I guess it’s fair to say I’ve been called many things over my time – probably more so behind my back than to my face.
Jackie; Beaky; Ceejay; Wee Man, A few people have also referred to me as ‘Jacko,’ but their bodies lie in shallow graves in my parents’ garden.
‘Jackie,’ is the easiest to justify, given my surname is Jackson. This is how I was known at school, from Primary right through Secondary. Some of my teachers would even refer to me as such.
At the age of fourteen, I joined my Athletics Club – Garscube Harriers. Here, for the first time, I was mixing with lads from outwith my school and immediate locale. Here, for the first time, I was ‘re-christened.’ Two slightly older lads, started referring to me as ‘Beaky.’ The reason is plain as the nose on my face.
A bit harsh, I thought, but boy’s will be boys, I suppose.
Perhaps surprisingly, Davie and Stevie remain amongst my closest friends, fifty years down the line.
By 1977, and still within the athletics community, I was representing Bank of Scotland on the track / cross country / roads in a small team comprising runners from different clubs across the country. As the new boy, when we first met up, nobody knew me as Colin, Jackie or even Beaky. Another ‘re-branding’ was required.
The TV series ‘The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin’ first aired the previous year and had become immensely popular. The boss of main character Reggie Perrin, Charles Jefferson, was known by his initials and so, rather predicably, I (Colin Jackson) was also given this ‘Ceejay’ moniker. No matter what I did, it invariably prompted cries of:
“I didn’t get where I am today by .. not training hard / not finishing my beer / eating my breakfast“ etc, etc..
Any wishful thoughts of ‘Beaky’ being completely replaced by ‘Ceejay’ were quickly dashed, however. Although it didn’t become a chart hit until January 1980 when it reached #5, THIS was initially released as a vinyl single in 1977, and as I recall, played most days by the Noel Edmonds Breakfast Show on Radio 1.
This, of course, was manna from heaven to Davie and Stevie (the bastards!)
Ah well – as Primal Scream would sing many years later ‘Don’t Fight It – Feel It.’ I now answered to: Colin to my family; Jackie to my old, school friends; Beaky to my athletics club and Ceejay to most anybody else.
The latter two remain the most used today.
Anyway, all this got me thinking how generally DULL and lazy we were with regard to nicknames at school.
In most cases, a Christian or surname would simply be elongated by adding a ‘y.’ ‘Burnsy,’ for instance. ‘Smithy.’ ‘Jonesy.’
Obviously, this method can’t be deployed in all instances, and there were occasions when a surname required shortening before the ‘dropped letters’ could be replaced with the ‘y.’
Cruickshank would become ‘Cruiky’; Gilmour, ‘Gilly.’ Your blog co-host Paul Fitzpatrick became ‘Fitzy,’ and of course I became known as ‘Jackie.’
(Yeah, I know … obstreperous and cantankerous little sod, I was. Punk before ‘Punk.’ I insisted in ‘ie’ being added rather than ‘y’ because I didn’t want to carry a girl’s name like the singer of the 1968 chart hit and theme tune to the children’s TV programme, ‘White Horses.’ It was only a few years ago that I learned ‘Jacky’ as she was known on that song, was actually named Jackie Lee. I wasn’t quite the smart-ass little punk I thought I was, as it turned out.)
Some nicknames were inevitably attributed to appearance. I can’t remember any being too unkind – and I’d have to say that in the vast majority of cases, a kid was given a nickname only because they were liked. That said, although we had a ‘Speedy’ who was a very fast and very good football player, we also had a ‘Tubby’ and ‘Jumbo,’ both of whom would play either as goalkeeper or formidable centre half.
There was also a ‘Teeny’ – slightly smaller than myself and, bordering on the cruel side, a ‘Lugsy.’ And a ‘Mouse.’
Then there was another lad called Colin who was deemed to look like a Mexican and carried the name ‘Mex’ at least until the day he left school. It was all pretty much straight forward and sadly lacking invention.
When I was a kid I loved reading the ‘Jennings and Darbyshire’ series of books. These boarding school kids knew how to contrive a decent nickname. Sharing Dorm 4 with them was a boy named Charles A Temple. Using schoolboy logic, they took his initials to form CAT. This they changed by association, to DOG. That somehow became DOGSBODY which was then abbreviated to BOD.
And this was how he became known. Simple, really!
The only boy I recall having a manufactured nickname as such, was my pal Derek.
When playing football in the Primary School playground in the late Sixties, we’d all pick teams we’d imagine playing for. While most kids would go for Rangers / Celtic / Partick Thistle etc, Derek and I opted for Blackpool! Not so much for the fact they’d had some world class players over the years (Matthews, Mortensen and Armfield to name a few) but because we believed Blackpool was a town associated with attractive, scantily clad showgirls … snigger, snigger! (Hey, we were nine / ten years old – cut us some slack, eh?)
I could see myself as the next Tony Green and Derek was Henry Mowbray.
Derek to Henry. In the mind of a child, it all made perfect sense For the remaining seven years of his school life and beyond, he would be known as Henry. Which kind of puzzled and freaked-out his parents in equal measure.
Now, maybe I’m wrong with this, and I’m happy to be corrected, but the giving of nicknames was mainly a boy thing. I’m aware of only one girl in our school being afforded one … and that wasn’t until Sixth Year, when we were all about seventeen / eighteen years old.
Marian joined our school from one we believed, a bit more exclusive than ours, when her parents moved into a very affluent area of the town. To preserve relative anonymity, I’ll not divulge too much. It’s sufficient to say she was of an ‘arty’ nature, very talented in that field, and also very attractive. She had a, let’s say, ‘zany’ demeanour. In the Sixties she’d have been described as a ‘free spirit.’ Nowadays, she’d be ‘extrovert.’
This was the Seventies though, and we just regarded her as a loveable hippie ‘loony!’ An amalgam of Seventies Kate Bush and Eighties Bjork, perhaps.
She was known as ‘Mad Marian.’ It was badge she accepted with pride, I think.
The only other girl I know to be given a nickname is Kate Pye. You may actually know her -she was, still is, in Class 2B – of Bash Street School. For some reason, she’s known as ‘Toots.’ Her twin Sidney is just plain
old young Sidney.)
Of the seven kids featured as being in this ‘gang’ only Toots and two others were called by nicknames. And Toots is the only one to retain her moniker. It seems writers and publishers alike feared a backlash from the Woke Brigade (were they a rival school gang?) and in 2021 re-named ‘Fatty’ as Freddie, and ‘Spotty’ as Scotty.
(Plug, was given this name, not as I’d always considered, because of his unattractive, OK, ugly, looks. Apparently, when he was briefly awarded the recognition of a whole comic in his own name in 1977, it was revealed that his full name was Percival Proudfoot Plugsey.)
Believe that if you will … I sense some very early back-pedaling here.
Teachers, of course, were fair game.
We had two brothers who taught at our school. Both had prominent noses, so shared the endearing name of ‘Pin.’ And rather appropriately, as a means of distinguishing between them, the Art teacher was referred to as ‘Drawing Pin.’
We also had a ‘Pancho ‘(what was it with the Mexican look in our wee town?); a ‘Horsey’ (girls’ Sports teacher); ‘Boot’ (boys’ Sports teacher); Numph – I have no idea where that came from, but boy, could he dish out the belt! There was also an elderly English teacher called Mr Lyle, who was affectionately known as ‘Papa’ Lyle.
It’s been a pleasant surprise to recall just how generally kind and inoffensive most nicknames have been, in my experience.
A nickname is fun, and while it may emanate from and focus upon a physical or personality trait, it’s often simply a kind and gentle representation of someone’s character. It changes nothing. Not normally.
Credit to Papa Lyle, in Sixth Year English class, for highlighting the following idea from that Shakespeare dude’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’:
“What’s in a (nick)name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie Beaky Ceejay’ Jackson from Glasgow – December 2022)