Tag Archives: Glasgow

Girl Of The Rio

By Cat Cook: January 2022, Greece (the place, not the movie!).

I’ve seen quite a few references on this blog and on the Bearsden Academy FB page to the Rio cinema and I guess if you grew up in Bearsden (or nearby) in the 70s, then you’ll probably have a few memories of the old place.

Me?

I virtually lived there.

Not because I loved that old cinema – which I did

Not because I was such a huge movie fan – which I was

I had no choice really, my dad was the manager of the Rio for 15 years, my mum ran the kiosk, my big brother helped out after school and our house overlooked the damn place, it was a real family affair and there was no escape really!

When my dad took over the management of the Rio in 1971 it was already 37 years old, having been built in 1934 during the art-deco period with an original capacity of 1,120 seats, sadly there don’t seem to be any images available of when it was in its prime.

The old girl, pre-demolition

I was only 7 when the Rio came into my life, but I have so many strong memories of the place.

One of the first films I can remember sneaking into see as a 7 year old, was ‘A Clockwork Orange’, I’m not going to pretend that I knew what the hell was going on with the gangs in their white outfits, bowler hats and eye makeup, drinking milk – but it always stayed with me.


I also remember seeing the Exorcist age 9 and realising it wasn’t a Disney movie – “Your mother sucks cocks in hell” was something I learned not to repeat at the dinner table!
Similarly, seeing Carrie as a 9 year old was a bit heavy and brought about a few sleepless nights!
I should also add at this point that I loved Bambi and Mary Poppins too, I was quite normal really!
I just had access to all the cinematic experiences on offer and my Mum & Dad were sooo busy running the cinema 24-7 to worry about me skunking about the place.

Of course, being a ‘cinema brat’ had its benefits, apart from having the privilege of ‘access all areas’ I was spoiled rotten by the staff and my Birthday parties were always extremely popular.

One memory still treasured was the Rio Saturday Club, especially at Christmas when we’d collect donations for Strathblane Children’s Home.
In fact, if I had to choose my favourite Rio perk, it was going to the wholesalers to select the gifts for the kids at the Home before going up there with dad to hand them out.

As you can imagine, I saw so many great movies at the Rio, often multiple times!
I reckon I must have seen Grease about 30 times and Saturday Night Fever wasn’t far behind.

My big brother Graham and his mates (Russ Stewart & Des Marlborough – both of this parish) were regular cinema-goers as well, but I remember they were more interested in the “adult themed’ genres of the day!


Whenever I see a great 70s movie now, like The Godfather, Jaws, Star Wars or Airplane it transports me back to the first time I saw them at the Rio and reminds me of the long queues of expectant movie-goers forming outside the cinema an hour or so before the doors open

Like any business that deals with the public, running a cinema wasn’t always plain sailing, particularly at weekends, and particularly as the Rio was equidistant between Maryhill and Drumchapel.
There were quite a few incidents with rival gangs, mainly in the car park thankfully, and with gangs threatening people in the queue before relieving them of their money.
The local police were usually quick to react to the situation, often handing out their own justice, at the rear of the cinema.

It was funny to see people trying the same old tricks, time and time again, always thinking they were the first to think of them!

Like – the folk who would pay for one person and then try to open the fire-doors for their mates, always believing they were the first to try it and couldn’t understand why they got caught.

Like – the folk who would try and hide in the toilets to see a movie twice. Always believing they were the first to try it and couldn’t understand why they got caught.

Going through the lost property box was always good fun as well and it was amazing to see what people left behind…. everything from umbrellas to frilly knickers.

Everyone mucked in and there was a real kinship behind the scenes, a lot of the staff became like family to us, especially after my brother Graham died.

Me and my big brother

Many folk reading this may even remember some of the Rio team: Mary and Linda the young good-looking girls, Wullie the friendly doorman and Jimmy the projectionist, who would nip out onto the roof for a fly smoke and sometimes miss the changing of the reel, leaving a blank screen and a lot of disgruntled customers….
They were all great people, who always turned up whatever the weather with many of them travelling by foot from Maryhill or Drumchapel daily. 

Of course, there was a lot of ‘back-row’ action back then as the cinema was one of the few places you could go with your boyfriend or girlfriend when you were too young to go to the pub.
In retrospect I should have started a gossip column as I knew everyone who was dating at the cinema on a Friday & Saturday night.

Funnily enough, when I went on a teenage cinema date myself, I still went to the Rio, the perks were too good to ignore.

A friend of the family managed the Odeon in Glasgow so I could always go there if I fancied a change. Basically, I never had to pay to see a movie back then.

My dad managed the Rio from 1971 until it closed in 1985 and was turned into flats.

How it looks today…

By 1985 I guess I had temporarily fallen out of love with the cinema as Nursing, Boys & Holidays came into my life.
I did rekindle my love as the facilities and options improved through the modern multiplexes but for me there will only be one cinema that is truly in my heart.
In the words of Simon Le Bon – Her Name is RIO……

Kiss On My List

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, January 2022

I reckon most people can remember who they shared their first romantic kiss with… although perhaps we’re reaching an age now where some of us are struggling to remember who we shared the last one with!

That first kiss can be a defining moment, a conclusion to months and in some cases years of anxiety…. they don’t call it teenage angst for nothing.

For our troop of wannabe Romeos, any thoughts of engaging with the opposite sex didn’t emerge until the lead up to the Qualifying (Quali) Dance in primary 7. Up until then we had more important things to focus our blossoming brains on, like Football, Subbuteo & Airfix models.

Whilst the Quali Dance appeared to be the tipping point for this seismic shift in interests, the real catalyst I think was the onset of puberty which was having its impact on the fairer sex as well…. why else would they show any interest in a monosyllabic boy sporting a matching shirt & tie abomination hand-picked by a mum who thought Peter Wyngarde was a style guru?

The Quali Dance of course was a school ritual and part of said ritual was to ‘escort someone to the dance’… except it never really worked out that way.
There were no limousines, corsages, bowls of punch or live bands like the feted American high-school proms…. just teuchter music, unbranded fizzy-pop, dollops of awkwardness and an evening that seemed to go by in a flash.

Despite all the talk and bravado I don’t remember anyone from our year popping their ‘kissing-cherry’ at the Westerton Primary School, Quali Dance of 1970.
Not even our resident man-boy…. a lad with a voice like Barry White and a full thicket of short & curlies at age 11, who’s hormones were obviously running amok whilst the rest of us were popping champagne corks if we located a single strand in the nether regions with a magnifying glass.

I didn’t think about it at the time but looking back I imagine the dynamics in the girls changing rooms were pretty similar.

Our transition to the ‘big school’ several months later presented fresh opportunities and challenges. There were lots of new people on the scene now and more social events…. however, this just seemed to ramp up the pressure as you sought to avoid being the last in your peer-group to land that first smooch.

There was also some anxiety around the question of technique – kissing wasn’t something you could practice by yourself (or with a mate!) like football, so how could you tell if you were doing it properly?

What if you banged her teeth or bit her lip or she swallowed your chewing gum? The word would surely get out and no one would ever want to kiss you again.

You’d be kiss-shamed and canceled!

There were one or two awkward near misses before the big event took place, notably a spin the bottle session with an older crowd, resulting in a couple of consolatory pecks to the cheek and forehead… which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been sitting eyes closed, lips pursed, in anticipation.

As it turned out, my first kiss was with a girl I’d known since primary 3 and although it wasn’t articulated, I think we were both motivated by a shared need to get this kissing monkey off our respective backs.
In that respect I suppose it was more a kiss of convenience than an explosion of passion.

Don’t get me wrong, it was nice, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t chip her teeth or block any airways with my Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit, but I don’t remember there being any fireworks…. just a joint sense of relief before we went our separate ways to share our news.

I think we appreciated we were in the same boat…. it was a rite of passage for both of us.

Fast forward a couple of years and the kissing floodgates were well and truly open now – I remember this bizarre ritual at local disco’s where revellers would just start snogging mid-song and I’m not talking about the slow songs at the end of the evening, as that was par for the course.
There was no verbal interaction, no please or thank you’s, no “you’re looking ravishing tonight”…. just a tap on the shoulder, two and a half minutes of shuffling around to 10cc or Cockney Rebel followed by a 30 second snog and then you’d be on your merry way before the DJ played the next song…. I’ve often wondered if it still happens today?

This was an era when you would go to the cinema ostensibly to ‘winch’ your way through whatever blockbuster was showing that week.
Bearing in mind that double bills were the norm in the 70s, that was a lot of smooching, particularly as you only came up for air when the lights came on for the obligatory half-time refreshments… Kia-ora and choc-ice.

I think it’s fair to say that the back rows of the local cinemas were always chock-a-block on a Friday and Saturday night and it wasn’t to get a panoramic view of the screen

This was also the period when ‘love-bites’ came into prominence (as did polo-necks, funnily enough) with girls applying makeup (and toothpaste?) to conceal their perceived marks of shame whilst boys strutted around like Mick Jagger, parading their vampiric contusions as a badge of honour.

There was plenty of anxiety around this practice too – what if I suck a bit too hard and draw blood, will I turn into a bat?

It was a curious phenomenon.

Some people even practised the art on themselves (well, I’m guessing the love bites on their arms didn’t get there any other way!) whilst others used the suction from a coke bottle or similar to make it look like they’d been party to an amorous encounter… when really they’d been in their bedrooms alone, listening to Gilbert O’Sullivan and waiting for the ice-cream van.

Looking back, love-bites were horrendous things but like tartan scarves, Gloverall duffel coats and first kisses, at a certain point, we all had to have one!

The Host of Christmas Past (Part Two)

George Ho Ho Ho Cheyne: Glasgow, Xmas 2021

As domestic goddesses go, my mum was up there with the best of them. No task too big, no task too small.

And like a lot of women of her generation, Christmas seemed to bring out her A game as she wrestled with a heavy workload, complicated logistics and four largely unhelpful sons.

Nothing could faze her.

So there are 16 people coming for Christmas dinner now? No problem, I’ll cook some more. Grandma won’t leave her house until after the Queen’s Speech? That’s okay, I can work round that. There’s no present for cousin Alan? Leave it with me, I’ll find something. We’ve run out of mixers for the drinks? Don’t worry, I’ve got a stash in the cupboard. There’s a worldwide shortage of Brussel sprouts? No sweat, I’ll traipse round the shops till I find some.

My stress levels would be sky-high if I’d to cook Christmas dinner for six people, never mind 16.

But there was always a sense of calmness and order in my mum’s kitchen – despite the crazy schedule of the big day and the equipment she was using.

Remember, this was 50 years ago…no fan-assisted ovens or giant fridge-freezers back then.

She was, in part, aided and abetted by my dad – hopeless romantic that he was – and his choice of Christmas presents.

I seem to remember a Kenwood Chef mixer, a Sodastream set, a hostess trolley and a microwave oven being handed over on Christmas mornings.

In fairness, there was a fair amount of collusion with my mum about the gifts she wanted – and these gadgets were game-changers in our house.

*******

Kenwood Chef:

As revealed in the Host of Christmas Past (Part One), my mum used to knock up a Christmas cake, home-made mince pies and a giant Christmas pudding in the build-up to the big day.

I always volunteered to help out with stirring the mixture because I had the ulterior motive of getting to scoop up any leftovers in the large ceramic bowl. The stirring was done with a wooden spoon and some proper elbow grease – until the Kenwood Chef mixer arrived.

What a difference. I may have lost the chance of a budding career as a power lifter as my biceps didn’t develop much after that, but at least I still got to lick the bowl.

Sodastream:

A selection of fizzy drinks at your fingertips. What’s not to like when you’re a kid?

Before the machine arrived in our kitchen, we had to rely on the Alpine lorry coming round on a Friday with our bottles of skoosh. But when they were gone, they were gone – usually within a day or two.

The Sodastream offered up a constant supply of cola, orange, lemonade, limeade and whatever other syrup concentrates we got in. It was a serious upgrade on the soda syphon which basically dispensed soda water and nothing else.

However, no matter how desperate my brothers and I were, we never went near the cherry flavour. That was  an acquired taste best left to the adults.

Hostess trolley:

This was a must-have in the Seventies for any family sitting down to a Christmas dinner for 16 people.

After scrambling about for more chairs and an extra table to stick on the end of ours, the attention swung round to how to cater for so many guests without the food going cold.

The answer, of course, was a hostess trolley. My mum was able to cook half the veg and keep it warm in the trolley’s Pyrex compartments and then do the other half just before dinner was served.

A cunning plan, no doubt, but it didn’t help me much. I was sat at the end of the bottom table and the roast parsnips ran out before they got to me because my aunt forgot to take the other batch out the trolley. Why couldn’t she have forgotten the sprouts instead?

Microwave:

This arrived in our house in time for the 1979 festive season and was one of the early models.

I do remember when it came out the box on Christmas Day that the last word I’d use to describe it was micro…this was a metal beast.

My mum had decided to christen the microwave by cooking the Christmas pudding in it and wandered off to read up on the instructions after we’d finished the main course.

After a while, she joined the rest of us at the table for the traditional quiz when…kaboom!

There had been some sort of explosion in the kitchen so we all rushed through to see a thick pall of smoke, the door of the microwave hanging open and the charred remains of the Christmas pudding smouldering inside.

Turns out my mum, being new to this microwave cooking lark, thought it must have been a mistake when the printed instructions for the pudding said: “Cook on high for 4 minutes.”

This, after all, was an era when you steamed a Christmas pud for anything up to eight hours so she decided it must be a misprint and put it on for 40 minutes.

Oops. But being a domestic goddess she recovered the situation in true Blue Peter style by producing another pudding she’d made earlier – just in case!

Mind you, there were still bits of burnt currants and candied peel finding their way down from the artex ceiling months later…

My First Gig – King Crimson

Russ Stewart: London, November 2021

Fifty years ago, October 11th 1971, I attended my first proper gig, at Glasgow’s Green’s Playhouse. 
Oddly, as I am not really a prog rock fan, it was in the court of prog royalty – King Crimson.

Half a century on, I still retain a soft spot for the band, though not soft enough to have paid 100 quid to see them play live in London a couple of years ago.

Featured below is the actual ticket for the gig courtesy of Roger Brown who found it attached to a King Crimson album he purchased from me many moons ago….

King Crimson’s support act that evening was a solo acoustic guitar/singer called Keith Christmas.
Due to alliteration, I was suspicious as to whether this was his real name.
Still gigging today Christmas played guitar on Bowie’s Space Oddity album.

My erstwhile near neighbour, Alan Doig was the one who introduced me to King Crimson and he was part of the group who attended this gig.

Alan’s father had been a provost of Bearsden and had a symbolic single blue provost street light outside his house indicating the holding of such past office.  I believe that this entitled him to kill a swan with a crossbow on Kilmardinny Loch each eve of Michaelmas.

Alan had a great sound system which did help influence the appeal of the new Crimson album at that time, ‘Lizard’. In particular it projected the fantastic, bombastic synth riff in the middle of the track Cirkus

Aged 14 I was impressed with Peter Sinfield’s lyrics on the Lizard album, particularly as I strove to find the deeper meanings embedded in his ditties. 
I now realise they are incoherent nonsense.

The gig: after Mr Christmas’ plaintive noodling the lights dimmed and a mellotron chord rang out.  C sharp minor 7th flattened 5th, though I could be mistaken ( ……or bullshitting).   


The band: Robert Fripp sitting down playing guitar and mellotron.  Boz Burrelll on bass and vocals, Mel Collins on sax and a drummer dude. 

Most of that line up later deserted the prog camp.  Boz Burrell left to form Bad Company, Mel Collins played with the Average White Band and Kokomo whilst Lyricist Sinfield went on to write for the likes of Buck’s Fizz and Leo Sayer.

Fripp now makes YouTube videos of himself accompanying the terpsichorean insanity of his fruity little wife, Toyah.

Beware, once you see it you can’t unsee it

I have continued to dabble in prog listening and I’m grateful for the school friends who dragged me along to selected prog gigs in those early days. The likes of Graeme Butler, Simon Brader and Ralph Jessop helped me to open my ears somewhat, to Genesis, Greenslade and Magma.  

Glasgow City Halls usually accommodated the lesser known prog bands in those days and one could easily wander backstage to chat with the musicians post gig. 
I recall a schoolboy French conversation with the blue chinned caveman, Christian Vander, who led Magma. 

Magna’s bassist played a Fender bass covered in  baby oil ( …. the bass that is).  They talked about the philosophic works of Ouspensky, which meant as much to me as King Crimson’s lyrics.   

As I write I notice that Van Der Graaf Generator are touring the UK soon… maybe worth a punt. 

Talking about gigs, my own band is playing the Three Kings Pub in Twickenham on New Years Eve. 
There will be no prog rock, or baby oil… though there will be some Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren, Michael McDonald and Doors covers in the set.

Up The Toon

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, November 2021

There was a point in our mid teens when we felt it was time to cast the net a bit wider.
We’d progressed from playing in the street, to going up the local park, then a bit further afield, but generally within a two mile radius of our base…. but a bit like tiger cubs there came a point when we were ready to explore and roam new territories.

Invariably all roads led to….. Glasgow

Looking back, going ‘up the toon’ to Glasgow city centre was a rite of passage, it’s what the older kids did and like raiding Vikings they usually returned laden with treasure….

A Wrangler denim jacket or a pair of Levis from Jean Shack

The new Bowie/Rod/Zep/T-Rex album from Listen/23rd Precinct/Virgin

A feather cut or suede-head from Cut n’ Dried or Fuscos

An Arthur Black shirt from well… Arthur Black’s Shirts & Slacks.

The desire to start making our own choices typically came at at a point when parents were still picking some of our clothes and ushering us to old-school barbers, where glossy headshots of Peter Marinello covered the cracks on the walls, and where condoms rather than coriander conditioners were on display – ‘something for the weekend sir?’

Poster boy – Peter Marinello (the Lothian George Best)

Even if you had the temerity to ask for a Peter Maranello they’d respond, “aye no problem”, pull out the electric razor (the big old clunky ones with the cord) and execute the only haircut they knew how to administer…. the one that invariably left you with a big red rash on the back of your neck for a week.

Seeing the older kids with their goodies and cool haircuts inspired some of us young uns’ to follow their trail, however, it was a pursuit that needed funding, which is why a couple of us started up a paper round when we were 14 whilst others took up delivering morning rolls.
The disposable income we duly acquired was set aside for regular sojourns to Glasgow where we would aspire to emulate our elders.
Swanning around town before a triumphant homecoming – brandishing our 23rd Precinct & Krazy House bags with pride.

Going up the town per se was nothing new, after all we’d had years of being chaperoned to DM Hoey’s and Freeman, Hardie & Willis for winter coats and sensible shoes.
However, heading into town with your chums, with your own money burning a hole in your pocket, was a different proposition altogether, a proper adventure.

Paddy’s Market

Once you’d been up a couple of times and knew your way around, part of the fun was going off-piste… exploring and navigating Glasgow’s grid system via lanes and backstreets and witnessing sites you’d rarely see in the Bearsden bubble – sites like adults blootered on Carlsberg Special Brew before lunchtime or witnessing the colourful characters that worked and hung around Paddy’s Market.

We could spend hours roaming around the town…..

Loitering in record shops – rummaging through the racks of vinyl and requesting to hear albums in the listening booths or the available headphones (Dark Side of the Moon with its stereophonic effects was always a good one).

Roving around department stores, from the sports dept, to the electrical dept, before bashfully taking in the sights and scents of the perfumery dept.

Visiting the legendary Tam Shepherds Trick Shop in Queen St, where the sickly scent of stink bombs was never far from the front door….. before heading to the rag-trade end of Argyle St, up towards the Trongate, where all the ‘on-trend’ clothes shops were housed.

Welcome to the house of fun

A big part of the adventure of course was the journey…. for us it was the train from Westerton to Queen St or the ‘105’ double-decker (blue) bus that shuttled between Drumchapel and Buchanan St.

Our parents would always warn us about being careful, “keep an eye out for any trouble” but they probably didn’t realise that the biggest danger came from within and involved daft stunts like crossing live railway tracks to get from one platform to another or jumping off moving buses before our bus-stop… for a dare.

On reflection it showed that we probably, (no, definitely!) weren’t as ‘grown up’ as we thought we were.
Fortunately though, despite a few scrapes and close calls, we all lived to tell the tale, and would subsequently watch on like a David Attenborough documentary as the generation below us took up the mantle and followed our lead.

In the meantime…. we of course, now veterans of stepping outside our comfort zone were preparing to take the next big step in our personal development…. getting served in pubs ‘up the toon’!

The Burns Howff

Ripping Yarns: TV Hall of Fame Induction

Joe Hunter: Crieff, November 2021

Monty Python’s Flying Circus is of course a benchmark for comedy and an example of 70s television at its finest.
A collective that spawned countless TV and cinematic moments of gold and inspired endless playground retellings and re-enactments… from ‘The Ministry of Funny Walks’ to ‘No one expects the Spanish Inquisition’.

John Cleese and Fawlty Towers apart however, the rest of the Python’s solo work tends to fly under the radar.
In comparison, it’s similar in many ways to the Beatles solo projects, which rarely got the appreciation they deserved…. step forward ‘All Things Must Pass’ by George Harrison.

Take Eric Idle’s excellent Rutland Weekend Television, although it hatched the excellent Beatles parody – The Ruttles, it was cut short after two series and was never truly appreciated in the UK.
Likewise, Ripping Yarns by Michael Palin and Terry Jones was restricted to 8 episodes after the initial pilot… the hilarious ‘Tomkinson’s Schooldays’.

If you’ve never seen it, Ripping Yarns was a shameless parody of British culture. To be fair it could be a bit hit or miss, but when it hit the sweet-spot it was as funny as anything that’s ever been on TV.
There were nine 30 minute episodes  presented in the style of Boys Own adventure stories, set in an era when all a chap needed was a stiff upper lip and a healthy dash of derring-do.

The series was tucked away on BBC2 at 9pm on a Friday night but once discovered, it became an essential part of my weekend.

In 1977, Joanna’s Night Club in Glasgow was my Friday night destination of choice, so as part of my weekly ritual I’d get spruced up, go round to my partner in crime Paul Fitzpatrick’s house and we’d watch the latest episode of Ripping Yarns before heading into town, armed with quips from the show still in our head.
Quips I hasten to add that confused the hell out of anyone that hadn’t seen the show (about 99.9% of the population), but would amuse the hell out of us.

My brothers George and David were also big fans of the show and we used to have some very surreal conversations in front of our bemused parents about Spear & Jackson shovels and black pudding (in Yorkshire accents) – as an homage to our favourite episode, ‘The Testing of Eric Olthwaite“.
There are too many great comedy moments in this 28 minute masterpiece, to break down, but the opening 3 minute sequence (below), will give you a taste.

“Black pudding’s very black today Mother – even the white bits are black”.


A Yorkshire banker, Eric was sooo boring that his Father pretended to be French to avoid talking to him whilst his mother would feign bilious attacks or even death.
Heartbreakingly, Eric’s family run away from home to avoid further contact with him, he was just that tedious.

A confused and devastated Eric can’t understand why people find him so dull and you can feel his pain as he protests in his thick Yorkshire accent….
“It were hard to accept I were boring. Especially with my interest in rainfall”

Eric’s obsession with precipitation and shovels drive his family to distraction and ensure he’s friendless but like all good tales there’s a twist… if you’re interested to find out what it is, you can catch the full episode below and become like me… a fully paid-up member of the Ripping Yarns fan club.

The Testing of Eric Olthwaite

All Over The Shop (Part 3)

Mark Arbuckle: Glasgow, November 2021

Suddenly it was 1979 and every bloke shopped at Topman!

After the excitement of the grand opening and the hosting of Fiona Richmond we settled into our new store and were extremely busy over the summer of 79.

The shop’s basement had not been refurbished and left in a rundown state…. part sales-floor, part stock-room, part office, part staff-room.
It also had one of those old-fashioned wooden parquet floors that made a clip-clop sound when anyone walked on it.

Davy our manager’s family home was still in Arbroath so he was staying in digs in Glasgow during the week, getting the train home on a Saturday evening and taking the Monday off to spend time at home.

One Saturday Davy had left to catch his usual train. I was still working, collating the monthly figures when I heard the clip-clop of footsteps on the parquet floor outside the office. Davy walked in cursing that he’d missed his train before heading off 20 minutes later to catch the next one.
Ten minutes after Davy had gone I heard the clip-clop sound again and swung the door open ready to slag Davy for missing another train and….there
was nobody there! 

I shouted ‘Hello’, ‘Hello’ before realising I was on my own…. or was I?
So I quickly packed up my stuff, set the alarm and got the hell out of there!

A week or so later, Rikki, Davy and I were leaving the basement when Rikki suddenly reared back in fright pushing Davy out of the way!
WTF! 
An ashen faced Rikki swore that he’d just seen a black dog crouching beneath a plastic chair in front of an old fitting room before it started to leap up at him!
He was very shaken and took quite a while to calm down!

Intrigued at the goings-on, I did a bit of research and discovered that our building had been built close to the site of an old chemical & pharmaceutical factory
W&R. Hatrick & Co. on Renfield Street. 

The building had gone up in flames, exploded and then collapsed killing 4 firemen on the 7th January 1898.

Fire on Renfield St 1898

There was to be another ‘ghostly’ incident a few months later but this time it was a bit more explainable.

Ross (he of the wiry ginger hair) was passing the shop late one evening when he stopped to look in the front door. He gasped when he saw all the jackets begin to swing about on their rail next to the cash desk…. he thought he was seeing things!
He saw the next rail of clothing start to swing about too before running off in a panic for his late-night bus!

The next day he related this incident to Davy and I.
I was sceptical but, having already ‘witnessed’ two other ghostly ‘sightings’ that month, I had an open mind.

Davy on the other hand said “Dinny be daft son, ye must’ve been pished!”

Later that evening when we went for a pint in Sloan’s, Davy told me why he’d been so dismissive!

Sloans Tavern

Am stayin’ in the shoap instead a the digs” he confessed! “But am still gettin’ ma digs paid by tha cumpany and no tellin’ em! Last night I’d set ma sleepin’ bag up at the back cash desk which can’t be seen from the front door. But I’d left ma watch at the front cash-till and had made my way behind the rails to get it and that’s what Ross saw! It wiz me pushing the jackets aside as I crawled back to ma sleepin’ bag!”

I nearly choked on my pint!
We had such a laugh about it! We never told Ross and he probably still tells the story about the ghostly jackets!!

A couple of weeks later Davy experienced another form of incursion, but this one was a tad more sinister!

He had just returned from the pub late one night and was making his way to his hidey-hole at the back of the shop when he saw a ladder and a pair of boots disappearing up through the polystyrene tiles into the roof space!
Above our roof was an empty building which burglars had gained entry to before entering via the shop’s unalarmed roof!
It was obviously a very well-planned break-in with three rough looking guys in the process of emptying the leather and suede department!

As handy as he was Davy didn’t fancy taking all three of them on so he slipped quietly back out to a phone box to call the police. He made up a story that he’d left important paperwork in the shop and was returning to get it when he witnessed the break-in in progress!
The burglars were never caught but poor Davie had to book into a B&B until the dust settled.

We had another police incident a few weeks later.
Next door to Top Man was a very busy HMV store. 

Rikki and I got very friendly with the staff and in particular big Duncan the security guard who was about 6’4″ and 20 stone!
We gave them discount and they reciprocated.

However, despite big Duncan’s presence HMV had a major shoplifting problem which, considering it was all vinyl albums in those days, was quite a feat on the shoplifter’s part!
One day Rikki spotted two young guys crouched down dividing up their stolen haul of albums around the entrance to our front door. (Not very bright then!?!?)
While Rikki kept an eye on them, I slipped next door to inform big Duncan. 

However, at the same time, unbeknown to us, two youngish looking plain clothes cops had also spotted the two thieves and were in the process of lifting them….. when big Duncan bounded up behind the cops, mistaking them for the shoplifters and smacked their heads together!!

It took a lot of fast talking and profuse apologies from myself and big Duncan to prevent him from being arrested for Police Assault! 

The two thieves witnessing the event cowered in the corner terrified that they’d be next for a head cracking!
When everything was sorted out, they looked positively relieved when they were actually arrested and led away!

Leading up to Christmas the shop continued to be busy, and for a laugh Rikki wrote a pantomime featuring all the staff as characters.
It was near the knuckle stuff, but hilarious, with lots of in-jokes that had the staff in stitches.

Things worked out very well for Rikki in the long run as he became a professional comedy writer, working with Craig Ferguson, Rikki Fulton, Scotch & Wry, Only An Excuse, Chewin’ The Fat and Watson’s Windup amongst many other BBC Comedy Unit projects.
Rikki also had his own weekly comedy page in The Scottish Sun for 17 years!


As the weather in Glasgow began to bite you’d find the majority of Top Man’s staff queuing up outside City Bakeries most mornings for that rare Glasgow delicacy… A Hot Roll and Mince!
They were delicious and really warmed you up!

About a week before Christmas when the store was at its busiest Davy decided to complete the weekly paperwork. 

I said ‘It’s ok Davy I’ll do it’ but he insisted.
He had all the daily sheets so all he had to do was transfer them onto a new document and cross check them to make sure they all tallied up. I left him to it.

An hour later I checked to see how he was doing.
There were a lot of crumpled scraps of paper lying on the desk and Davy’s face was getting redder by the second!
I offered to help again but that just seemed to make things worse
He was muttering away under his breath like Muttley from Wacky Races! 

Exasperated, he suddenly leapt to his feet, threw his pen at the wall and shouted, ‘Ach F*ck The Pope!!’

Realising what he’d just said he looked at me and began to apologise profusely!

With a straight face I looked sternly at him and said, ‘Don’t worry about it Davy….I hope you have a F*cking Rotten Christmas too!

Then I turned around and (mock) stormed out the office!

I went back in 10 seconds later and the two of us burst out laughing!!

We met at a Fashion Industry Trade Show in London about 12 years later and Davy told this story in a crowded bar to everyone’s amusement!

Davy, Rikki and I would have many more laughs and experiences in and around the Rag Trade over the next two decades but unfortunately those stories belong in another blog….!!

All Over The Shop (Part 2)

Mark Arbuckle: Glasgow October 2021

Top Man would officially open its doors in Glasgow mid November 1978.

I was appointed Assistant Manager and another recruit from Burtons, Davy was the Manager. 

I spoke to him on the phone and we got on well and looked forward to working together.
However before all that I had a wedding to attend…my own!

I returned from honeymooning in Athens eager to meet Davy and the rest of the staff.

Evidently I had been with Burtons far too long and turned up wearing a navy pinstripe suit, (Max!) a crisp white shirt and a red tie! Talk about conservative!! 

The first person I met was Rikki, he had on a modern cut baggy, beige suit with big shoulder pads, a fancy blue patterned shirt and NO tie! Think late 70’s Duran Duran and you won’t be far away!

He topped this ensemble off with long, bleached, shaggy hair and a fake tan!

We eyed  each other up with the same thought…… ‘W**ker!!’

43 years later we are still great friends, we’ve been each other’s best man (my 2nd marriage where he actually recounted our first meeting in his speech!) I’m Godfather to his daughter and we co-owned and were partners in an upmarket fashion business together for 10 years with many great laughs and adventures!

It just shows you how first impressions can be sooo misleading!

Rikki had come from ‘Jackson The Tailors’ who were always ‘edgier’ than stuffy ol’ ‘(Full) Monty-Fifty- Bob-Tailors!’

Davy arrived from Arbroath the next day.
He was a stocky ex Amateur Boxer who wore glasses with tinted lenses, which was quite unusual in 1978. As expected we got on really well and the shop was busy from the start. I even managed to shed my pinstripes and ties!

Obviously because of all the ‘knowledge’ I had gained from the students union bar during my one year studying accountancy I also became the shop’s bookkeeper!

Top Man had a brand new monthly book keeping system which must’ve been copied from an ancient greek abacus which had been translated from Persian! 

It made no sense at all! 

At the end of the first month I filled in what I could and duly sent it off. I got a call from our fledgling head office the following Tuesday saying I hadn’t completed it properly! 

I pointed out the areas I was struggling with and they agreed that it was a bit vague. I said that it must’ve been an idiot that compiled the form. There was silence and a laugh and he said ‘Well I did have a hand in it but never actually filled one in. 

Hi, I’m Andrew Leslie, Top Man’s MD!’  Whoops!!
He was very good about it though and actually asked me to redesign the Monthly Accounts Form cutting out the confusing and  unnecessary segments.
Andrew would go on to have a great career in retail and is now a director at JD Sports

The next week Ross started as a salesman.
He was a hard worker and very funny although not the sharpest knife in the box.
A favourite trick of his was to go into a fitting room, pull the curtain across, muss up his wiry red hair, pull a deranged face and re-emerge 30 seconds later with what he called his Mad Heid!! 

It was funny/scary the first time and never got old.
Anytime it was quiet somebody would shout ‘Hey Ross dae yer Mad Heid!’ 

Occasionally a startled customer would witness his full ‘Mad Heid’ display and either burst out laughing or quickly head for the exit!

Now as I said Ross was entertaining but a bit on the daft side – he once got a taxi from the City Centre to his home in Kirkintilloch and realised he didn’t have enough cash to pay the fare! So he asked the driver to stop 50 yards from his destination and then did a runner straight to his own front door!! Hahaha

I learned that Davy had left Burtons in the middle of a feud with Ken, the area manager. One day during Ken’s visit to the Buchanan Street Burtons, I realised that we, in the basement, were unusually quiet. In fact we hadn’t seen a customer for over an hour!
I went up stairs to investigate and found large boxes piled 3 high in front of our entrance! Ken had instructed Burtons’ staff to place their delivery there! I shouted down to Davy that there was a problem! 

He came tearing up the stairs screaming with rage when he saw the boxes! We began pulling them out of the way.

Davy spotted Ken smirking in the corner, stormed over, grabbed him by his lapels and rammed him up against the wall.
Ken was terrified and spluttered 

Picture McKay & Bremner as Davy & Ken and you’ve got the idea

‘You can’t do this!’

Davy replied ‘Do this? I’ll ram my fist down yer throat ‘n’ pull yer f**kin’ guts out ya wee pr*ck!’ (Ken was about 4″ taller than Davy but at that moment he looked 4′ tall). George pleaded with Davy to let him go and eventually he let Ken slide down the wall.

Freed from Davy’s grip, Ken became brave again, a big mistake!
“I’ll get you done for assault” he squeaked to Davy! “Go ahead” said Davy, “But I hope you like hospital food!”
Ken didn’t call the police and would in future, time his visits to coincide with Davy’s day off or holiday!

As I said Davy was a tough, good amateur boxer from Arbroath.
He and his fellow drinking buddies’ favourite past time was to goad the young marines that were stationed at the nearby Condor base into fights!
The young marines were very fit and strong but lacked the street fighting prowess and experience of the crazy locals.
Every weekend there was a major battle which would end up with several marines and locals ending up in hospital or jail! 

It got so bad that the base commander had to ban the soldiers from entering the town for their own safety!

Around May 1979 we were told that we were at last moving out of Burtons’ basement to our own Top Man store. 

The old Jackson’s shop in Union St. was being completely refurbed and we were to open in June! 

Jackson the tailors on Union St

This was all very exciting. A larger staff, a wider stock range and most importantly total autonomy from Burtons. (Mad Max, the John Cleese lookalike had recently been promoted to Area Manager!?!? Nepotism at it’s best!)

Firstly we had to pack up all our existing stock and a van was being sent to transport it around the corner to Union Street. 

I delegated each member of staff to be responsible for an area of stock. 

I showed them how to group 30 shirts, 20 pairs jeans or 15 jackets while still on their rail, to tie the hanger hooks together to make it easy to lift off and straight onto the van. However I soon regretted not checking Ross’ bundles!
The van arrived and we quickly started emptying the shop. Everything was going smoothly until we came to Ross’ area…..he hadn’t ensured that the hangers were all facing in the same direction before tying them together! Therefore all 20 of his bundles were effectively locked onto the rails!!
Davy was going to kill him! The van driver was getting very agitated as a traffic warden was on his case to move!
I advised Ross to quickly hide somewhere. 

Davy sent the van driver away and told him to come back in an hour and Rikki and I cut the ties on the bundles, straightened the hangers and retied them!

We worked hard for a week getting our new branch ready for the Grand Opening with an incentive that a mystery ‘celebrity’ would be turning up for the big occasion to do the honours.

5 star luxury at the Albany Hotel

Rikki and I were dispatched on the big day by taxi to The Albany Hotel to collect the celebrity who turned out to be the infamous Porn Star Fiona Richmond!

It was a well known ‘secret’ that my bosses, bosses, bosses, boss, the Burton Group CEO Ralph Halpern, was, ahem, a bit of a boy and was allegedly very close to Ms. Richmond in a non business capacity, so maybe Fiona’s presence wasn’t such a surprise after all!

On arrival at the swanky Albany Hotel we were shown up to Miss Richmond’s room, where she was very charming, regaling us with vivid tales from her colourful career and her current projects!

Unbelievably, Ms Richmond was currently treading the boards in the West End, starring in a stage adaptation of The Incredible Hulk.

In her saucy version of the Marvel classic however, when The Hulk, became angry and turned green it wasn’t his shirt that he broke out of and it wasn’t his massive biceps that were exposed!…..

I’m sure you can fill in the rest yourself!

Davy, Fiona & Mark…. through years of training Fiona always knew where the camera was!

Part 3 to follow next week……

A Jags To Riches Story

George Cheyne: Glasgow October 2021

My name is George…and I’m not a Partick Thistle fan. There, I’ve said it, I’m coming clean after living with my guilt for 50 years.

It’s more of a guilty pleasure, actually, because going to Hampden with my dad to see Thistle win the League Cup in 1971 was one of the best days of my life.

It started off as a homage to my grandad – a lifelong Jags fan who had passed away a couple of years before – and ended up being an amazing shared bonding experience for my dad and I.

The build-up to the game was pretty low-key. That was mirrored in our house as my dad tried to keep a lid on any expectations.

“We’re up against a team that got to the European Cup Final last year,” he said, “I just hope we don’t get embarrassed.”

To be fair, he wasn’t alone in thinking that. I don’t remember many people giving Thistle an earthly ahead of the game.

I had just turned 13 a few weeks before, so it was a huge deal for me. My first final…I couldn’t wait.

The excitement of the big day got to me and I woke just after 6am, went downstairs and found my dad in the kitchen. He couldn’t sleep either.

He made me a huge bacon and melted cheese sandwich – it was too early for the roll delivery – and a mug of tea. The breakfast of champions, as it turned out.

We chatted away about my boys’ club football, school, my younger brothers, the weather…anything, really, apart from the game. 

That was about to change. Not because we saw the BBC Grandstand programme where presenter Sam Leitch told everyone: “It’s League Cup final day at Hampden where Celtic meet Partick Thistle, who have no chance.”

No, we missed that as we were heading to my grandma’s house at that same time, having arranged to pop in before the game. She was quite chuffed we were going to honour my grandad’s memory and handed over his old Thistle scarf for me to wear.

“He’ll be looking out for you, so mind and keep it on,” she said as we waved goodbye.

So that’s how I found myself in the covered end at Hampden that day holding aloft a Thistle scarf as the goals rained in. One…two…three…four…the fans around us could hardly believe what was happening.

Maybe we all should have. The number one single at that time was Rod Stewart’s Reason To Believe,  a double A-side with Maggie May. Surely that was an omen for one of the greatest upsets in Scottish football.

My abiding memory of the final was turning towards my dad at full-time amid the bedlam and seeing him with the biggest of big grins on his face. He looked at me silently and then raised his eyes to the skies above Hampden.

I knew what he meant…grandad had been looking out for us.

Editor – and this is the book….

All Over The Shop (part 1)

Mark Arbuckle: Glasgow October 2021

Following my stint as a Saturday boy at Burtons in Sauchiehall St, in 1977 I transferred to Burtons’ flagship store along with my friend and colleague Charlie to join the management training scheme.

BURTONS FLAGSHIP STORE ON THE CORNER OF ARGYLE ST AND BUCHANAN ST


The Manager at Argyle St, Max Black (who was rumoured to be married into the Burton family) looked like a thinner, pinstriped John Cleese. 

6’6″ tall and 4 foot of that was legs! He also had incredibly long arms and size 13 feet…more on those feet later.

One busy Saturday I was on ‘shop lifter spotting duty’ (no electronic tags in those days,  (Burtons were far too stingy to install them anyway) at the front door. I spotted a well known thief and gave the agreed alert to Charlie ‘Is Mr Thomas back from lunch yet?’ or something equally banal!

Max also heard my coded message and reacted like a coiled spring bounding up the stairs to a half landing to gain a better vantage point! Unfortunately he tripped on the first step and sprawled flat out with his telescopic arms in front of him! He covered the entire 13 stairs with startled customers stepping over him in both directions! I don’t know what happened to the shoplifter as Charlie and I were doubled over laughing!

Every Tuesday morning the branch was closed from 9-9.45 for Staff Training.
Max had just returned from a Mangers’ meeting and was eager to impart his new information to us.
The entire staff was gathered on the 1st Floor around the Made to Measure desks with it’s high stools. Max was telling us about a new concept of Individual Staff Responsibility. In other words the sales floors were to be divided up into smaller depts and each staff member had to maintain, stock and merchandise it. Sales per square foot would be monitored and you could earn a bonus at the end of every month. (the scheme lasted less time than it’s taken you to read this!!) 

Anyway to demonstrate how to calculate ‘Square Footage’ Max proudly held up his size 13 shoe and said ‘My shoe is a foot in length, so it’s easy to work out square footage!’ 

He then began walking heel to toe and counting out ‘One, two, three…but when he got to five he began to lose his balance, struggled to stay on track and lurched sideways disappearing through the open door that led to the staircase! 

He just lurved those stairs!! 

Most of the staff who had been dozing up to that point burst into laughter! 

Even wee John, the head of the Made to Measure dept. was suddenly alert!
Wee John had been with Burtons for about 30 years and was nearing retirement.
He could be a bit curmudgeonly with the yung-uns but I got on well with him. 

Why? 

Because we shared a secret….

One morning I was early, a very rare occurrence, and was walking down Buchanan St. when I spotted him looking into John Menzies window about 50 yards from Burtons. 

‘Morning JOHN!’ 

I loudly greeted him. 

He started to choke and splutter, turning an alarming shade of purple! It was only then that I noticed a cigarette half hidden in his cupped right hand. ‘Are you all right?’ I asked as he frantically waved me away. 

He cornered me at tea break and asked if I could keep our earlier encounter just between the two of us, which of course I agreed to.

It was the shop’s worst kept secret that John smoked as anyone who used the staff toilet after him would attest. 

You could cut the smoke with a knife! 

He’d smoked all his life but had recently experienced some heart problems and had promised his doctor, his family and his formidable wife Anne, who also worked for Burtons that he had quit! 

When I say Anne was formidable she was about 5′ and weighed 7 stone but OMG she could destroy anybody with a couple of vicious words. However she liked me and I did feel kinda guilty about keeping John’s ‘not so secret’ secret.

After the summer sale the store was getting a bit of a refit so Max asked George the assistant manager, Charlie and myself to come in on a Sunday (no Sunday trading in those days) to work on the refit.
George was a big, easy going, amiable guy probably in his mid 50’s with a passing resemblance to John Le Mesurier. 

He never got flustered and was quite happy to play second fiddle to a succession of (poor) managers.

The shop had floor to ceiling windows and our task was to place 12′ aluminium poles into pre set fixings in the floor about a yard from the glass. Then place 8′ x 4′ boards in between the poles to create a wall onto to which metal shelves and/or rails could be attached.  

The side facing the window was used for mannequins and displays.
The boards were very heavy and had metal pegs on the sides about 8″ from both ends which slotted into holes in the poles and tightened with a screwdriver.  

It was cumbersome work and took all four of us to manoeuvre each board into place. Charlie and I lifted the board a foot off the floor and guided the pegs into the bottom two slots while Max and George were both up ladders and had the same task to secure the top two. 

We had successfully erected three boards but the fourth was proving very tricky.
Charlie and I had secured the bottom two but George’s side wouldn’t line up so we disconnected them again and tried to get all four inserted simultaneously. 

We were ‘cussin’ ‘n’ fightin’ my friend’ but to no avail. 

We took a break and examined the problem. The slot on George’s side of the board was misaligned so the only solution was to force it in. We tried again and George said that the problem was he couldn’t tighten the slot because it was off kilter. 

Suddenly Max from the top of his ladder exclaimed 

‘I’VE GOT A BIG RED ONE!!!  

Charlie and I dropped the board causing George to nearly fall off his ladder. The three of us were crying with laughter while nonplussed Max muttered something about ‘it being in his car’. 

He left and came back shortly with a big red screwdriver which, to be fair to him, did the trick.
We finished the job with no further issues, although every now and again Charlie and I would catch each other’s eye and descend into fits of giggles once more.

A couple of week’s later Max decided to get the Sunday ‘band back together’ (more overtime!)The task this time was to clear old shop fittings out of the basement. 
To do this we had to carry them up a flight of stairs, out onto the street where there was a door on the side of the building that led to a lift down to a sub basement and then narrow sloping stairs to an area that was basically just a hole in the floor. 

I hadn’t even realised that this area existed before then. George did however and started to tell us stories about Rodents of Unusual Size!!


The first four hours, though hard and physical, went by without incident. Later we were nearly done for the day when one of the last heavy, cash-desk units jammed in the steep, narrow staircase leading to the sub basement level which Max had insisted we filled up first. 

Charlie being the smallest managed to squeeze between the bulky unit and the sloping roof of the stairwell hoping to release whatever was making it jam. He quickly succeeded… but too well really as the heavy unit slid down the stairs trapping him between the piles of stuff we’d already placed there.
‘Don’t panic Captain Mainwaring’


The unit’s new angle made it impossible for Charlie to climb back over the obstruction and he had no room to manoeuvre behind him. George, Max and I started to haul at the bloody thing trying in vain to pull it back up the steep slope.

No chance! 

After 15 minutes our arms were aching and it hadn’t budged.
Should we get a rope? Would we have to phone the Fire Brigade? This was bad!

I suddenly realised that Charlie had gone very quiet in his imprisoned area. ‘Charlie are you ok?’ I asked but didn’t get a reply. ‘Charlie stop messing (he didn’t say ‘messing’) about’ shouted George, but still no answer.
We exchanged worryingly looks….Then there was a loud bang and Charlie’s head appeared through a trapdoor hidden from us by old cardboard SALE signs about 10 feet from where we stood! He was filthy and covered in cobwebs but was apparently unharmed. 

He gave Max a look that said ‘Ye canny get rid of me that easily!

By Autumn ’78 I’d completed my first year of management training and had been asked to join the Burtons Group new, young fashion concept Top Man. I jumped at the chance.

They would open their first Scottish branch in the  basement sales floor of Burtons! (Yes the same basement I’d helped to clear the previous year!)

Top Man would have it’s own distinct branding and identity, and carry stock aimed at a much younger, trendier market. We were also given window space on the ground floor, much to Max’s disgust.

He did however say he was sorry to lose me and wished me well, but cautioned me saying ‘It wouldn’t last!’….

Part 2 of All Over The Shop and how I met a famous porn star through working at Top Man to follow next week…..