Tag Archives: Edinburgh

carry on campus (part 3)

George (disco) Cheyne: Glasgow, April 2021

You can just imagine the dulcet Geordie tones of the voiceover: “Day one in the Big Brother campus…and the classmates meet each other for the first time.


“Tension fills the air as they sit in the student union sizing each other up.

“Their first task is to nominate a social convenor for the group without using the Diary Room – it must be done by a public show of hands…”

That’s kind of what happened in the spring of 1978 on our opening day of an eight-week block-release journalism course at Edinburgh’s Napier College.

We were all sitting around after our induction on the Monday and I was trying to organise our first night out. Well, you can take the boy out of Glasgow…

Of the 16 in the class, only two were from the capital city and so – the reasoning went – one of them should act as social convenor.

Made sense to me. Straight shootout between Stevie and Alistair and, when you consider Alistair was sitting there in a shirt and tie and a briefcase on his lap, it became a one-horse race.

Stevie was duly elected social convenor by a show of hands and was set his first task of arranging a night out on the Thursday.

Fast forward 48 hours and we’re all together again – except Stevie – sitting in the union listening to the tunes coming out the Wurlitzer jukebox.


Yeah, it was that long ago. The favourite selections at that time were Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, Boney M’s Brown Girl In The Ring and the Bee Gees’ Night Fever.

Right on cue, Stevie came over to join us with a smile plastered across his coupon singing as he went:

Night fever, night fever

We know how to do it

Gimme that night fever, night fever

We know how to show it


Thankfully he spared us the flailing arm routine always associated with that tune and took his seat with all the confidence of Tony Manero hitting the under-lit dance floor in Saturday Night Fever.

All eyes were on Stevie and we let him milk the moment. In the background you could hear:

Here I am

Praying for this moment to last

Livin’ on the music so fine

Borne on the wind

Makin’ it mine

There was no stopping him now and this time we weren’t spared the flailing arm routine as he grinned: “We’ll be giving it a bit of this tomorrow night then.”

I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction, but someone else asked: How’s that, Stevie?”

“I’ve only got us all on the guest list for the new nightclub that’s opened up in Princes Street,” he replied. “Free champagne, the lot.”

Stevie..social convenor..campus legend.

So the next night there were 14 of us – one of the girls had a pre-arranged family thing and Alistair had presumably found something more interesting in his briefcase – stood outside the club.

I’m pretty sure the place was called Fire Island, which I’m reliably informed is a Waterstones now.


We went down to the front of the queue, flashed our press passes and were escorted into the club by the head bouncer.

This was all new to me. Up till then I had only been escorted out of a nightclub by bouncers.

Our group, with Stevie out in front, were led to a little roped-off area close to the bar where there were a couple of bottles of champagne on the tables….
Lovely.

The head bouncer told us a waitress would be over to take a drinks order which was to be on the house.

Free entry, free bubbly, a free round of drinks and a VIP area to ourselves. If Carlsberg did nights out for young journalists…

Everybody was buzzing and there could only be one toast to make when the drinks arrived: “To Stevie, social convenor extraordinaire.”

He feigned a bit of humility but we all knew, deep down, he was loving his new-found iconic status within the group.

Then, booming out the speakers, came the intro to Night Fever:

Listen to the ground

There is movement all around

There is something goin’ down

And I can feel it

Everybody piled on the dance floor, only too happy to do the flailing arm routine as we all got lost in the moment.

Once we’d returned from the dance floor our friendly head bouncer came over to tell us the owner would be along to meet us in 10 minutes or so.

More free drinks? VIP passes for life? Could this night get any better? Well, no, as it turned out – it was about to go downhill.

The owner arrived, made some small talk and then asked which one of us was Stevie. All eyes whirred round to his empty seat and one of the girls said he’d gone to the toilet, adding rather unnecessarily: “Mind you, that was about 10 minutes ago.”

A frown appeared on the owner’s face before he said: “Maybe one of you guys can help – when’s the photographer coming?”

I did a quick calculation in my head. One missing Stevie and one missing photographer makes two and one pissed-off owner and one mean-looking bouncer makes another two. Put two and two together and you get…trouble!

I explained, as nonchalantly as I could, that the photographer must have been called to another job and would be along soon.

“He’d better be,” said the owner as he turned away.

Operation Great Escape was hatched immediately and we agreed to leave in three groups to avoid as much suspicion as possible.

I was in the last group along with two girls – who thought their presence might stop the bouncers giving us a kicking – and two other guys.

A full minute’s worth of nerve-shredding speed-walking later and we were out the other side.

We saw the others standing 50 yards along from the club, did a quick head count and discovered we had 14.

Eh? Yep, Stevie had bolted from the club at the first mention of the owner – but he couldn’t bring himself to abandon us completely.

Sheepishly, he admitted he’d told the owner there would be spreads in the Evening News, Scotsman, Daily Mail and Daily Record on the angle that his club was Scotland’s answer to Studio 54 in New York. No wonder we got the red carpet treatment.

You won’t be surprised to learn Stevie was stripped of his social convenor duties – and that we never went near that club again.

carry on campus (part 1)

(Post by George Cheyne of Glasgow – March 2021)

Almost three years after leaving school to learn how to be a journalist in a local newspaper some bright spark thought it would be a good idea if I went to college to learn how to be…a journalist.

We were the generation that had slipped through the net, the ones who had gone straight into the job from school, and they wanted to teach us a lesson.

Well, lots of lessons as it turned out. The zealots at the National Council for the Training of Journalists clearly thought our minds had wandered off after two to three years of doing the job, rounded us all up and sent us to the concentration campus at Edinburgh’s Napier College.

It was an eight-week block-release course designed to make sure we attained the, ahem, high standards set by the full-time course.

But we all knew what it was…a jolly. Word had been passed down the line that the block-release course was a box-ticking exercise which served only to teach us the journalistic basics we’d already mastered.

It meant our college experience was always going to be more public house than Animal House but, hey, there’s worse ways to spend two months away from home – and work.

We were paid our full wages – plus a few extra quid in expenses – to be taught how to do what we already did every day. No wonder we went to the boozer.

Yep, you couldn’t make it up – except that’s exactly what we did. In our newspaper practice class we made up stories, lots of them.

And if you ever wondered where the majority of life’s dramas happened in the spring of 1978, I can exclusively reveal it was the Edinburgh suburb of Oxgangs.

The make-believe bank robberies, gun sieges, train crashes, high-rise fires, bomb-squad call-outs, hostage-taking and car smashes we wrote about all took place in EH13.

That was the “where” of our stories to go alongside the “who, what, why, how and when” you always need for any news tale.

Mind you, I often wondered what the good residents of Oxgangs would make of all these dramas on their doorstep. Those house prices would take a right dunt, that’s for sure.

The sleepy suburb was turned into something of a war zone as we wrote up our dramatic stories after being fed the imaginary information.

There was a siege at Oxgangs library after a gunman walked in and threatened to kill the staff. Presumably he wasn’t happy with having to pay charges on his overdue book A Beginner’s Guide On How To Be A Gun Nut.

Then we had a blaze at the high-rise flats in Oxgangs which would have given the Towering Inferno movie a run for its money considering all the dramatic goings-on. There were brave firemen, brave neighbours and brave policemen all around.

Oxgangs Primary School was the setting for a full-scale evacuation after the janny discovered an explosive device in the boiler room. The bomb squad were called in as the kids were moved to a nearby football pitch to carry on their singing lessons. Another Hollywood influence there, methinks

We also had a train crash in Oxgangs which made the movie Runaway Train look like an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine. In our fictitious story the train – with dangerous chemicals on board – derails just before the station and ploughs into the school playground. That train story caused a bit of a stushie for three of us in the class after we took advantage of our lecturer Bill’s easy-going nature

Bill, who made his name covering the murder trial of serial killer Peter Manuel for the Daily Express in 1958, was a free spirit who insisted on treating his classroom like a newsroom.

This meant you could come and go as you please so long as you did the work. And it also meant a large window of opportunity opened up for the Three Amigos.

Our newspaper practice class lasted four hours from 1pm and the assignment for the train crash scenario was two-fold. Firstly, we had to hand in a 150-word story by 2pm and, secondly, a 250-word story by close of play.

We were given the information at the start of class to write up the first part – for an evening paper story – and were told we would be drip-fed other details for the second one.

It didn’t take a genius to work out we would have the best part of two hours after handing in the first story before we would even have to think about writing the second one.

What to do? A few surreptitious looks and nods between the three of us led us to the nearest pub which happened to be beside a Ladbroke’s bookies.

We had a wee racing syndicate going where I was the silent partner, entrusting the other two to make some wise investments on my behalf in the 2.30 at Plumpton and a few others to boot.

A good few pints and punts later, we headed back to college – richer for the experience in every way.

Our classmates were looking a bit frazzled and, judging by the amount of info slips on their desks, the drip-feed had become a torrent.

As we took our seats at 4pm, right on cue another slip was handed out telling us the train driver had died. A quick flick through the red-herring slips that had dropped while we were in the boozer didn’t change anything. Driver dies after train plunges into school playground kind of writes itself.

Anyway, the next day Bill takes the three of us aside before class to tell us we have the top marks for the train story.

Only thing is, he says, when I read them out in class you won’t be top three because it was pretty obvious you guys went to the pub and it’s not fair on the rest of them.

So much for Bill’s free spirit. But at least we got a free afternoon in the boozer thanks to our winnings.

didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to…………methil?

(by Alan Fairley – Edinburgh, March 2021)

First things first, this is not a football post, neither it is a Partick Thistle post.

Posts of that nature can be easily found elsewhere on the site but for this travelogue, which details an epic journey from suburban Glasgow to the darkest recesses of Fife in August 1970, both the game of football and the Jags provide convenient pegs on which to hang this partick-ular (see what I did there?) jacket.

Along with Courthill legend Dougie ‘Sparra’ Davidson, I had been following Thistle home and away for some time and the club’s relegation to the Second Division at the end of season 1969-70 had opened up a cornucopia of new travel opportunities resulting in us spending the summer eagerly planning trips to the uncharted waters of places like Montrose, Arbroath, Stirling, Brechin and Forfar, all of which had been, to us, mere dots on a map of Scotland up until then.

Dougie was the main planner. he was the 70s equivalent of Google. How he did it I’ll never know but he seemed to know every bus and train timetable in mainland Scotland as well as the geographical and socio-economic features of most areas of the country and our first major adventure of the season was a journey to The Kingdom of Fife.

Not a trip to the historic burgh of Dunfermline where the bones of King Robert the Bruce rest beneath the town’s abbey.

Not a pilgrimage to St Andrews, the equally historic home of golf.

Not even an excursion to Anstruther where the most famous fish suppers in the world are flipped out from the sparkling friers in all their golden glory.

Nope, none of the above. This was a jaunt to see our team play a League Cup sectional tie against East Fife in the club’s home town of Methil,  a locality which had apparently once been described by no less than Prince Philip as a ‘dump’ during his wartime service with the Royal Navy. A remark which the Chookie Embra has since denied, but an opinion which has been shared by, well, pretty much everyone who has ever had the misfortune to visit the place.

Dougie had the itinerary meticulously prepared – early morning bus into Queen Street, train to Edinburgh Haymarket, another train to Kirkcaldy and then a bus to Methil.

All went well until we rolled into Haymarket a few minutes late and missed our connection.

Not to worry, plenty of time in hand so we went out of the station for a brief stroll around the Haymarket environs (little did I know that in six years time I would be buying my first flat just across the road from the station).

The first thing we saw when we emerged was a group of about 15 sullen looking Hibs supporters who, on noticing our scarves, advanced en masse in our direction.

It was long before Irvine Welsh had created the characters of Begbie and Renton but even so, the sight of a group of Hibs fans coming at us was suitably frightening. However, it transpired that the supporters bus for their game at Airdrie hadn’t turned up and they merely wanted advice on how to get to the Peoples Republic on the Plains by alternative means.

Step forward the human Google, aka D. Davidson esq, and the happy Hibees headed off with a comprehensive knowledge of the train times which would ensure their arrival at Broomfield by 3pm….

Next stop Kirkcaldy and a pleasant walk along the esplanade to the bus station before enjoying a picturesque run through the east neuk of Fife, passing through a series of small towns with quaint names such as Coaltown of Balgonie.

Methil, however, was anything but picturesque. Ive never been a great admirer of HRH Prince Philip but his alleged description of the town was bang on the money.

Calling Methil a dump is an insult to dumps the world over and, having arrived there with over an hour to go before hostilities, and being well short of legal drinking age, the only source of amusement was, wait for it, a cafe with a bagatelle. That’s right, a bagatelle. A wooden board with a series of wooden pins where you manually projected a steel ball and waited for it to nestle in one of the areas at the base where numeric stickers confirmed your score.

Don’t knock it however. Bagatelle was probably the forerunner of pinball and, who knows,  without it Pete Townshend might never had written Tommy.

In the unlikely event that anyone’s remotely interested in the game itself, it ended in an uninspiring 1-1 draw with most of the action occurring on the unsegregated terracing as either set of fans lobbed bottles and cans at each other in time honoured fashion.

The hostile atmosphere continued in the streets after the game and as the two of us looked for an escape route, we found ourselves face to face with a group of small boys, every one of whom looked to be around seven or eight years old.

One of them, who possessed an angelic-like countenance, stepped forward with a rather unangelic opening gambit of ‘fuck off back tae Glasgow ya cunts’.

We were amazed that such an aggressive and profane salvo could emerge from the mouth of one so young and cherub looking (unless of course, Methil Primary School had introduced the works of D H Lawrence to its curriculum), but we didn’t feel there was any mileage in debating the point and increased our pace a notch to ease clear of these mini gangsters, especially when I saw one of them picking up a discarded half brick from the gutter.

A quick glance over my shoulder and I was met with the sight of the said half brick hurtling towards my head, after which discretion quickly outstripped valour as we broke into a sprint and in fact, legged it all the way to the neighbouring town of Leven before seeking sanctuary in the bus station.

The return journey was uneventful up to a point. That point being our arrival back at Haymarket and finding ourselves with time to spare before catching the Glasgow train.

Never mind, it was August, the sun was shining and the Edinburgh Festival was in full swing so a pleasant evening stroll seemed a good idea. 

Bad move. Hearts had been playing Ayr United at home that day and a group of their fans, clearly fortified by some post-match libations in the nearby hostelries, took exception to us invading their turf and we were chased back into the station where we jumped on to a departing train which looked to be heading a in a westerly direction.

Westerly was correct but we hadn’t checked the destination, an error of judgement which only became apparent when the train pulled into some God-forsaken place called Fauldhouse and the driver switched off the engine before heading home at what was clearly the end of his shift.

Not only were we up shit creek but the famous ship creek superstore ‘Paddles R Us’ was closed for the summer.

A TYPICAL FAULDHOUSE WELCOME!

Dougie scanned the fading numbers on the station’s timetable board and established that the next train to Glasgow was not for another two hours so we trudged off for the proverbial ‘look round’ and decided a drink of beer would improve our jaded demeanour.

In terms of shit-hole towns, Fauldhouse could easily have given Methil a run for its money but we did find a pub that was open.

As stated earlier, we were well below the legal drinking age so we hung around the pub door like a couple of jakeys (ie blending in with the locals) until we managed to convince an old guy to pick us up a couple of cans of Harp lager which, as I recall, retailed at 2s 9d each, thats about 14p for those who may not recall the advent of decimalisation. The good old days.

The cans were drunk, the train arrived and we eventually got home about 10pm at the end of an eventful 14 hour odyssey.

Ive watched countless games of football in eleven countries within three different continents and as the memory fades with age, they all tend to blend  into one another but that trip to Methil over 50 years ago is the one where, for reasons which I’m sure are obvious,  every single detail remains firmly lodged within my psyche.

Any idiot could see that we were going to go on to win the League Cup the following year!