Friday, 31 October 2008

A Govan Hallowe'en of Long Ago

from the personal reminiscences of Peggy McGregor, born 1913
We used to go at Hallowe'en up to all the posh houses - red buildings at Ibrox Oval. We never got very much.
Now, what did I get dressed up as . . . oh, aye, I got dressed up in my brother George's trousers - his shorties - and stockings and his jersey and skull cap. Either that or I used to put on one of my mother's long black skirts and a hat or get black paper and made it a cape or a skirt and go as a witch.
You went to everybody you knew. Everybody was good then. Your mother wasn't frightened to let you go anywhere.
We did dooking for apples, and eating a big treacle scone hung onto the pulley.
We used to make false faces in school and maybe the best false face would get a prize.
We used to go out, two or three of us up to Copland Road.
I always remember when I was about 11 or 12 a boy came to the door up at one of the posh houses - sandstone tenements - he was about 12. I really felt quite shy of him. I said, "Please for my Hallowe'en" and he went away and brought two apples and a 3d bit.
We were too scared to go to any of the really big houses. You got the most from your own people who were poor like yourself.

Govan Guisers

Sunny Govan radio is hosting a Hallowe'en party in the miserable shopping centre today.

There are plenty of children dressed up and ready to get up and dance, tell a joke or sing a song for their Hallowe'en.

Most of the costumes are ready-made-bought-from-shops, and include ladybirds and skeletons, fairies, spiderman and other superheroes, a couple of witches and quite a few vampires.

On Langlands Road, a few guisers are happy to pose for pictures as they make their way home to begin an evening of guising around the doors.
At the top of Shaw Street, a skeleton is being lectured by her ma.
"Don't you bother aboot whit they say, just remember 'Sticks n stones'll break ma bones, but names'll never hurt me".
The skeleton is about 10 years old and is shaking her head and saying, "Aye stanes dae hurt ye".
A Samurai warrior is standing at a close mouth and the ma calls to him, "Ye comin up later for Halla'een? Wir daein dookin fur aipples."
"Ur ye gaun oot trick'r' trea'in?" calls the skeleton.
He nods stiffly, in the style of a warrior.
At nightfall, guising is in full swing. A warlock and his familiar stand outside the Old Govan Arms where a free glass of witch's bru is on offer between 7 and 9.
A few teenage girls dressed in pink cowboy hats and very short skirts hang about outside the Cosmo chippie on Govan Road.
A gang of four 10 year old boys are buzzing about the streets dressed up in makeshift costumes. They stop at the side door of the Harmony Bar and the barmaid sends them straight inside where I am sure the punters will be generous.
Two ghouls are fleeing up and down the streets of Govan. One wears a mask of "The Scream" and the other has a grotesque mask which he often pulls off to reveal a wee freckly, bespectacled face.

Tillie Tells a Terrifying Tale of Hallowe'en

"The Hunty" (haunted house in Kintra Street, Govan)
Guest blogger Tillie shares scary Hallowe'en memories

For Hallowe’en, my favourite outfit was a witch. My dad made a brilliant witch's hat and I even had a broomstick and an artificial black cat. Lots of us used to dress as a gypsy. My mother would put one of her black skirts on me all tucked in with safety pins and another black skirt would be fashioned into a cape. This would do as either a witch or a gypsy. As a witch I would wear a tall pointed hat made with black crepe paper, along with my broomstick and dummy cat and as a gypsy I would wear a pair of large gold coloured curtain rings tied round my ears with thread and a sort of bandana style head scarf. Of course one would carry a pack of cards and a crystal ball. Mine was the top of a glass dish which had a round glass ball on top. I used to gaze into it, as in those days I did believe in magic. I liked to think I could see moving shapes in it and could tell the future.

Another thing I remember about Hallowe’en was going to school with my lantern. It was a turnip carved hollow with a face cut out of it. My daddy used to make one and a candle burned inside it. What a strange smell - we were used to the smell of boiling turnip in soup or as a vegetable - but the lantern had a roasted smell mingled with candle grease. We took the turnip lanterns round the doors with us when we went Guising.
In Govan we used to stay out quite late, going to everyone's house we could think of. After we had exhausted the list of relatives we would start on friends and neighbours.
First, me and my pals would visit my two Grannies, where we were sure of a good welcome. My maternal Granny was first on the list as she only lived round two corners, in Neptune St. (nicknamed the Irish Channel) and indeed she had been born in Ireland. Her close was the scariest ever, as it was badly lit and she lived on the top floor. My mother's cousin Bridget was usually in there waiting on us; a young war widow she would always be reduced to tears at my recitation of the poem "The Slave’s Dream". Very sad, and not a terribly appropriate entertainment for Hallowe’en. However we would be sure to cheer them up with a musical selection starting with "Roll out the Barrel."
We would then set off with our bags (not plastic) a little heavier.

For our Hallowe’en, my friend and I would act out a little play that we had made up, in which my pal would be the beautiful Princess Veronica and I would be the handsome Prince Gavin. This entertainment would finish with a “waltz”, no matter what costume we were wearing. In other houses we would do our version of "The Highland Fling” or sing "If you ever go to Ireland".

Next we would wend our way towards my other Granny’s and on the way there we would stop at the Castle in Kintra St. where my friend’s Auntie Mary lived.
“The Castle” was actually Broomloan House, a small 19th century mansion predating the surrounding tenements. Eventually it was sold and subdivided into flats itself. Rumours abounded concerning ghosts in and around the 'castle' - so much so that local children referred to it as 'the hunty' (lit. 'haunty' or haunted house).
One Hallowe’en night, Auntie Mary had a treat in store for the guisers. When we arrived she told us she was going to take us to visit one of her neighbours. She made sure that we all had our lanterns lit and we formed a line behind her, "Follow me and don't utter a word" she declared in a sombre tone.
As soon as we were all out in the close, she closed her door leaving us in the pale flickering gas light. Beckoning, she began to ascend the spiral staircase, we guisers all shaking in our shoes. At the top of the stairwell we could see the turrets through the stairhead window. What a fright when we heard Auntie Mary's voice ringing out in sepulchre tones, as she knocked loudly on the first door. It opened suddenly and there stood an old witch dressed in a cloak and clutching her broomstick. While we stared in horror, loud music erupted playing an Edie Cantor number. In seconds a bright light came on in the lobby and the old witch began dancing with her broomstick. She laughed and called to us to come in and join the party.
Feeling a bit daft at having been so scared, we hurried inside and found a big cake on the table which Auntie Mary had made for us, and on the floor was a basin of water filled with apples for dooking.

My other Granny, at Elphinstone Street, was our last port of call and there we would have quite a little party, drinking Granny's homemade lemonade and eating her famous shortbread. After our performances and feeling a little tired we would set off for home, my Grandpa insisting on "seeing us roon the road".

Thursday, 23 October 2008


What a night! The weatherman has issued a warning for strong winds and gales from the west and by early evening it is whipping up into a full force storm.

I emerge from the subway at Govan Cross and am immediately drenched by sheets of rain and gusts of wind that almost knock me off my feet.

"And in the evening, lamps should shine,
Yellow as honey, red as wine."

Cheery golden lights welcome the weary traveller into Govan's historic hostelry on this stormy night.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Penny for the Guy

Preparations for bonfire night begin early in Govan.

Today, two little mites are sitting on the cold ground at the entrance to the Govan Underground station asking for a penny for the guy. The Guy is a big fat teddy with a matted beige fur coat and beady eyes.
A chubby little girl of about 10 years, shorthaired and gallus with an entrepreneurial spirit about her is calling out appealingly,
"Penny for the Guy! Aw, com'oan, penny for the guy . . ."
Her wee sister sits alongside in a little daydream with a smile on her lips.
They are wearing worn, grubby jackets and the wee one is wearing wellies and they have no tights to keep them warm, no hats, no scarves, no gloves. Just sitting on the cold ground.

Thanks to the mid-term October holiday, the young yins have been making a start on the building of bonfires.

A tower of pallets, some furniture and various bits of wid was erected on this site in Rathlin Street, shown above. However, some firebug couldn't wait for November and this morning I came across it burned to the ground already and the smell of cinders in the air.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Fresh Air and Plenty of Exercise

If you listen to the news, you will think of Govan as a depressed area with high levels of poverty, unemployment, sick people and crime. But there's another side to this interesting riverside community. In a world where politicians, health professionals and educationists despair of the rising generation and its lack of outdoor activity and social interaction, much may be learned from Govan's youngsters.

School's out for the October week and we're off to a good start with a dry, dull day. Five boys emerge from a close mouth in Shaw Street. A football is produced and a kickabout begins, just a mild, slow game while they decide on their plans. One boy sits on a pavement bollard drinking from a bottle of healthy fruit juice and giving forth his opinions.
No slouching in front of computer games all day for these lads, as the game gains pace and they race around the parked cars in the street.
A tall, older boy turns the corner from Govan Road and immediately sprints towards them, seizing the ball and keeping possession of it.
The younger boys fight back whilst calling for him to "Gie's wur ba'" and "Beat it, you".
The lanky one throws back his head with a raucous laugh and sneers, "Heh! Ah heard you play lik' a lassie".
He smacks the baseball cap off a wee boy and strides up the street looking for someone else to torment.
The little football team re-groups, and gracefully passing the ball between them, continue play on the Govan Road. They skilfully manoeuvre the ball back and forth as cars are forced to give way, before heading towards the bottom of Rathlin Street for more fresh air and exercise.