Friday, 3 April 2009

Govan Memories, History and Hysterics

A very warm welcome to guest blogger Steve who has been tracked down via a comment left on the site. Thanks for sharing your fascinating memories - next best thing to a time machine.

For years I have treasured my memories of dear old Govan and the people I grew up with there. I grew up in the bomb sites, back closes and dunny's that were the playgrounds of the day.

I am the eldest of twelve children, seven of whom are sisters and all of us lived in the single-end, one up in No 8 Burndyke Street. I started Copeland Road School in 1953 and went on to Govan High School after my "Qually".

My father's family came from Neptune St, so I grew up with a knowledge of history of local characters and events that were the subject of the very many Sunday gatherings at the Burndyke St single-end when some of the local men (my father included) would drown their sorrows with such notable libations as Lanliq, V.P, Melroso, Eldorado and other such fine wines, obtained "on tic" at twice the normal price from the local shebeen.

A part of this gathering on occasion was a much loved resident of Govan called Gandhi Sharp, who was a docker and to whom fell the dubious distinction of, when made redundant, bought and took delivery of his own coffin. This was discussed for many years afterwards and became almost folklore.

For those of you who are familiar with Govan, you will know that for many years there has been a pub on the corner of Burndyke St and Govan Rd called "The Bells".

The back close of No 8 Burndyke St had a couple of "middens" and a cut through to the back close of 571 Govan Rd. This was a much used shortcut for us kids going to the shops and on one such expedition I dropped a penny in the back close of 571. As I watched the precious coin roll away I was amazed to see it disappear down a crack between the large slate slabs that made up the floor of the close.

In tears I went home and reported my loss and the mysterious crack in the close to three or four of the Sunday drinkers who were there. I think someone may have given me another penny,and the matter was forgotten.

Two weeks later on a Sunday, someone lifted the slabs in the back close of 571 and emptied the cellar of The Bells which is where my beloved penny had gone. The results of this daring feat were the subject of many Sunday gatherings thereafter and for years I wondered if my penny loss had inadvertently led to the whole caper.

I am sitting at home in London over 50 years later and this memory comes back as if it were last week. I must try and do some work today so I will sign off and post some more Govan memories later.


sandra said...

That's a great story, Steve, and no doubt the loot from the Bells kept many a party going for quite some time. Hope to read some more of your memories of Govan soon.

Blogger Dan said...

Thanks Steve, I lived up No. 571, and it was good to be reminded of those big slabs in the close. In fact, I found a penny in the close--I'm not sure if it might have been yours--your making me feel quite guilty now since I went and bought a penny caramel out of Charlie Wilkie's shop. I remember how much I enjoyed that caramel with the 'slevvers' running down my chin (those McCowan toffees were so huge and juicy). I vaguely remember the break-in to The Bells. I remember The Laws on the ground-floor of No. 8, The Mackenzies (1-up) and The Gormleys on the top-floor. I also remember that somebody flew 'doos' from a 'doocot' (dovecot) on the top floor. Anyway, looking forward to your next contribution. -- Blogger Dan

Anonymous said...

571 Govan Road! The close next to The Bells pub, well, that brings back many romantic memories to me. I was wan o' the lassies that used to run up those sterrs and gaze lovingly, at the door of oor 'heart-throb' - incognito. He was the big smasher that lived in that hoose. We were taking quite a risk, mind you, when we, dreamily, kissed the handle of the door, and then ran for our lives, in case 'his Mammy' would come oot and find what we were doin'. Still heartbroken.

Anonymous said...

Stephen thats a brill story you got there,and that man who said he
thought he might have found your penny just great and well written.
Love n hugs ya wee sister Mary xx