I always associated Wimbledon with school summer holidays. I never played tennis. There was what I assumed an ancient tennis racket hanging up in my Dad’s garage (it could have been a snow shoe come to think of it.). We would dislodge it from it’s rusty nail and blow off the cobwebs. As there was only one (from a one legged Inuit perhaps ?) we were more likely to use it in our improvised interpretation of rounders than tennis. It was also too heavy to lift above our heads (unleashing the huskies might have helped !)
Tennis wasn’t for the likes of us anyway. It was for posh Laurel Bank girls called Catriona and Ffiona who wouldn’t look at comprehensive school adolescent boys sideways. There was a tennis club hidden in a leafy lane near Bearsden Cross but they would set the dogs on you if they thought you were an outsider from Courthill or Castlehill.
Tennis was the telly for us so in the summer in 1971 I sat there watching as two Australians were competing in the Wimbledon ladies final. One was the dour faced Margaret Court (now Pentecostal minister and public homophobe) and the other, 19 year old Aboriginal girl Evonne Goolagong.
I wasn’t sure what an ‘Aboriginal’ was back then but I thought she looked quite cute and I must admit, had a bit of a teenage crush on her. The rest is history and ‘my girl’ took the trophy.
She was prominent in finals and semifinals for the rest of the decade and won her second Wimbledon in 1980. Six years later I was to land in the country of Ms Goolagong’s ancestors and I’ve lived here ever since.
This week Australians celebrate NAIDOC. For those of you north of Darwin, it stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. It has its roots in the 1938 Day of Mourning, becoming a week long event in 1975. If I was cynical I would say it’s a week were privileged white folk pretend to be concerned about the plight of the first nations’ people and then ignore their issues for the next 51 weeks but the official line is it celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island peoples.
It’s fitting that Ash Barty, a proud Ngaragu woman should pick up the mantle from Evonne Goolagong Cawley, a proud Wikadjuri woman, some fifty years later.
……….and haven’t snow shoes improved over the last half century !
As I look forward to tonights match between Scotland and England I realise that some years just seem to stick in your memory more than others. It’s probably no coincidence therefore that some of my most vivid memories come from years when the football World Cup was being held.
As a kid the first football match I ever watched on TV was the 1966 World Cup Final.
By the time the next World Cup rocked up in Mexico 1970 I was a football obsessive spending all my spare time kicking a ball around with my mates.
By 1974 I was training a couple of times a week, playing Saturday mornings for the school, Saturday afternoons for the local boys-club and Sundays for the youth club.
Truth be told my club allegiances in those days were probably secondary to my support for the national team. I watched Scotland religiously in my youth, but I had never seen us beat England.
That was all about to change in 1974.
1974 is one of those years that’s etched in my memory…. Apart from leaving school, starting work and going on my first ‘lads holiday’… 74 was the year that Scotland were making their first World Cup appearance since the year I was born (1958).
A big part of social life back then was the Youth Club….. a bi-weekly haven of sport, music and social interaction. Approaching 16 I was now old enough to go on some of the organised youth club trips, the first one being a day trip to Butlins in Ayr on Saturday May 18th, 1974.
I remember the date because it was the day I finally got to see Scotland beat England and oh yeah, the day I got chased by a bam-pot with a sword and beat Alberto Juantorena’s 800 metre record.
The day started off well enough with an early morning coach ride to Ayr and was followed by time spent at the Butlins amusement park, a mini-pleasure beach, before we followed some of the older lads into the spectacular Beachcomber Bar.
The Beachcomber Bar at Butlins was probably the most exotic and glamorous place I’d ever seen, it was like something from South Pacific. Of course, looking back now it was a mishmash of bamboo furniture and plastic plants with a few paper lanterns, paper-mache artefacts and hanging baskets thrown in for good measure, however it seemed very avant garde in 1974.
The game was being shown on a tv in the bar and even allowing for the watered-down lager…. the combination of event, location and community spirit, made for an intoxicating atmosphere.
Every year we approached the big game against the auld enemy with ambition and hope, usually to be left in despair, but in 74 there was cause for optimism. Unlike England we had qualified for the 74 World Cup plus our team was full of top players and big personalities.
One of those big personalities was wee Jimmy (Jinky) Johnstone fresh from his ‘Largs Boat Incident’.
For those that don’t know… wee Jinky and a few teammates went out for a refreshment in Largs three days before the England game and whilst staggering back to the team hotel wee Jinky decided to jump in a boat that got pushed out to sea by Sandy Jardine for a laugh, there was only one problem, there were no oars on the boat. Knowing Jinky couldn’t swim, Davie Hay a teammate tried to help by setting sail on another boat, which duly sprung a leak and sank!
With Jimmy sailing into the distance and heading for the North Star the coastguards were called by his beleaguered teammates and Jinky’s exploits were splashed all over the front pages of the Scottish press, with most pundits calling for him to be sanctioned and dropped.
In the end Jinky had the last laugh. 95,000 fans watched Scotland win 2-0 that day. Jinky gave a man of the match performance and famously gave the V sign to the press after the game.
The punters in the Beachcomber went mental at the final whistle and nobody wanted to leave that bar except the coach driver.
On the way home I sat beside a girl I’d known since I was 7 years old who was not in the best form as she was having major boyfriend trouble. He was a few years older than us and a renowned psycho. As far as her friends and family were concerned she’d finally come to her senses as she wanted to break up with him, but she knew it wouldn’t be that simple. I tried to take her mind off things, talking about goofy stuff from our past 8 years as friends and classmates, however, when we got back to Westerton the guy was waiting and her face just dropped.
On a high from the day’s events I hung out with my mates for a bit, reliving the highlights of the day before I decided to head home, I was about half a mile from my house when I heard this guy shouting and running towards me, he was about 200 yards away but I could still see the huge blade he was brandishing, it was the mental boyfriend…. I’ve never ran so fast in my life.
My friend had attempted to split up with him again that night, which he didn’t take well. He’d heard that I’d spent the coach journey home with her, put 2 and 2 together… and decided I was dead!
Cut forward 6 weeks…. Scotland had been knocked out of the World Cup in Germany despite their valiant effort in remaining unbeaten during the tournament.
With the World Cup over, and proof if needed that German efficiency trumps everything…. even Johan Cruyff and total football, I headed off on holiday with my family to Majorca.
We were staying at a quiet part of the island so I thought I was seeing things, when on the beach, I spotted Dennis Law, one of my footballing hero’s, fresh from his participation in the World Cup with Scotland.
Law was footballing royalty; he’d been a member of the all-conquering Man United team along with George Best and Bobby Charlton and was jokingly referred to as having the reflexes of a mongoose, ‘and the haircut to match’. Indeed, with his spiky feather cut and gallus approach Law was footballs answer to Rod Stewart… who also idolised the ‘Lawman’.
I had never asked anyone for an autograph before, but I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass, no matter how starstruck I was
Before I approached the Lawman however I had to do one thing… I nipped back to my room and in the absence of a Scotland top I put on my ‘Roary Super Scot’ t-shirt, like some weird fanboy. Roary, for the uninitiated was the rather juvenile mascot of the Scotland 74 World Cup team.
Looking back now I’m embarrassed that I disturbed the guy on his holiday when he was probably just looking for a bit of peace and quiet after a tough season, but he was really friendly and approachable and made a point of coming over to talk to me and my Dad whenever he saw us. He was staying in the hotel next door to ours, and even asked me to mind his son on the beach a few times whilst him and his missus went for lunch.
Despite being an Aberdonian he was a good tipper and always gave me a couple of hundred Pesetas, which in 74 was enough for a couple of beers and a few plays on the jukebox where Santana’s Samba Pa Ti and Oye Como Va were on heavy rotation….. unfortunately or perhaps fortunately the 1974 Scotland World Cup song wasn’t on there .
I remember a lot about 1974 as I do with 1978 and 1982, something big always happened for me in those World Cup years, 2021 isn’t a World Cup year but I hope I can remember it as the year we beat England and got through to the group stages of the Euros for the first time (along with our English cousins of course).
I left school after sitting 5 o’levels, in fact I can even remember my last day at school it was 14th June 1969.
I had a job lined up in an office in Charing Cross after the Glasgow Fair so I was looking forward to the summer holidays with six weeks of long-lie-ins and footie in the park. I was feeling quite pleased with myself at the family dinner table that day teasing my brothers David and Joe (below) about how they had to go back to school whilst I was finished with all that…. but I shouldn’t have spoken so soon.
Unbeknown to me my Dad had nipped out to the local phone box to make a quick call and when he came back he duly informed me that I was to report to the local farm owned by Jim Paul at 4am the following morning to start my summer job, no lazy summer lie-ins for me then, but at least I’d finish work in time to play a bit of footie in the afternoon!
My passion back then was football and it has been ever since. I was obsessed, and if I wasn’t playing football for the school or the Boys Brigade or with my mates in the park, I was watching it or thinking about it, so in the summer of 69 when I read in the evening paper that the 3 main Glasgow teams were inviting players for trials for their youth teams for the 69-70 season, I couldn’t apply quick enough.
Celtic were first to respond with a trial date, it was to be held at St Anthony Junior’s ground in the south side of Glasgow near Ibrox. On arrival I was filtered into a group of trialists for the Under 16 team along with 40 or 50 other lads, we were then told that we’d all get 30 minutes to make an impact and that it was up to us to impress the coaches.
I couldn’t wait to get started. I played in my favoured midfield position but for the next 30 minutes I watched the ball sail over my head from our defence to the oppositions, I was lucky if I touched the ball 10 times and 6 of those were throw-ins!
I remember Brian Thistle (of this parish) was also there trying out for the under 14’s, he did well and unlike me he was invited back. I couldn’t help but feel that I had let myself down but it was a tough environment, not knowing anyone and not really getting the chance to show what I could do. The 30 minutes seemed to go by in a flash and I had a sore neck into the bargain, looking up at the sky trying to see where the bloody ball was!
Next up was Rangers and the local trials were being held in Drumchapel. At least there were a couple of familiar faces in my age group this time, lads who I had played against previously, good players who went on to become pro’s, like Gordon Smith (St Johnstone Aston villa & Spurs ) and Phil Bonnyman (Rangers, Hamilton, Chesterfield & Dunfermline), unfortunately for me however the end result was the same as the Celtic trial. I just couldn’t impose myself in the limited time I had and I sloped off in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be getting a call-back.
The Teddy Bears in 1969
Last but certainly not least was a trial with the mighty Jags from Firhill. The trial was being held at Sighthill Park and I was a bit more relaxed this time as I was accompanied by a couple of pals, Stuart Millan & Ian lamb who were also trying out. There were also a few ‘well-kent’ faces amongst the other trialists, again, lads I knew from School and Boys club football so I felt a lot more at ease.
As I took to the pitch I noticed that the Thistle manager (and a hero of mine) Davie McParland was standing on the touchline. I was more determined than ever to make the most of this opportunity. I lined up in midfield and told the guys taking the centre to knock the ball back to me from the kick off so I could get an early touch, however the ball hit a massive divot, ricocheted off my shin and deflected to my midfield opponent, who I missed with a lunging tackle, and watched from the deck as he went on to score the opening goal.
I could see the coaches scribbling away in their notepads from the corner of my eye and I knew I’d blown it. I actually went on to play pretty well but the damage was already done and unsurprisingly I was not asked to come back unlike my two mates Ian and Stuart.
To make matters worse that day I had arranged to go to the park when I got home to let my mates know how I had got on, most of the boys were sympathetic but I remember one lad called Davie Jenkins who called me a donkey and said I was wasting my time. We had a wee game of football after that (first to 15) and I made sure Davie was in the other team. I also made sure that he was on the end of my first tackle, and I definitely made sure he knew donkeys had some kick on them!
I also decided that it would be best for me to keep any future trials to myself!
My next trial was with a team from Knightswood – Everton Boys Club who were a top youth team. This time my big brother Brian took me and stayed to watch me play. The manager and the lads were really welcoming and I had a great game. So good in fact that the team manager asked me to join the club as soon as I came off the park, which I gladly did and with Brian in attendance he was able to sign the forms as my guardian on the spot.
To round off a great day, heading back to my brothers car I bumped into Davie McParland who’d watched the game. He was kind enough to say that his coaches would have signed me based on todays performance and would I still like to come and train with them? At this point the Everton manager saw what was happening and shouted over “Hey, hands off, he’s ours now Davie”.
I went on to have a great season with Everton, met some brilliant guys and made friends for life with guys like Frank Murphy who went on to become a football agent and John Cairns who’s son I went on to coach at Lennox (see pic below).
I may not have signed for any of the big Glasgow clubs but I had a fantastic time at Everton Boys Club and as the song so aptly says…. “These were the best days of my life”
(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia –April 2021)
It must be written in some ancient Glasgow City charter that all children should receive varying degrees of pain and punishment throughout their childhood and adolescent years. All through the late 60s and early 70s I remember some form of assault usually inflicted by someone in authority.
Proverbs 13:24 does state “Spare the rod and spoil the child” though some more moderate biblical scholars may argue that the rod was actually a shepherd’s crook gently steering the flock. That would be the Church of England of course. The old C of E (Christmas and Easter). The cucumber sandwich of world religions and who in the West of Scotland would listen to them !
It started fairly innocuously at home with your Mum slapping the backs of your legs to stop you fidgeting, or cuffing your ear if you were cheeky or said a sweary word. And then the ultimate deterrent – your father’s slipper. The “Wait ’til your father gets home” had probably more effect than the deed itself which only happened a handful of times in my early years.
Before you go off running and screaming to Child Welfare, it wasn’t that bad. I’m 62 and I’m over it – apart from the restless legs, cauliflower ear, tourettes and irrational fear of bedtime foot apparel !
Primary school’s punishment started with detention. That was just a matter of sitting it out. Although you were itching to get home for ‘Blue Peter’ your teacher was probably more anxious to get back to feed the cats and catch up on ‘Emmerdale Farm’.
The next level were lines. Meaningless ‘I must not……….’ over rows and rows. You could take a 50:50 chance, complete a couple of pages top and bottom in the hope the teacher would go all dramatic on you, rip up the paper and drop it in the bin with a flourish. Risky, but thems the odds !
Then finally the belt or tawse. A leather two pronged strap for inflicting maximum pain to the cupped palm of a child. Thankfully it was rarely used in primary but prominent in secondary schooling. What malicious and sadistic education authority came up with that idea ? (One my father was prominent in !)
I received the belt a few times in my schooling thankfully from lesser experienced female teachers. In the hands of some of the more demonic male staff it could inflict untold damage. It was reported that some teachers soaked the leather in vinegar to make it more rigid and would demonstrate its force by pulverising pieces of chalk on the desk. We’re dangerously straying into sado eroticism here so enough said.
It wasn’t just the classroom. The sporting ground was also designed to injure. It took me several attempts on Google to discover the red ash that was literally ingrained into every school child’s limbs was blaes and not blaze or blaise.
The powers that be, in an effort to get the young to run around and exercise, decided that the spoils of compacted burnt colliery waste would make an ideal playing ground for football and hockey. Apart from lacerating your knees, the claggy blaes created it’s own poultice so you had every hue of red running down your shin to darken in your little grey socks. Add to that the gritty eye gouging sandstorm on a hot and windy day or winters equivalent, the stinging kiss of a Mitre Mouldmaster on a tender frozen thigh (or worse) turned sporting field to battle ground.
The swimming trip was no safer. Wading through the icy foot baths with the toxic chlorine fumes searing the back of your eyes just to prevent some snotty faced kid pointing to his upturned sole and saying “I’ve got a verruca and I know how to use it”. And keep your mouth closed when swimming. Those aren’t bobbing corks !
The school toilets weren’t a safe haven either what with carbolic soap and the greaseproof/sandpaper toilet paper combo. Everything seemed to be designed to remove layers off your skin. It would be quicker if they whipped out a penknife and whittled us ! First aid was the janitor with a bucket of sawdust after all.
Shouts of “You’re claimed” or “You’ll pay for that” may well sound innocent enough at a Loss Adjustors conference but took on a darker meaning in the playground. Someone or something was always close by to inflict pain and suffering.
We lived it. We accepted it and we got on with it.
That inevitably leads to the conversation “The kids of today…….” but I’ll leave that one with you.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – February 2021)
This is a work of fiction. Unless otherwise indicated, all the names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents in this post are either the product of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
The attitudes and events represented in this post do not reflect the author’s own views, but are a reflection of some of the historical social mores of the 1970s.
Saying farewell to the golden summer of ’76 and the God Awful School, my Dad – being Head of History in one of Birmingham’s grammar schools – pulled some academic strings to secure an interview for me at one of the same to enter the Sixth Form. I was disappointed as I found the appeal of a Sixth Form College, where I could wear jeans and smoke, far more alluring.
And so it came to pass, one bright September morning, I found myself sitting on a straight backed chair in a Head Mistress’s office; arms folded across my denim jacket with smiley badges and an Indian cotton bandana tied around my long hair. A portrait of the Head Mistress stared at me from behind a large oak desk. There was no escape. As I nonchalantly chewed a stick of gum, it struck me that the oak pannelled walls lent the occasion an air of authority and reverence which the 1950s Secondary Modern had singularly lacked. I fiddled nervously with a string of Love Beads on my wrist in an effort to avoid eye contact contact with the portrait, which felt unnerving. The deep turn-ups on my jeans hid a pair of white cowgirl boots with Cuban heels, which I dug into the polished, parquet floor as I tried to feign interest. Mother sat at my side in her mink stole with a determined smile. The Head Mistress, Miss Millicent, bore down at me through her horn-rimmed glasses.
“We do not allow are gels to wear denhem trousers here.”
I could only focus on the gold pendant watch which hung from her academic gown and her stout, heavily perfumed bosom. This was a whole new ball game.
The formalities completed, I entered the ‘Sick’ Form in what was affectionately known as the ‘Brothel on the Hill’ in September 1976. Miss Millicent had a slight speech impediment, which, in those far-off pre-politically correct days of the 1970s, caused great mirth amongst the ‘gels’, who would wait for it in assembly:
“The Sick Form will congregate in the fwayaye after Retheption.”
A ripple of giggles passed through the hall like a Mexican wave. There was a very grave matter:
“It hath come to my attenthion, that there is deficathion on the Eatht Wing Lavatory walls. Those who are rethponthible know who they are. Ath no-one hath come forward, I shall have no recourth but to call an exthrodinary athembly at four o’clock.”
The school duly assembled at four o’clock. Nobody owned up and we sat in silent ‘detenthion’ for half an hour. It was rumoured that Edith Smyth in the Lower Fourth was the culprit. Edith Smyth – with her rosy cheeks and pigtails!
It was at ‘The Brothel on the Hill’ that I began to tread the boards. Playing the legendary Music Hall star of the Edwardian era, Marie Lloyd in ‘Oh! What a Lovely War,’
I was showered with ten pence pieces as I belted out, ’I’ll Make a Man Out of Every One of You!’ to the assembled Boys’ School next door, with whom the ‘gels’ collaborated. (They not only collaborated on certain creative projects, but also in the study bays in the sixth form block, where a ‘lookout’ was posted.)
Amongst the cast was a very bright, talented and amusing young lad who went on to become a famous fiction crime writer. He wrote a review of the play in the school magazine, showcasing his obvious skills as a writer and complimenting my ‘verve’. The smell of the greasepaint and roar of the crowd lit a fuse and I set my heart on becoming an actress.
It was at “The Brothel on the Hill” that I made friends with Rachel Sadler, whose blonde Farrah Fawcett flicks and wedge sandals I found most impressive; especially considering that our uniforms were measured periodically by Miss Millicant with a ruler through those horn-rims:
“Two inches above or below the knee gels – two inches!”
Emboldened by Rachel’s bravado, I sneaked into school one hot day in a pair of peep-toe cork sandals. The Games Mistress — a statuesque Scottish blonde with ruddy cheeks — hauled me up in the corridor bellowing:
“Scarboro — where are your tights? The school would be a very smelly place indeed if all the gels went about without tights!”
“But surely the school would be even smellier in this heat if all the girls did wear their tights?” I protested.
I begged Rachel – the netball captain and Head of Warwick House – not to include me in the inter-house match; but as Deputy Head of Warwick I had no choice. I hated netball and knew I would let the side down. With her ‘flicks’ sprayed into position, Rachel was formidable on court — one of those sporty, outdoor types. I was lousy. Within the first two minutes of play, I knocked Rachel to the ground whereupon she scraped all the skin off both knees. She was stretchered off and I was sent off. The Games Mistress stopped play with her whistle and demanded an explanation from me,
“I told you not to make me play!”
And lastly it was here that I fell asleep in A Level History, sprawled across my desk under Miss Spinks’ nose during a lecture on James the First. She left me alone until the end of the lesson, when she asked me to summarise to the class, the effects of ‘The Great Contract of 1610’ on the Commons. I sat up and yawned.
Friday morning assemblies were refreshing. They were entirely devoted to ‘singing’ (I say this loosely) and the ‘gels’ were allowed to choose three songs from a limited repertoire. This included the ‘School Song’ , ‘Morning Has Broken’ as well as my particular favourite, “The Lavender Cowboy.”
Our Music teacher, Miss Petal, took charge of these assemblies with great flourish. A physically slight woman of indeterminate years, jewelled glasses on a chain and an Iron Lady hairstyle, she had devoted her life to the school. She would appear Stage Right and strike a dramatic chord on the piano. She had our full attention. Clasping two castanets, she crossed the stage in towering heels as she led the school with her thin, strained soprano voice in “The Lavender Cowboy”. Having finished the song, Miss Petal would disappear off stage behind a heavy velvet curtain and re-emerge Stage Left, pretending to ‘haul’ a heavy rope over her shoulder as she bent forward almost to the floor (a feat in itself in those heels).
As she ‘hauled’ she sang ‘The Volga Boatsong’; throwing her voice into a sudden and surprising deep baritone:
“Yo Heave Ho!
Yo Heave Ho!”
Three hundred girls held their collective breath; fighting fits of giggles as Miss Petal brandished her castanets with a ‘click, click, clack’.
“Come along girls, Yo Heave Ho!”
The Upper ‘Sick’ Form were in hysterics in our privileged seats in the balcony; trying hard to stifle grunts as we slid to the floor helpless with laughter. Miss Millicent shot us a glance from her carved podiam.
I looked forward to Friday mornings and Gave Thanks for Miss Petal in the closing prayer.
I managed to come out of ‘The Brothel on the Hill’ with two E’s in A Level History and English. Mum was thrilled that I had at least completed a rudimentary education. Dad still maintained that I would make a great nurse.
As the other girls collected their A Level certificates from Miss Millicent with a pat on the back and a “Well done gels!” as they headed for Oxbridge, I set my sights on the theatre – not too difficult a task for a drama queen.
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – February 2021)
Didn’t we talk funny at school?
The expressions above have a modern / urban ring about them, but fifty years ago in the West of Scotland, we had our own ‘cool’ patois. Our parents would try to coax this phraseology from our lexicon, but had we succumbed, we’d have been regarded by our peers as ‘uncool. Or if you like, ‘square’ to coin a term from our folks’ schooldays.
As with our own parents, I’m sure every generation will have their own school slang, but here’s some I recall from the 1970 intake:
DOGGING IT: as in, ‘dogging class; dogging lunch.’ – MEANING: skipping class / spending your lunch money on crisps, sweets and listening to the latest Donny/ David / Marc/ Bowie song on Dial-a Disc from the telephone box on the corner.
SWAPSIES: as in, ‘doublers.’ – MEANING: bubblegum cards you have duplicates of and are willing to trade with other collectors. When displayed ‘swapsies’ generally induced the quickfire response of “got; got; not got; want; got; NEED! That one! NEED!”
TAP: as in, ‘borrow.’ – MEANING: erm … to borrow. Usually used with reference to fags, or Rizla rolling papers. ‘Tapping’ a fag / paper constituted a verbal contract, and failure to honour would often lead to physical retribution.
THE SMOKERS’ UNION: as in ‘see you in The Smokers’ Union’ at lunchtime.’ MEANING: let’s congregate with other smokers in the alcove beneath the Science block after lunch for a fly fag. (Rather cunningly, ‘The Smokers’ Union’ was shortened to The S.U. – which coincidentally was the same abbreviation used for The Scripture Union. Our ever-so-enthusiastic Religious Education teacher was extremely excited to hear of the students’ commitment to Jesus, but did wonder why they all had simultaneously chesty coughs.)
“YOU’RE CLAIMED!” as in ‘you’re getting it!’ – MEANING: you’ve upset someone, perhaps by not repaying your tobacco debt on time, and you have been invited to be pounded to a pulp at 4pm, by the school gate.
THE MALKY: as in ‘it’ in the above scenario. – MEANING: you better be quick off you your mark at 4pm!
HONNERS: as in ‘cry honners.’- MEANING: if you’ve been ‘claimed’ and are about to get ‘The Malky,’ and you’re unable to run away fast enough, you could always shout for help from your friends to fend off the aggressor.
FUD: as in ‘ignore him, he’s a complete fud!’ – MEANING: that chap is not worth worrying about. He’s an ill-mannered idiot.
DEAD: as in ‘dead good / bad.’ – MEANING: ‘very.’
PURE: as in ‘pure brilliant.’ – MEANING: ‘really.’ Can be used as an accentuation of ‘very.’ So, for instance: ‘Mrs Welch is pure dead gorgeous.’ 😉
GALLUS: as in ‘he thinks he’s dead gallus in his sta press and Harrington bomber.’ – MEANING: that fashion conscious lad thinks he’s the bees’ knees.
EL D: as in “Gies a swig of yer EL D.” – MEANING: “could I possibly have a taste of your fortified wine, please?” This would often be overheard in Wessy Woods; Hungry Hill and round Kilmardinny Loch prior to a school / Ski Club Disco between the years of 1970 & 1976.
EMPTY: as in, “Who’s got an empty this weekend?” – MEANING: whose parents have been daft enough to head off for a cheeky wee weekend away, leaving their ‘mature’ sixteen year old offspring to look after the house? Cue the wild party! (See Paul’s recent excellent blog post.)
BEAMER: as in ‘Ha Ha! She gave you a knock back – check your beamer!’ – MEANING: “She declined your offer of a fun filled evening at Kilmardinny Loch. I can tell you’re embarrassed by the obvious blushing of your face.”
DIZZY: as in, you were given a ‘dizzy.’ – MEANING: you got all dressed up and emptied half a bottle of Denim aftershave all over your chin and chest (because you didn’t have to try too hard) only for your intended date not to turn up. And if you’d met anywhere other than school, she’d probably also given you a fake phone number.
LUMBER: as in, “You jammy sod! I saw you got a lumber last night.” – MEANING: you were perceived as being very lucky in that the girl you were conversing with at the dance last night acceded your request to meet up again.
GET OFF WITH: as in, you’d want to ‘get off with’ a particular person at the school dance. – MEANING: you looked to that casual snog from last night being converted into some kind of longer term arrangement.
AYE PEAKY / SURE PEAKY / PEAKY OSPREY / PEEK AN OSPREY: as in, “Your dad’s taking you to New York this weekend to see The Rolling Stones? Aye Peaky!” The summation of the assertion would be uttered at the same time as you pulled down an eyelid with your index finger. – MEANING: “Your arse! I don’t believe a word of that, you lying git!”
(This last one, I’m sure is just a localised expression. Legend has it that some kid in school called Peaky, told his pals he saw an osprey sitting on the roof of his house in suburban Glasgow. Of course, nobody was going to believe him. And the eyelid pull-down? I’m assuming it’s just an accentuation of a wink.)
Actually, having written all that down – don’t we talk funny as adults?
Traipsing round a stuffy museum on a school trip can’t be many people’s idea of fun – it certainly wasn’t mine.
I remember dragging my heels as we toured Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in the Seventies for some history project or other. Yawn!
In and out of airless rooms with an interminable amount of portraits, old stones, suits of armour, stuffed animals and some painting of Jesus on the cross from above. At least I think it was Jesus…you couldn’t even see the guy’s face!
The trouble was not so much about what was in Kelvingrove, but what WASN’T in it. A wee bit of pzazz and a helluva lot of imagination and it could have been far more interesting.
So here are some alternative exhibits for the museum – a shrine to the 60s and 70s, if you will – with some of my own historical notes to go alongside.
Loch Ness Monster
The centuries-old Nessie mystery was finally solved in 1971 when a perfectly-formed skeleton of a 27-metre-long Spinosaurus was discovered on the shores of Loch Ness.
The discovery was hushed up because of national security but the bones have now been released under the 50-year rule and will take pride of place in Kelvingrove.
To give context, the diplodocus dinosaur that was the main exhibit at the entrance to London’s Natural History Museum until 2017 was 26 metres long. It is understood the diplodocus was moved out because the London museum knew Nessie would be a bigger attraction – in every way.
Secret soft-drink formula
This was found in a disused store cupboard at AG Barr’s plant in Cumbernauld. Dating from 1968, it was stuck to an iron girder after some Irn Bru had been spilled on it.
Barr’s donated the secret recipe – for a soft-drink called “ginger” – to the museum because it would be illegal to make these days given the high amount of sugar required.
The alchemist who came up with the formula did so in an attempt to avoid confusion in shops when kids would ask for “ginger” without actually knowing what flavour they wanted.
Robert Burns poem
An original work of the Bard – authenticated by a host of Burns experts – was recently discovered behind a false wall in an 18th-century house in Alloway, Ayrshire.
Historians have long since argued about the “Seventies” mentioned in the poem and, while it was originally thought to be the Bard’s look ahead to the 1870s, it is now widely accepted he was referring to the 1970s.
Ode to a Haggis Supper
Ah could fair stuff my sonsie face,
Wi’ a chieftain o’ the puddin-race,
Dripping in batter and plunged intae hot fat,
Now that wid mak ye a man for a’ that,
Lying on the coonter, O what a glorious sight,
Served up wi’ chips so fluffy and light,
In the Seventies every groaning trencher,
Is bound to be droont in salt ‘n vinegar
Elvis Presley song
An unpublished Elvis Presley song – written on the back of a fag packet – has been donated to Kelvingrove by the late Senga McGlumphey’s family.
Senga was working as a cleaner at Prestwick Airport when Elvis flew in for a stopover in 1960 and got chatting to the legendary singer.
After asking her name, the King started scribbling on a fag packet that Senga had picked up and began humming a tune. A few minutes later Elvis had to leave the building and handed over the Embassy Regal packet with the lyrics to Return To Senga on it.
The song was never published, but it bears an uncanny resemblance to an Elvis smash hit which came out two years later.
Bay City Rollers tartan
This was commissioned in the late 1970s as Les, Eric and the lads tried to unify the tartan clobber they wore to maximise merchandising potential.
Rollers manager Tam Paton came up with the plan to design a new tartan, copyright it and then rake in the big bucks from the new-look merch.
Unfortunately, the band couldn’t agree on a design and the tartan swatches dropped out of sight – until now.
The World Cup trophy
Awarded to Scotland after a series of bizarre FIFA rulings. First, Willie Johnston was granted a free pardon after FIFA admitted it was their doctor who had prescribed the winger the banned tablets at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.
Then FIFA agreed to look at the results from the tournament retrospectively and considered Archie Gemmill’s goal against Holland so good that it was decided Scotland should go through to the next round in their place.
The bigwigs further ruled that if Holland could beat Austria, draw with Germany and beat Italy, then surely Scotland could have – so they were automatically put into a final against Argentina.
This match was to be played in 2021 using the original squads from 43 years ago, but Covid restrictions prevented it taking place.
Under pressure to come up with a solution, FIFA then decided the final would be determined by a shots-drinking competition which, unsurprisingly, Scotland won.
But it wouldn’t be Scotland without some sort of problem and Argentina appealed on the grounds that legendary hardman defender Kenny Burns threatened five of their players during the live Zoom event.
However, the SFA put forward a rigorous defence to FIFA, insisting the player had become something of a philosopher in his old age. And they contested that Burns, when asked where he thought the game should be played, had merely said: “Bright views…ergo outside” instead of the widely-quoted “Right yous…square go outside.”
Do you believe that? Nope, me neither. Kenny Burns only threatening five of them? No chance.
The SFA, rightly thinking they had probably got away with one, decided not to organise a lap of honour round Hampden with the trophy for fear of further antagonising the Argentinians.
“In any case,” a spokesman said, “We already did one of those back in 1978 before the tournament started!”
(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, London – February 2021)
A big part of growing up was having stuff, but it had to be the right stuff otherwise you wouldn’t be part of the gang.
It usually started off at junior Primary school with things like airfix models, stamps or miniature toy soldiers and I’m reliably informed, dolls and scraps (the picture scraps not the type you get from the chippy) for girls.
I’m sure it was the same for most generations – I remember my poor wife going from shop to shop to procure ‘The New‘ Beanie Baby to add to the collection for our daughter.
A collection that’s been gathering dust in the loft for 20 years now, but that can’t be thrown out because one of them might be rare and valuable!
I can also remember her jumping out of moving cars to acquire Pokémon Cards from shady street corner hustlers for our sons.
We had all been mentally scarred before, so come hell or high water those kids were gonna get their stuff…..
Typically the stuff we craved was nothing life-changing just stuff that other kids at school had, the only difference was timing – a favoured few would get their stuff at the start of the craze (they normally had older siblings), most of us followed and an unfortunate few would be at the tail end or miss out all together.
The first ‘craze’ I remember at school for us boys was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. badges
T.M.F. U. was a TV programme that hit our screens c.1965, about a two-man spy team consisting of an American and a Russian. Everybody at school watched it and before you knew it we were awash with merchandise, including badges with designated numbers. Badge #11 was Napoleon Solo and #2 was Illya Kuryakin, the mild mannered Russian.
A bit like football teams you had to choose a side and that choice defined you as you strutted around the playground pretending to be a secret agent.
The next cab off the rank was also inspired by another American TV show which exploded onto the scene with requisite merchandise in abundance.
However, despite the groovy merchandise available to us – the Monkees dolls, the toy guitars and the far-out 60s clothes, the must-have item in Glasgow’s leafy suburbs for the class of 1967 was a bobble hat!
The inspiration for this wooly headwear of choice turned out to be Michael Nesmith, the quiet, unassuming one in The Monkees.
The Monkees at the time was a tv show, featuring a 4-piece band that mimicked the Beatles in almost every way apart from talent and Scouse accents.
Inspired by the movie A Hard Days Night, Hollywood execs put together the first boy band comprising of actors (Dolenz), musicians (Tork), ex-jockeys (Jones), and the heir to the Tippex empire (Nesmith), and anointed them The Monkees.
To be fair, the show was entertaining, and at the time, with only three channels available to us poor waifs it was must-watch TV.
The Monkees also had some catchy tunes written by heavyweight composers like Neil Diamond plus the best session musicians money could buy, namely the legendary Wrecking Crew who were the house band for a lot of 60’s hits including Phil Spector’s wall of sound. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wrecking_Crew_(music)
Anyway, for some reason that I’ve never been able to fathom, the simple bobble hat, later sported by that fashion icon Benny from Crossroads, became the thing we all latched onto and we implored our bemused parents to get us one.
They were stuck to our heads for a while before they were surgically removed.
We even tried to play football in them, but trying to communicate with your team mates or take instructions from the coach with your ears covered or attempting to head the ball with a tea-cosy on your head wasn’t easy, so we soon saw sense.
As is the case in such things, the bobble hat makers and retailers of the world weren’t expecting such an uplift in demand, so being ever resourceful the majority of us turned to our dear old Grannies & Nana’s and there was a boom in wool sales instead.
Fast forward to 1970 and the de rigueur was the Esso coin collection for the 1970 Mexico World Cup.
The coins, containing no more than a passing likeness to England’s world cup stars, could only be collected at Esso petrol stations, so there were strict instructions for parents everywhere to exclusively purchase Esso fuel.
It must have been irritating for parents back then with kids constantly reminding them from the back seat that they needed to fill-up even when the tank was three quarters full.
Or badgering them when they came home from work, to ask whether they had got petrol that day.
Or making them trundle past the Shell or Texaco petrol station with an empty tank, in search of an Esso stronghold.
Or suggesting every weekend that we go for ‘a wee run in the car’ when normally you wouldn’t be seen dead in the family saloon if you could help it.
The coins quite aptly became currency in the school playground where a Bobby Charlton or a Colin Bell could bring instant credibility, but as always with these things, everyone had heaps of the unwanted coins to swap – in this case the Keith Newton’s and Tommy Wright’s (no not that one!).
It’s strange looking back in todays jingoistic times, to realise that the collection we were prepared to burn the ozone layer for, was restricted to England footballers only…. fast forward to today and I’m not sure anyone north of the border would be quite as bothered.
As we progressed through the years our tastes became more sophisticated of course and we progressed from woolly hats and trinkets to some serious hardware – SEGS
Again, I’ve no idea where the trend originated from but basically if you could walk round the playground like a Firestarter creating sparks by scuffing your feet whilst making a noise like Steptoe’s horse, then you were part of the in crowd.
Ironically what we failed to realise, was that instead of looking like the cool, flame heeled Jets from West Side Story we resembled a chorus-line of inebriated tap-dancers.
We all became amateur cobblers in 1972!
Also, and very inconveniently, it didn’t tell you in the small print but SEGS were really only meant to protect proper shoes or boots, the type hardy men wore to work. They weren’t meant for flimsy imitation leather numbers with plastic soles from Freeman Hardy & Willis.
Invariably the SEGS fell out of these poor excuses for footwear and within no time there was a mountains worth of scrap metal clogging up the playground, puncturing bicycle tyres.
Spare a thought for the kid in our year though who got very excited about the holy union of SEGS with his cherished oxblood Doc Martens, with their specialised ‘AirWair’ soles – a marriage that didn’t end well at all…
Other ‘must haves’ came and went through the school years, and inevitably we were hostage to the buying frenzy.
I swear at one point 75% of the pupils at our school were wearing airforce blue Gloverall style Duffle Coats and sporting Tartan scarves.
In retrospect maybe we should all have taken the advice of Graham Chapman’s Brian, in The Life of Brian –
“We are all individuals”, “We are all different”…….
To many people, going to a gig and ending up in hospital would be regarded as an occupational hazard but to go through that experience while carrying out the comparatively mundane and harmless act of purchasing a ticket has to be regarded as something of a rarity.
It was an adventure I experienced back in October 1971.
The Who had just announced that they would be returning to Glasgow for the first time in over a year to play a show at Greens Playhouse and interest in the gig was sky high, coming as it did on the back of the band’s highly successful and unique Rock Opera Tommy which had been kicking around for a couple of years.
On top of that, Who’s Next, which is widely regarded as the bands finest ever piece of work and which featured the anthemic single Won’t Get Fooled Again, had just been released
The announcement came that tickets would go on sale at 10am on the Sunday before the show and plans began to develop as to how these sought-after pieces of paper could fall into the hand of myself and my two fellow Who fans from school, Angus MacAulay and Nicky Mawbey (both now sadly deceased).
Long before the days of Ticketmaster and online/telephone booking, anyone looking to attend a gig would merely trot along to the House of Clydesdale electrical store in Sauchiehall Street and proceed to the oasis-like ticket desk which was crammed in between the fridge freezers and the twin tubs.
With demand expected to be high the best option to guarantee success for a high profile show like The Who was to camp out on the pavement overnight which, bearing in mind the onset of a Glasgow winter would have been a course of action palatable only to the foolhardy and the supremely dedicated.
None of us fell into either of these categories (although we perhaps verged on the borderline of foolhardy) so we devised a plan to wake up early and rendezvous at 6am on the day of the sale prior to making the six mile journey into Sauchiehall Street.
What we didn’t allow for, however, was the non-availability of public transport at six o’clock on a Sunday morning so, with no buses or trains running at such an ungodly hour, we resorted to the noble art of hitch hiking.
It was an activity in which none of us had any prior experience and as a result, we stood by the road with thumbs outstretched hoping that some passing driver would be daft enough to pick up three long-haired, denim clad teenage boys.
After getting some strange looks from the occupants of the few vehicles who sped by, a car finally stopped and our spirits were lifted when the driver shouted “ur yees gaun intae toon for Who tickets, boys? In ye get.”
This kindred spirit kindly dropped us off in the city centre before looking for a parking space but when we we turned into Sauchiehall Street we were met by what only be described as a seething mass of humanity with a queue from Clydesdale, four deep on the pavement, snaking all the way round to Hope Street then into Renfrew Street.
We trudged gloomily in search of the end of the queue when an almighty scuffle broke out amongst those in line. Police were soon on the scene, manhandling everyone in the vicinity, the outcome being Angus, Nicky and myself being pushed into the queue by the said officers.
This episode of police-enforced queue jumping led to us gaining a foothold at least 100 yards further up the line from where we should have been and raised our expectations of a successful outcome to the trip. Every cloud and all that.
We then heard that, on police advice, the ticket desk was to open at 9am and it wasn’t long before we were slowly shuffling round with the Holy Grail of Clydesdale Electrical within our distant sights.
Then, disaster struck.
A rumour began circulating (allegedly by the police) that the tickets were almost sold out, panic set in and an almighty crush developed as the four-deep queue grew to six or seven-deep, with people desperate to move forward in what was now beginning to look like a forlorn quest of seeing Townshend, Daltrey and co in the flesh.
By this time, the three of us, along with many others were pushed up tight against the plate glass window of Graftons, a ladies clothes shop.
As the crush increased, there was no means of escape and the window began to creak with the weight of bodies trapped against it.
Before long the inevitable sound of breaking glass became apparent as the window gave way and I found myself lying on the floor amongst the Graftons mannequins with deadly looking shards of glass raining down on my head.
The cops again appeared, hauling bodies out of the carnage and I recall one senior office shouting “get this dealt wi’, we don’t want another Ibrox”, a poignant nod to the Ibrox disaster which had claimed 66 lives earlier that year.
I was lucky… I only suffered a few minor scratches, as did Nicky but Angus wasn’t so fortunate. When we found him he was lying on the pavement with blood pouring from a wound in the back of his neck.
By this time a fleet of ambulances had arrived, and we hauled him over to the nearest one before we were all bundled in and carted off to the Royal Infirmary.
Now, on, say, a Friday or Saturday night, the emergency department of Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary is not a place for the faint hearted as the hard-pressed medics deal with the never-ending stream of drunken casualties but Sunday mornings? -that was time for the doctors and nurses to relax a bit and review the events of an eventful night shift over a well-earned coffee and a bacon roll.
Not this time. Their peace was shattered by the sight of several dozen blood-soaked rock fans coming through the doors for treatment. I actually felt quite embarrassed taking up a space in the waiting area with my puny little scratches while the guy beside me, a hippy dude called Stevie, held his kaftan tightly against his head to stem the blood from the area where an almighty shard of glass was embedded.
Stevie addressed the situation with the classic black humour for which Glaswegians are famed, uttering a line which has has stayed in my psyche until this day – “I feel like I’m a packed lunch for a fuckin’ vampire.”
After several hours in casualty, Angus emerged with an impressive row of stitches in his neck and the three of us went home ticketless.
I did get to see The Who twice in the years that followed, firstly at Charlton Athletic Football Ground (The Valley) in 1974 and again at Celtic Park in 1976.
The Charlton gig, which I attended with my mate Mike Rooney from Temple, was an all-day event and featured a stellar supporting cast of Humble Pie, Lou Reed, Bad Company, Lindisfarne, Maggie Bell (who took great delight in informing the 60,000 crowd that Scotland had just beaten England 2-0 at Hampden) and Montrose.
The last-named band had been called in as last-minute replacements for The Sweet who had been scheduled to open the show but were forced to pull out after singer Brian Connolly had his head kicked in by some neds after a gig the previous night.
The show had its high points and low points. One of the high points was, when sitting in the blistering sunshine on the terracing steps, the bra-less girl beside me graciously decided to whip off her t-shirt and remain topless throughout Humble Pie’s set. That vision always returns to my mind when I dust off the cover of the Pie’s epic double album Eat It which was around at the time.
The low point was the fact that The Who were 40 minutes late in taking the stage and it was inevitable that the show would continue beyond its 10pm curfew.
As the last train to Glasgow would be departing Euston Station at 11pm Mike and I made the reluctant decision to leave the gig early and, after negotiating the complex route across the capital from Charlton, we managed to jump on the train with seconds to spare.
In hindsight, it proved to be smart move. Had we stayed for the encores and missed the train, the alternative would have been to spend the night in that particular corner of hell known as the Euston concourse.
Reflecting on stories which have emerged since then regarding young lads who were in similar situations, who knows, it could well have been our lifeless, severed body parts which were found stashed in the dark recesses of Dennis Nilsen’s freezer.
In the words of Bob Dylan – ‘a simple twist of fate.’