of class.

Funny the things you remember, eh?

THE PLAYING FIELD and THE DUMP:

These were the two areas of grass to which crowds of kids would gravitate whenever the West of Scotland climate was in good humour. Aspiring, and crap, football players would mix with those who preferred to chase after their ‘Getaway Discs,’ (frisbees.) Older boys and girls would gather in groups to smoke a fly fag, and talk about the latest entry into the music charts and the upcoming youth club disco.

Then the shout would go up – “The P.G.B. are coming!”

No need for mobile phones in  those days – if one of the neighbouring area gangs like Peel Glen Boys, Scurvy or The Fleet were on the march, word spread pretty fast indeed.

There would be that moment when if it wasn’t always so wet in Glasgow, tumbleweed would have rolled over the field; a heavy silence would descend and a church bell would ring out doleful single chimes.

It was like the black clad gunslinger had “come for ma boy.”

Kids would scarper; the field would empty; the silence would be broken by the sound of doors slamming shut. There would be a stillness.

But something else was happening. At the other end of the field a group of older lads would peel away from their retreating friends and congregate in formation.

Yes! It was the Defenders of Westerton. Our very own Justice League. It was The Wessy Rats!

The astute reader will perhaps by now have noticed a bit of a theme running through this piece. It really wasn’t too bad at all. It was certainly no Crenshaw or Compton, L.A. Whether it were individuals squaring off or gangs passing through rival territory, most of what went on was posturing.

Me? I wasn’t too sure. I decided that cowardice was the better part of valour and joined my local athletics club.

If I was to be chibbed by the P.G.B., they would have to catch me first.

Hi-yo Silver! Away!

doggin’ (no, not that kind!)

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, March 2021

Doggin’ (playing truant, bunking off, playing hooky)

There was a time when the term doggin’ had different connotations from what it has now.

Although, on further inspection, it could be argued that there are some similarities to both activities……

You don’t want to be recognised.

You spend time in the woods

It isn’t as much fun as you’d imagined
(and I’m not talking from experience here folks!)

When we were younger, ‘playing truant’ was romanticised in cartoons and comic books, and latterly in films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, usually with a mean Truant Officer playing the pantomime villain.

By the time we got to secondary, bunkin’ off school had become one of those rites of passage, that everybody who was anybody had done, and if you believed them, they were having a ball.

It sounded exhilarating – better than sitting in Algebra wondering what language was being spoken, or in French – again, wondering what language was being spoken.

I have two vivid memories of doggin’ school, because I only bunked off twice.

The first one involved four of us and it had been meticulously planned right down to the last detail (well nearly)….

On the chosen day we all left the house as normal and met at a pre-arranged spot, craftily and covertly, we then double-backed to our pal Nuggets house, as his Mum and Dad were both out at work.

The plan was to spend the day living it up like young lords, whilst all the other saps were in class.

The first part of the plan went like clockwork and by 8:30am we were safely entrenched in Nuggets front room; my house was on the same street and another lad lived nearby as well so we had to take measures to ensure that we wouldn’t be seen. 

This was 1971 so there was no daytime TV, Nugget wasn’t particularly into music so he had no vinyl apart from one of those Top Of the Pops compilation albums, his radio had no batteries and he didn’t own a pack of cards or any board games.

Nugget didn’t need any of this stuff because his passion was his pets.
The cockatoo that he taught to say ‘f*ck off’ was a mainstay, the Alsatian that had teeth like a grizzly bear was now an old friend but he had a surprise for us – a brand new (untrained) Ferret that thought Xmas had come early.

Naive? Stupid? Mental?
Take your pick, we were oblivious to the dangers of this feral polecat as we all coo’ed over it like it was the fluffiest bunny from fluffy-bunny land….. until it started to draw blood.

I KID YOU NOT – THIS IS WHAT THE LITTLE SHIT LOOKED LIKE WHEN IT WAS HAPPY!

It was a viscous little critter with teeth like razors, and worst of all, once it was out of its cage, it was damn near impossible to recapture it or fend it off.

A few years later I would go and see Monty Python and the Holy Grail at The Rio cinema in Bearsden, and the killer bunny in that movie reminded me a lot of Nugget’s savage weasel.

By the time it got to 9:30am we were bloodied, bored and ready for a mid-morning snack.

Mindful of our need to go unnoticed, we attempted to crawl on our tummy’s like commando snipers from the lounge to the kitchen, however by doing this we placed ourselves within chomping range of the ferret, who was having his own mid-morning snack.

On opening the fridge, we found 2 triangles of dairylea cheese a slice of spam and an egg. There was Nesquik but no milk and half a Tunnocks teacake with a mallow so hard that Michelangelo could sculpt David from it.
This was the point that Nugget remembered Friday was the family shopping day.
One of us suggested roast ferret as an alternative but Nugget, understandably, wasn’t too keen on that idea..

By 10:00am we were so fed-up, hungry, and intimidated by the beast of Stonedyke that we decided to walk to school and say we’d missed the bus, more than happy to take any punishment that was winging our way.

This doggin’ lark wasn’t all it was cracked up to be…….

Cut forward a term and we were ready to try again, however, the second episode proved to be a bit more spontaneous as we were actually in school when we decided that we’d bunk off for the afternoon.

There were 4 of us again and we decided we’d go to the bakery at Bearsden Cross for a leisurely sit-in lunch before meandering off to see what the day had in store for us.


We had no idea at the time, but what the day had in store for us was an afternoon that would bring more wrinkles to our teenage brows than a stressed Sid James!

In terms of doggin’ school, we’d done the stay-at-home bit and it hadn’t been much fun, so we thought we’d try the great outdoors this time.

This would have been fine – if we weren’t all in full school uniform.

This would have been fine – if we had genuinely looked like 5th or 6th years heading home for study leave instead of wet 2nd years bunking off, particularly my mate Geo who looked about 10 years old.

This would have been fine – if we had an actual plan for how we were going to fill these 3 hours.

Indeed, the only plan we had was to keep away from any main roads so we headed up towards Bearsden Golf Club.

None of us particularly knew this part of Bearsden and just as we got to the top of Thorn Rd, we saw a police car and panicked, scattering off in all directions, before meeting up in a wooded area which we later discovered was the Bluebell Wood, or, our very own ‘Pine Barrens’ – for any Sopranos fans out there.

THIE BLUEBELL WOOD AKA PINE BARRENS

I had never been there before, or even knew it existed, and I’ve never been back there since.

We weren’t sure if the police had actually seen us before we scattered, but we decided we needed to keep on the move.

On hearing a dog in the distance and to illustrate the paranoia, we convinced ourselves that there were sniffer dogs on our trail.
Indeed, we were in such a genuine panic that we actively looked for a stream to walk in, to ensure there would be no scent for the imaginary hounds to trail!

With no sense of direction we just drifted further and further into the darkness of the woods, doing all the things that daft boys do, like tripping each other up, using each other for pine-cone target practice, climbing trees and observing the wildlife, hoping we weren’t being tailed by that damn ferret, which coincidentally had recently escaped from Nuggets house never to be seen again (just like the Russian in Pine Barrens!)

On reflection, this would have been the perfect time, nay the only time in our young life’s to have benefited from those Wayfinder shoes we’d been obsessed with in Primary school.

The compass in the heel and the animal track sole, could finally have been put to some use.
(See Colin’s excellent post for more on Wayfinder’s!)
https://onceuponatimeinthe70s.com/2021/02/19/these-boots-were-made-for/

Instead, our unanimous footwear of choice that day was the very popular but unsuitable penny loafer, great for terra firma and for dancing to Hi Ho Silver Lining at ski-club discos but hopeless in a soggy, slippy woodland terrain.

We’d been wandering around the woods aimlessly for a couple of hours by now when one of the crew thought he heard traffic, this was a promising breakthrough so we marched off in said direction trying to work out what part of Bearsden we were going to end up in.
“Courthill”, “Baljaffray”, “Colquoun Park”, none of us had a clue.

We could see houses, cars and a road through a gap in the trees and the sense of relief was palpable, but we still had no idea where we were until we saw the road sign –

Peel Glen Rd…..

Aww noooo“, we were in the middle of deepest, darkest Drumchapel, plus the name Peel Glen struck terror into our young hearts, this was the heartland of the feared Peel Glen Boys (PGB).

PEEL GLEN WITH THE BLUE BELL WOOD IN THE BACKGROUND

The PGB had gone by reputation (and graffiti) alone until recently, when a few of them had cornered about 6 of us outside the Rio cinema in Bearsden and took all our money whilst we were queuing to see a movie.

Their talisman went by the name of Jim Finn and he had a menacing 6-inch scar on the side of his face.
His notoriety went before him but he wasn’t what I imagined, he was short and had a baby face that belied both his age and his reputation, he reminded me of a young Al Capone and we all gladly and politely handed all our money over to him in fear that our faces could end up looking like his.

A YOUNG, BABYFACED AL CAPONE PRE-SCAR

Slightly bemused that there had been no resistance, despite the numerical advantage in our favour, Mr Finn seemed quite charmed by our genial generosity and wandered off into the night looking for meatier challenges, I’m sure.

I’ve been involved in branding & marketing for much of my career so I recognise great branding when I see it, and when I think about it now, Finn’s 6-inch scar was a genius trademark in terms of promoting his particular brand, much like Capone in 1920’s Chicago.

It was an open secret that Finn carried an open razor inside his Wrangler denim jacket, but in truth, he rarely had to brandish it to get what he wanted.

AL CAPONE WITH DISTINCTIVE DOUBLE SCAR

I knew Drumchapel reasonably well back then, I’d played football at most of the schools, my dentist was there, I got my haircut there (pre Fusco’s) I went to the swimming baths regularly and also to the compact shopping centre with a Woolworths where I’d very recently bought Run Run Run by JoJo Gunne, but I’d never been in this part of ‘the Drum’ before.

I knew however, that if I could find Kinfauns drive I could navigate my way home.
We asked the first wee wummin we saw, and I wanted to give her a big hug when she pointed to the next road, just 100 yards away.

Once we were on Kinfauns we just followed the yellow brick road, carrying out a series of jogs and sprints. Prophetically, in the words of the catchy Jo Jo Gunne song, we literally did ‘Run Run Run’ all the way home.

“You better ride home baby”
“He was born outside of the law”

When we got to Canniesburn Rd we looked at each other, clothes covered in mud, twigs & ferns poking out of our hair, drenched in sweat, ruddy-faced and up to high doh, and we all just burst out laughing.

We knew we’d shared an experience and would have a catalogue of stories from the day, which was kinda the whole point of the exercise, but we also knew in our heart of hearts that doggin’ school wasn’t something we’d be revisiting any time soon – however much we bummed it up to anyone else – it was just too damn stressful.

After the fiasco of ‘ferret-gate’ months earlier, at least we could now say that we had ‘been there , done that’ and (got the t-shirt), and at the end of the day, that was good enough for us, or at least for me anyway.

I decided then and there I would gladly take double Algebra over a Sid James forehead any day of the week!

Kilmardinny Country Club

Russ Stewart: London, March 2021

The early 70s, was a simpler time – pre computer games, pre mobile phones and pre scandal surrounding some of the TV icons of the day like Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris.

In those days Kilmardinny Loch, a mere five minute walk from Bearsden Academy, was a hive of activity and an after school playground for early teens and older. 

It was our ‘hangout rendezvous’ with some kids going home first to change into more suitable clothes, whilst many others just went straight there from school. 

Coarse fishing took place at an area called “sandbank”, which should have been called “fagbank” given the amount of discarded cigarette butts.

Roach, perch and pike provided  meagre fare, whilst a gigantic pike was rumoured to eat ducks. 


In fact I remember a 14lb pike being pulled out of the loch but the catch was deemed invalid for the record book, as the method used to snare the monster fish involved a butcher’s hook and a frog attached to the end of a rope, tied to a tree, overnight.

Kilmardinny Loch

Being a wooded area tree climbing was popular amongst the more simian of character.  Alcohol fuelling the desire to climb  and, on occasion, the type of descent.

An investigation, with respect to a fall from a tree into the loch, prompted a police probe into the source of the bootleg whisky being sold by the loch for 50p a bottle.
I often wonder if that local moonshine operation is still in existence!

There were some great “off road” bicycle runs around the loch which enabled the rider to ramp up decent downhill speeds, culminating in a semi doughnut shaped skid in the mud at the foot of the tracks.  

Cyclists had to beware though as there was a spate of incidents involving fishing lines being stretched across the cycle paths, at mouth height.
Perhaps this was the frogs revenge! 

At nearby Mosshead a perpetual footie game took place, often continuing till the light failed, with players coming and going as they returned from having their tea ( not dinner) and maybe after a bit of homework. 

It wasn’t exactly Hampden and the ‘pitch’ had a pronounced incline for the benefit of whoever was shooting downhill.
The slope had other purposes however, and also served as a pretty good ‘bogie’ point to point racetrack for the dexterous few who’d put together their own carts.

The games a bogey….

Every winter there was an insane challenge to be the first on the loch ice. 

I recall playing footie on the frozen loch, and the surface would rise and fall in rhythm with the players congregating and dispersing around the ball.

If football wasn’t your thing it was always worth investing in ice skates as the loch would freeze annually, in fact the ice proved thick enough on occasion to sustain a bonfire in the centre of the loch, which did, of course, occur .

I’m not really sure when the loch area fell out of favour as a post school social hub, perhaps when Bearsden Academy relocated.

From all accounts it is very quiet now.

I’m guessing computer games and mobile phones are the order of the day now rather than those seat-of-the-pants outdoor pursuits we used to enjoy at the not-so-exclusive Kilmardinny Country Club…..

frankie & johnny.

(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – February 2021)

Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts

Oh, what a couple in love

Frankie was loyal to Johnny

Just as true as the stars above

I’m sure my mother’s taunting of this verse was not meant as a homophobic slur. We hadn’t invented homophobes back then. I think she just thought the pairing of names of her third born and the wee boy across the road was cute and had an air of innocence about it.

I was 2 when we moved into our newly built semi detached house in the quiet suburbs of Bearsden although I have no recollection of that. My first memories were of sitting staring out at the new builds across the road – a carbon copy of ours and the 6 houses at our end of the street.

My second memory was going, with my Mum, to visit the new occupants from across the road. The elderly Mrs. P and her next door neighbour the younger Mrs. A with her 2 offspring were in attendance. Mrs. P ushered Frankie, his sister Susan and myself into the kitchen and perched us on high chairs in the kitchen at various work surfaces, plastic mugs of cordial in hand. We nervously looked  at each other, the floor, the ceiling, the kettle until little Susie burst into tears and rushed into her mothers arms in the living room. A few more minutes passed, more nervous glances then Frankie cracked and retreated next door. “That went well” I said to the kettle before giving it a few more minutes before joining the throng.

Frankie was one month older than me and we became best friends and rivals firstly at Bearsden Primary, a miles walk away (who let’s 5 year olds walk alone or even in pairs these days) then at Castlehill Primary virtually on our doorstep.

I went on holiday to Arran with his family and slept 3 in a bed head to toe with little Susie making up the trio.

I witnessed the births of his 2 younger siblings when they returned home (I didn’t actually see them popping out obviously) though I did witness their breast feeding with feelings of wonder mixed with ‘should I be watching this’. We’re talking the 60s here !

The woods at the back of Frankie’s house was our playground and tree climbing with our boy dollies (I had Action Man, Frankie the inferior GI Joe) was the game, or dare. We were always competitive. Frankie always had the bottle to reach the higher branches until GI Joe slipped from his grasp and plummeted to the ground. The sight of Joe’s head and arms spring into his chest like a frightened turtle was quite harrowing for 7 year old boys. Action Man lived on. We were always competitive

One summer a group of us somehow acquired boxing gloves. Stripped to the waste sparring on the front lawn led to an all out slog-fest and Frankie got me a good one (below the belt I might add). I of course burst into tears and retaliated with a similar blow to the solar plexus only to discover with my head down and eyes full of tears and snot I’d punched Knut an innocent Swede and bystander. I have to say I have never laid a hand on any Scandinavian since ! We were always competitive.

We were a curious couple with an interest in how things worked. Our houses had light switches both down and up for the stair lights. I wondered what would happen if both switches were engaged simultaneously. I also convinced Frankie that his place should be the venue for our experiment.

Before I continue, I learnt early on that you should always get on the good side of your friend’s mothers. Always polite and servile even obsequious – the cute kid from across the road. It’s served me well in later life with dinner ladies, cleaners, tea ladies and the like. I’ve greatly benefited from these woman and have seen the wrath of these people if crossed.

So with Frankie upstairs and me down, “1.2.3” click click. “1.2.3.” click click “1.2.3.” click BOOM !

“I think it’s time for you to go home John, love”

“FRANKLIN !!”

The 50s and 60s brought many new products including melamine cups –  a hard unbreakable plastic material (or was it ?) Keen to show off his mothers new tableware, Frankie dropped a cup from shoulder height onto the linoleum kitchen floor were it bounced a few times before resting on the floor intact. He repeated the action with arm stretched above his head and exerting a bit of force. Same result. Further experimentation was needed. We headed upstairs to his parents bedroom, opened the window and let the tumbler drop to the crazy paving below. Still intact.

One more go. Frankie leaned out the window, I held his legs and with all his strength he hurled the cup 2 floors below. SMASH ! Hurried footsteps clattered up the stairs.

“I think it’s time for you to go home John, love”

“FRANKLIN !!”

The family A had just returned from holidaying in the Channel Isles and Frankie was keen to show me his acquisition from the return flight. A sealed sachet of English mustard. Not a common sight in those days especially in Snoresville. “If I put it in my palm and smashed it with my fist it will squeeze out everywhere” said Frankie. “Yes……or we could tell you’re wee brother it’s ice cream……….” says I.

Thump ! Splat! Aaaah  !!

“I think it’s time for you to go home John, love”

“FRANKLIN !!”

Frankie finally won our growth spurt challenge by 1st year towering over my 6 feet. We walked to school at Bearsden Academy about a mile away (who let’s 13 year olds walk alone or even in pairs these days) but our interests were taking us down different roads. Frankie joined up with the fitba’ gang were I tried my hand at basketball. In 2nd year the family moved away only about a mile down the road. We would nod in the playground if our paths crossed then school was over and they never did again.

We’re friends on social media now some 50 years on but we don’t chat. He goes by Frank, me John.

Maybe one more prank experience.

“I think it’s time for you to go home John”

“FRANKLIN !!”

a rite of passage.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – February 2021)

A bullet ant

 In the Brazilian Amazon, young boys belonging to the indigenous Sateré-Mawé tribe, mark their coming of age when they turn 13 in a Bullet Ant initiation. Collected ants are sedated in a herbal solution by tribe leaders and then woven into gloves with their stings pointed inwards

An hour or so later, the ants awaken. Needless to say, they are not in best humour. The poor youngsters who must wear the gloves for a period of ten minutes, feel the full force of the searing stings. The pain has been described as, ‘like walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch nail embedded in your heel’ but crying out would be a sign of weakness, so the suffering is endured in silence.

In Kenya, young Maasai boys attain ‘warrior’ status by spending the night before their ceremony in the forest. The following morning they return to the village where they sing, dance and gorge on a mixture of alcohol, cow’s blood and milk whilst also packing away huge amounts of meat.

They are then ready to be circumcised, making the official transformation into a man, warrior, and protector. Of course, to flinch or cry out would again be a sign of weakness, bring shame upon their families and question their warrior spirit.

Coming of age traditions, are as varied as they’re commonplace the world over. In 1970s West of Scotland, for instance, the transformation from ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ to ‘young adult’ was marked by ‘getting a paper round.’

In the summer of 1970, I turned twelve. I started secondary school and made lots of new friends, many of them older than me. They had ‘stuff.’  ‘Stuff’ that I aspired to. A whole new, exciting life beckoned. But ‘stuff’ costs money and my parents were rather disparaging of it.

“You want it? You pay for it,” was the usual reply when the subject of a new Subbuteo team, or burgundy coloured platform shoes arose.

So when an advert appeared, stuck to the window of our local bus shelter, looking for boys or girls to deliver morning papers around the town, I was right in there – especially as the job paid the princely sum of just under two whole pounds a week. That sounds ridiculous now, I know, but it’s the equivalent of around twenty-five pounds nowadays.

Back in those pre-internet days, just as commercial radio stations were beginning to woo advertising money from the print media, eighty percent of households bought, or had delivered, a daily newspaper. Big business then for those who had shrewdly set themselves up as distributors.

Of course, a small army of delivery kids were require to deliver the papers each morning before the householders left for work. The only stated prerequisite for the job was that you provided your own means of transporting the papers to your allocated ‘run.’ For most of us that mode was bicycle, though some did simply walk, dragging little trolleys or bogeys behind them onto which the papers were stacked.

The collection point was by the town station, about one and a half miles from my home. Being a kindly soul, Mr Forrest, the distributor, initially gave me a run local to my own address. So, a round trip of three miles plus delivery, finishing up in my own street – just over an hour, tops. Time for a quick breakfast, grab my school bag and off for the bus to school. Job’s a good ‘un.

Except! Except, we had not long moved into that address. I was not as familiar with the street names as I thought and for the first three days I mixed two of them up. Job wasn’t quite such a good ‘un after all – less than a week in and I was already visiting the boss’s office.

Fortunately, I was allowed to keep my job, and several months later, I was given a run right next to the collection point. Though I’d never heard the names of Ledcameroch Road and Camastraden Drive, I was told they were just the opposite side of the railway station. This obviously meant less distance to carry the papers to their delivery addresses. I’d cracked it.

Or so I thought. The morning I first collected my run order, I noticed the majority of deliveries included the heftier broadsheets of the day: the Times; The Telgraph and The Financial Times. There was dearth of Express, Record and Mirror. My bag was crammed. And ultra heavy.

As I tentatively found my balance on the bike and started towards my first address, I was sure I could hear some sniggering from the kids still sorting their papers.

It didn’t take long to realise why my so called friends found it funny I’d been given that run – the houses were all huge mansion types, with driveways that seemed to go on forever. No skipping over the hedge to pop the neighbour’s paper through their letterbox. The neighbours were almost a bus ride away!  And to make it even worse, most had letterboxes at the foot of the door – every paperboy / papergirl’s nightmare.

Even more challenging was that several of these huge homes had guard dogs, or at least just very protective canine pets, that roamed off leash. Deep, crunchy gravel paths led to the front door which would alert the dogs to my arrival while also hindering my getaway as the back wheel of my Raleigh spun round and round in frantic and futile search for traction.

After several days I realised the best method to adopt was to leave my bike and paper bag at the entrance gate and quietly sneak over the lawn and flower beds to the door. Quiet as I could, I’d post the paper through the letterbox. I then had a twenty second window of opportunity to make my escape before an irate Doberman or the like would come racing round from the back of the house.

It’s no great surprise that I honed my athletics skills on that particular run – ‘run’ being the operative word.

As I got older and stronger, I was allocated runs further and further from home, until I found myself delivering papers at the opposite end of town, some three and a half miles away. As a now experienced delivery boy, I was offered the privilege of double rounds. Double rounds / double money. I’d have been a fool not to, right?

Yeah, it sounds attractive, and sure, the money came in handy. But cycling that distance, invariably through any combination of wind, rain, hail or snow, with two great big heavy bags of newspapers across my shoulders, whilst dodging the early morning commuter traffic …

I was now reaching the age when the attraction summer jobs was preferred to year-round daily slog, having to brave the vagaries of a West of Scotland micro climate. But those paper rounds taught me the values of the age-old mantra by which I live to this day: work hard, play hard.

(More of that later, perhaps.)

My legs were weary from pedalling; my shoulders were hunched from carrying abnormal loads and I had a perpetual chesty cough from working in the cold and damp early morning air.

But I had graduated from boyhood; I had earned my rite of passage. And while I may have been saddle sore and chaffed, at least I emerged with my bits intact!