20 Oct Football boots for Christmas (Revised Version) – Part Four
DOWN OUR WAY
Trip-wire(Miss Tripney) was still going on about them writing letters to her kid-on pen-pal. Got Baw wondering what he would sound like on the wireless bletherin away to strangers, like big Jamieson Clark, visiting places all over Scotland and asking the folk he met what they were all about and how things had changed from what they were afore the year of the short corn.
Jamieson was him that acted the pencil-lickin big polis with the wee Charlie Chaplin moustache and boneshaker bike in Scottish films. Did football match reports on the wireless as well for Peter Thomson and Sports Report, just before ‘The McFlannels’ on Saturday tea-time.
If they ever made an ‘Oor Wullie’ film big Jamieson was sure to be PC Murdoch. Granpaw Moffat with his bunnet and waistcoat would have made just as good a Paw Broon. A drunken Paw Broon that stole coal and steamed stamps off envelopes and used them again. Maybe an even better miserly auld Ebenezer, who tried to do away with his nephew David Balfour in Queensferry, just down the Betley road out there, in ‘Kidnapped’.
Jamieson, if he visited here, could maybe interview auld Wull Stirton, who delved the manager’s garden, who could tell him about no liking rhubarb, ever since him and his pals Baden Powell and Churchhill got a dose of beriberi in The Zulu War. Was Wull who telt Baden Powell all he ever knew about knots, living rough in tents and cooking rabbits in a clay oven. Said that Churchill was just a glory hunter. Still was according to the Daily Herald.
If Jamieson got Jimmy Peutherer, The Works Manager, to stand still long enough to talk, could learn that the main Edinburgh to Glasgow line run below their feet an that the Post Office shook every time a train passed underneath. One of them trains killed the wee cobbler, with no neck, who came round the doors collecting Labour Party dues from them that got The Daily Herald.
Was a big funeral, the cobbler’s, but no on the same scale as the auld minister’s. The one that run the BB’s when Baw’s faither was sergeant, and who fell off his bike in the black-out and never got back up. Then Jimmy, if he wasn’t too busy, could tell Jamieson that all the men in the Raws were shale miners or else worked in the oil-works, or retired and did part-time as the school lollipop man like auld Bob Jefferies, or a watchman like auld Sanny; up till he got nabbed.
There was no reason, that Baw could think of, why an outside broadcast here in Winchurgh couldn’t be just as good as any other place Jamieson had been, except maybe the McGowan toffee factory in Stenhousemuir, out the Stirling road.
Could go on about their bing; the first thing visitors noticed, and then the cat pee smell that came off The Oil Works, that was where the mineral oil industry began with paraffin and candles and engine oil afore the years of the short corn; when America still belonged to the Red Indians.
Then the talk could be about them on the allotments growing tobacco, or the owl in young at the top of that rotten tree in the Betley Wood, next to that stinking pond beside the farm house that some said was an open sewer. The owl must have fed it’s young on rats.
Then, if he had time, Jamieson could donner further down the Betley Road to the Myre where the first two-train-crash in history happened. If he wanted to know anymore about things like that he could always ask Baw’s faither’s Uncle John, or could carry on by the Myre to see the walnut tree at Duntarvie Castle and all the bird droppings inside. The allotment men said it made the best of manure.
Could then tell his listeners that near enough every place round about had at least one huge bing, red and the shape of a giant upside down ashet that had been bashed about a bit. All the bings were that big it must have left a big hollow under Winchburgh. The village must have stood on something like an egg shell. Once Baw told told wee Jimmy, Jimmy had been on his tip-toes ever since. So had Baw.
Maybe go on about that ploughman next and his pair of horse out in the middle of a field up by Duntarvie, along from ‘The Guns’, that vanished one day off the face of the earth; just afore the war they reckon. The guns were there to frighten Hitler’s bombers away from the Forth Bridge. Had since been made into a wee camp for them doing National Service. One of the two-year kid-on sodgers was winching June Cormie, the daughter of Swanson’s foreman joiner. Him that was always laughing and splitting sticks for auld folk, and who drunk with the bank manager Mr. Menzies, whose son Ross was doing his National Service as well, and played for the British Army and Rangers, part-time.
June’s boyfriend was cried Private Bill Gold. Came from about East Calder and so he could see home no bother from the top of Winchburgh bing when he was melancholy, but still up to a stiff climb. ‘Melancholy’ was Baw’s mother’s latest favourite word, out the Sunday Post. Meant feeling sorry for yourself. If he hadn’t asked her if that was what ailed Grandpaw Moffat, he wouldn’t have got his thick lip, where her wedding ring caught him.
Big Jamieson could then tell his listeners that this was where Paddy Higgins tied his two wee laddies thegither with bad-wire then flung them into the flooded stone quarry down at Totley Wells, but then I’ve telt you about him alreadies
Could tell them as well about the German Luftwaffe using their bing as a marker during the war guiding them to Clydebank and the Blitz, and on the road back they tried to bomb the Oil Works with what was left. Broke all their windows and knocked down two trees and the hens stopped laying for a week – weren’t right ready for them, but then you’ll know they never came back.
Before they built the Oil Works here in Winchburgh, the village was famous for honey and for Mary Queen of Scots spending the night she escaped from Lochleven Castle in Niddry Castle, and for the young English King Edward stopping opposite the Post Office, long afore the Post Office was there, for a wee bit to eat and a change of horses that time he fled the Bannockburn, or so auld Jock told them.
The Red Douglas and his pals were after Edward and a king’s ransom that day, a wee bit fun and their own back for William Wallace, them trashing Dunbar and stealing Berwick. Them that went on the Women’s Guild day trip last summer said Dunbar was in a terrible mess yet.
Them up in Bathgate claimed Robert the Bruce’s daughter Marjory and Walter High Steward set up house in a castle on their golf course behind the railway, afore things such as railways were thought about, so starting the royal Stewart line, but there was nothing about all that in their school history book.
P6’s favourite history bit was about burning Cath’lics, ever since they went to that film show down in the Mission Hall, about them reprobates up there in St. Andrews slow cooking poor Patrick Hamilton, the minister’s son from along there in Kingscavil at the time of the Reformation. They could have got in with empty jeelie jars, but didn’t know that beforehand, so just gave that Glasgow woman with the glass eye tuppence each. She said the money would go to pay the Cath’lic’s fares back to Dublin town.
Alec Scott, who would pass the qualy exam for Broxburn High with flying colours told her it was a city. Then them that knew the words, like ‘Pidgy’ and Roy Rutherford, started to sing ‘The Sash’ and the woman conducted them like she was big Dick Pritchard in front of his new junior choir.
That was when Baw’s kid-on Uncle Bob, who was like a caretaker when he wasn’t down the mine, redde out the Mission Hall and got the crowd from Glasgow cursing, even the one with the dog collar. Pidgy said flying colours were them that run that fast they took off. Alec Scott got a sore face at that for shaking his heid side to side instead of up and down; some could be too clever at times.
Then at school they got all about General Tam Dalyell and his army harrying the brave Covenanters up the Bathgate Hills and then hacking them to bits. At playtime Joe Stoddart was for across to Blackness to throw stanes at Tam’s big hoose. At the same time was hoping to see if the glass table was still in the pond where ‘Auld Nick’ had flung it after Tam beat him at cairds.
Bathgate had traffic lights, made shovels, spades, soda scones, good swimmers and smashing ice-cream, without real ice bits in it like Harry Scott did here on Main Street.
Winchburgh folk didn’t mind too much when relations and that were taken into Bangour Hospital, up near Bathgate, as long as it was the general bit and no the village, and no too serious, specially if them that were ill had been byding themselves, and no eating, and short of coal, and with their wireless accumulator run down. Near a holiday camp for them, but then auld yins were only happy when they had something to moan about.
Then relations on hospital visiting days could slip out the ward to Boni’s van sitting at the kerb and try the prize winning ice-cream Bathgate ‘bairns’ took for granted. Relations of patients in the village asylum bit didn’t care that much for ice-cream. They only went visiting in the early dark with their collars up.
RAF pilots and gunners who had lost their faces and sometimes their arms and legs in burning planes during the war were still in the wooden huts up the top end of the hospital next to the reservoir. Some said they get free beer down at the pubs in Uphall on the NHS.
Baw didn’t think that could be true or Granpaw Moffat would have set himself ablaze afore this. He already got the 2/- voucher every week Granny Moffat got for being a pensioner as well as a heavy smoker, even though she wasn’t. Granpaw Moffat said them that checked the forms don’t know Granny Moffat from Fanny Craddock and said that 1/11 for 20 Capstan was far too much, specially for poorly paid railway signalmen who liked a drink and whose two sons had kicked Rommel and his kind out of North Africa. Got Granny Moffat to practice on wee doups just in case a smoking inspector arrived unexpected.
Baw’s faither just loved The West Lothian Courier, or at least the bits he had written; the bits folk paid most attention to, bar the births, marriages and deaths or ‘hatches, matches an dispatches’, as he said when he had his newspaper reporter soft hat on.
If their house ever went on fire the first thing their faither would rescue would be his soft hat, then that week’s Courier. If he had still time, then wee Jimmy and his shorthand homework from that college in Edinburgh, specially if he was in line for a gold star.
That wee Italian typewriter, he got from somebody’s cousin that worked in an office in Edinburgh before he got sacked, had broken down again. Baw didn’t know his name; had better no come back looking for the ten bob that was still owe him, The one that had been behind the clock for a while.
Didn’t bear thinking about just how melancholy folk in West Lothian would be if their faither’s stuff never made it one week, specially them desperate to know how well Winchburgh Albion played the Saturday before, but too lazy to go and find out for themselves, and them wanting to hear yet again about the Albion being red hot favourites for the Scottish Cup.
Then Jamieson could go on about them with cars new to them, from out Edinburgh way, sticking their maps into the faces of bleary-eyed pensioners, out for a breath of fresh air, away from their arm-waving wives or fussy daughters with houses to clean and messages to go.
As often as no the auld men would have left their new fangled NHS specs in the side of the sideboard along with their ill-fitting new teeth. Often heard them splutter into stranger’s faces, and their maps. They all had two pair of each, presents from Mr. Atlee’s Labour government, but they didn’t like Churchill. Said he was a warmonger, that folk wanted peace to get on with their lives and jobs for everybody that wants one, except married women with men in good paying jobs.
Them on the edge with weaker voices and bad hearts never got listened to. Auld men bullied one another, just as much as laddies did, using their voices rather than their fists. An argument to them was to say what they said before, but louder and louder, then to go purple and sometimes weak at the knees, and then have even more bother with their specs, or their teeth slipping.
Said of each other that they must have been sitting in the big chair when their faithers were born. Where forever criticising their betters, or so their father said, meaning himself, the Courier and his Uncle John, who was on the Broxburn Co-op board. Cried them down at the School Corner, ‘The Forum’.
If false teeth made Baw look like a frightened auld horse he would just put them in the bucket and be done with it. Either that or keep his mouth shut and play dumb, like their faither was always at him to try. Mr. Pritchard and his new junior choir took much the same tack with Bobby and him in the back row, that week they went, but no for long.
Big laddies like Billy Haddow often brought pages torn out the ‘News of the World’ to the school with them to let their pals read the dirty stories and look at the pictures and then say bad words and walk funny. Willie Woodburn of the Rangers had a column in it on the Scottish League. That was why their faither bought it.
Their mother hid The News of the World when he was at Sunday school, then used it to start the fire on Monday mornings. She kept the Sunday Post and the Daily Herald for wiping bums – The Post was made of softer paper, but tore too easy when it was wet.
One of the drivers lost last year had been Alex Bedsore, the English opening batsman. Could just as easy have been Don Badman, the great Aussie cricketer, for all they knew of their game. Could happen to anybody.
Mr. Bedsore was a Yorkshire man but didn’t think he knew Uncle Alec McCrostie, Baw’s faither’s Auntie Mary’s man, who worked in that bank in Bradford. Hard lines because Uncle Alec knew all about maps and liked nothing better than a daunner across Ilkley Moor and never late getting back to lock up his greenhouse and see what needed watered.
Mr. Bedsore’s father had an allotment as well, but didn’t grow black grapes through dead sheep like in Bradford where Uncle Alec had his. Cricketers didn’t talk that much different from everybody else.
Was patting Baw on the heid just as ‘Trip Wire’ was gouging him in the back with her rule. They could see by the look on Mr. Bedsore’s face that he felt heart-sorry for them in P6. Changed when Miss Black came in wearing her red high heels, snug in her ice cream cone of a dress; made the big laddies drool and the other women teachers jealous. She took the qualifying class. Her brother Gordon played for Hibs reserves and her faither had a wee corner shop the far end of Linlithgow, just down from Rose’s park
Most Winchburgh visitors were just passing through. Only them with relations in the place stopped for long. Didn’t have any rooms set aside for sit-down teas except Duncan’s chip shop, at the wee table with the slack leg across at the ice-cream bit.
Then again there was the auld bench at the School Corner, where the Protestant pensioners sat in the good weather when it wasn’t pension day. Then, when it was, they appeared soaped and shaved, collared and tied, in twos and threes around mid-day and headed for the ‘Star and Garter’ pub, first house for their dominoes, and darts for them that still liked a bit devilement. They said Adam Crooks the barman was feart for them, and sometimes even their wives, if the wrong ones won at the dominoes and he sent them home drunk.
Cath’lic pensioners, who hung about along at Oliver’s corner opposite the ‘Tally Ho’ hotel, just seemed to take every day as it came, and every other friendly face as a touch. Didn’t even have a bench, yet seemed to enjoy a laugh. That wis something else folk held against them and their priest and his big slavering hound. Lots of folk were for sending them back to Ireland for what they did to the Covenanters, and then the Rangers, last season, in the League Cup.
Auld John Clark said in the Post Office that every committee in Winchburgh from the Albion to the Lea-Rig Burns Club was wee Orange Lodges. Had been talking about the Cath’lics no getting to parade their Holy Mary statue round about the houses any more like they did in Spain. Now had to keep to the Chapel grounds, like the Red Indians on their reservations. Baw wasn’t too sure who was feart for who.
The Council were going to put back all the signposts they took down during the war, now that Hitler had gone to the burning fire. When they got round to it Baw was hoping they would put a brand new one up at either end of the village, to let strangers passing through know this was the place Willie Thornton, Rangers and Scotland, and Bob Harper, Hibs, Arsenal and Scotland, were born; with any luck they would leave plenty space at the bottom, like with gravestones, for the likes of himself and Davie Gibson for once they had made the big-time.
Maybe too much fur the one wireless programme. Big Jamieson would just have to come round twice. Mibbe three times if he let their faither get on about the Albion, and all the recently deid Scottish Oil gaffers that had been better than good to this village.And his Uncle John of course, and his Broxburn Co-op and all his big plans.