Of course I feel very honoured, and privileged, to be asked by Lady Govan to be a guest contributor on her blog - now being read I believe, all around the world. Not that this further exposure on the internet would make such a difference as regards the fame of our ‘dear green place’ -- which is already almost as well known as London, Paris or New York.
I, having passed the three score and ten years mark, confess to not being ‘quite up to the mark’ re memory, but feel well enough qualified (if I dig deep) to come up with something that will interest the older generation who claim a ‘Govan-connection’, as well as inspiring longing in the younger ‘punters’ for what they missed in the so-called ‘good old days’.
I saw Govan -- the streets, the backs (backcourts), the docks, the ferry, the two Town Halls, the ‘pictures’ (cinemas), the Govan Press, the schools (too many to mention by name, but well divided into ‘proddies and catholics’), the shipyards (worked in Stephens), saw and loved everything connected with football (had a leaning towards Rangers, but enjoyed very much the season I played with St. Constantine’s Boys Club -- when I wore, of all things, a Celtic strip). Anyway, these are not my memoirs; I'm merely trying to show how well qualified I am to write about Govan.
I delivered milk for the Co-op dairy in Carmichael Street for about five years, and then for a few years I was at the Co-op dairy at Govan Cross.
Delivering milk around 6.00 am seven days a week lets you see Govan, more or less, asleep -- not influenced by ‘the corner boys’, ‘snottery-nosed weans’ or the shipyard workers--going-to or coming-from the yards.
I hasten to add that I had nothing against the above ‘making up the fabric’ of Govan or I suppose, the character.
But I liked the quiet of 6.00 am, with the lamplighter passing by or occasional ‘wee wummin’ pushing a pram up past the swing park, with a great big bundle covered with a sheet, heading for her early booking at the steamie in Clynder Street (or Harhill Street, near Craigton Road}.
My ‘rambling’ has led me to my delivering of milk -- and I suppose, the Christmas-connection in my ‘blog-writing’ would be the tips we looked forward to, especially at Christmas time. Although some of our customers would give ‘a bob’ or so each week, the other good time for tips apart from Christmas was at the Glasgow Fair holiday.
The main part of ‘our run’ was Neptune Street (aka ‘the Irish Channel’) with all the tenement closes. It seemed that the people with the biggest families who needed the most bottles of milk would live ‘three stairs up’ and though it was not the most wealthy of neighbourhoods, the people were, I would wager, far better at tipping than their ‘posher’ counterparts in Newton Mearns or the West End.
So Christmas was very good for the milkboys -- not that my brothers or myself saw much of the money we earned, or the tips -- coming from a family of seven, and a father earning, I would think, less than £3 a week. All other money had to go into ‘the kitty’ (the household budget), and I certainly don't ever remember grudging that -- it was a ‘good feeling’ being able to help out.
I remember one of the best gifts I ever got. It wasn’t Christmas, but it certainly felt like Christmas -- and if it had been it would have counted as my best ever.
My eldest brother, John, did his National Service in the RAF and was in Singapore and India, must have been about 1946, just after World War II had ended. I reckon it would be around June-July when he got leave from the RAF on his return from abroad.
When in India, he bought a few pairs of football boots -- thinking back (with my poor memory, too) I’m pretty sure that these football boots were made of cardboard (only joking, but that’s how they looked and felt).
I would have been about 14 years old then, and they were more than gratefully received -- in fact, I remember being ‘over the moon’ with them. Even big and ugly (not me, the boots) as I now remember them -- I loved them more than if they had been a pair of ‘Beckham’s Beauty Boots’ today! I suppose I would have thanked my brother John for the boots -- but probably not enough.
I was also grateful to John for a ‘cast-off’ suit, which’I fell heir to’ -- it was powder blue. John was a real snappy dresser as a teenager and in his twenties, and he was always very generous. I loved that blue suit and have often wondered since, did it look as good as I felt when wearing it?
John has now passed on from this world, as has my brother Harry (also, a great big brother, in different ways from John) -- there was another brother, Billy, who died as a child before I was born. As Christmas is a time for families, I will dedicate this blog to ‘family departed’ -- I suppose I may be trying to make recompense for that ‘wishing’ feeling we often have when some family or friends pass on, and we wish that we had made ‘more of the time’ we spent with them in this life.
Think what you will, I thank Lady Govan for the opportunity to ‘air’ some of my feelings for family, Govan and time spent there -- and wish you a Happy Christmas and a Healthy and Prosperous 2009.