Friday, 26 June 2009

Gracious Living

Cousin Ned has the keys for his new abode in an elegant tenement overlooking the pleasant parkland donated to Govan by the benevolent Isabella Elder, to aid Govan residents in ‘healthful recreation by music and amusement’.

The flitting is being done in stages and today I help carry in a few bags and boxes before taking a look out at the back courts. A resident is taking out his bins and extends a welcome.
"It's a good close. We a' look oot for each other", he says reassuringly.

We are enjoying a fabulous heatwave and today's bright sun illuminates the fresh green landscape. A keen gardener has planted nasturtium around the middens and against the walls of the tenement. Birds are singing in the treetops, a cat stretches lazily in the sunshine.
On a wee wall sit two fellas quaffing vodka from a bottle. One leaps up and introduces himself, shaking hands and inviting us to partake of a small refreshment. He is friendly and shirtless, tattooed and sporting the usual scar from corner of mouth to ear - you see a lot of guys with that in Govan today.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Pitch n Toss!

Thanks to guest blogger Dan who relates the intricacies of a fascinating outdoor pursuit in Govan of old.
It was BIG before the days of television -- well, it was in Govan. Each weekend, Saturday and Sunday and every night during summer there would be pitch-and-toss schools in many places. No need for a stadium or players costing eighty million pounds -- all it took was a few pennies (old ones!) and, if you were like me, around ten years old, the permission of a very strict Mother who frowned on such an activity.
This, as well as ‘watching doos’ or going along to view one of the regular ‘battles’ between the Hoey Street gang and the Burndyke Street mob was a definite ‘no-no’.

Pitch and Toss was the ultimate in excitement -- presently to be compared with like-minded persons who have an interest in the Roulette Wheels of Monte Carlo or Card Tables in Las Vegas.

Picture the scene, a crowd of around 20-30 men (don’t ever remember any women being present, but there would be a few nosey wee boys, like me, wanting to see the action). It usually took place in a backcourt or a piece of waste ground or down at the bottom of Burndyke Street (as long as there was a ‘look-out’ at the top of the Street, in case ‘the polis’ came along).

The number of players was usually about six or seven, though there could be as few as two or as many as ten -- in fact, anyone who had a few pennies ‘to pitch’ up against the wall could take part in the game.
So, this was how the game started; in no particular order each player (gambler) took their turn ‘to pitch’ their penny to the wall from a line made in the dirt (distance, about ten feet). The person whose penny landed nearest the wall then took first turn at ‘tossing’ all of the ‘pitched’ pennies.
A big circle of the spectators was then formed and here, the game could get a bit complicated and ‘choices’ had probably been agreed upon prior to proceedings. The pennies could be tossed, two pennies at a time from the fingers of your flat palm (two heads you win, tails you lose, and a head and a tail you throw again).

An alternative, was to toss three pennies at ‘one go’ -- two heads would win you the three pennies or two tails mean you lose.
Second-nearest the wall would then be given the chance ‘to toss’ the pennies that were left from the first thrower and so on until all of the pennies were won.

There was skill in the pitching, some of the regular players were actually able to pitch and ‘stand’ their penny against the wall, which would win against a penny lying flat on the ground (touching the wall).
With the ‘toss’, there was, according to some, the opportunity to cheat. The pennies had to be tossed from the palm, tail side up, with the thumb well to the side -- however, it was claimed that putting the thumb above the pennies just as you were about to throw would cause the pennies to land as heads.

No fortunes could be made, even for the skilled or the cheat, since it would take a lot of pennies to make one rich. I feel quite sure though, that a ten-year-old was not noticing the side-bets that were being placed by the 20-30 spectators, on who was going to ‘head’ the pennies being tossed -- and this was where the real money was being made. Probably, all of one pound ten shillings or even two pounds on a good day!


Sandra writes that her favourite float at the Govan Fair was the one entered by the Southern General. Yeah, me too. Can you remember them performing an operation with the patient writhing about in agony on a gory bed, blood and guts everywhere?

Funnily enough, today two pals were just saying how another acquaintance has just started work as an auxiliary in the Southern and she's now an expert in everything - "even daein' the operations".

Just wondered if anybody else has a fave memory of the Govan Fair, or of Govan past and/or present? Would love to record them. Write to


Friday, 5 June 2009


It's a great procession tonight - best I've seen for ages, since I was wee and the floats were amazing and threw things out at you, like wee tiny loaves of bread, sweeties and biscuits. Well done to Thos. Tunnock who maintains this great tradition with Caramel Wafers aplenty.

Big Dave got chips out the Cosmo earlier on and shared them round. They tasted great and as we're starving we head back in that direction as the final float passes on by.

Then surprise, surprise! Who else do we see but Harry the Hat, counterfeiter extraordinaire, whom I erstwhile assisted in forging £50 notes.
I hail him with a "Long time no see Harry! Where you been?"
"Hello hen," he replies, "How's everybody? I'm onto the bubbly the night."
He is blowing bubbles through a long wand and a bag of them for sale lies at his feet.
He poses for a coupla pics and we go on our way.

There's a nice view of a shipyard crane over the Howat Street tenements and I take a picture. Passing youths strike a pose and there's mirth and laughter in the air.

A young man and woman cut down Shaw Street pushing a pram.
"Ah want t'go int'eh Richards." she says.
"Well go then," he says.
"Ah cannae, Ah'm barred." she says.
"Well, don't go then." he replies.

Look Who's Turned Up At The Fair . . .

The Govan Baby!

A touch of Rio

One of a long line of fire engines serving Govan through the ages. Thanks for saving us in the great chip pan fire of 1971!

Bloodied doctors from the Sufferin General.


Fun at the Fair

Govan Fair: Royalty and Dignitaries

I skip tea tonight as we'll no doubt get chips after the Govan Fair procession. Today has been mixed weather, a wee bit cloudy with a forecast for rain, but after a couple of showers, the day settled into sunshine and cloud. The crowds milling about beneath the watchful eye of the Black Man are in good humour and catching up with those they haven't seen for a while, for whatever reason.

"Hey! Ye're back!" shouts one lad to a young man, clean shaven with a short fashionable haircut and smartly dressed in well pressed shirt and blue jeans. The excited friend calls to another standing at the door of Brechin's. "C'mere! Look who's here!" and another fella pushes his way through to welcome him with a hearty slap on the back and a concerned "how are ye? howzit feeling to be oot?".
A chap with a "Jim'll Fix It" emblem on his chair and a Jimmy Saville wig on his head can't see for the crowd. Hopefully someone will let him through to the edge of the pavement when the procession comes by. Another wig, this time a girl in shocking pink is holding a microphone and conducting interviews.
The balloons are calmly swaying above the heads of the crowd - prancing ponies and Sponge Bob, who makes an escape and drifts swiftly upwards through the still blue air.
Now for Govan's royalty and dignitaries, some looking pleased and proud, others looking very my-oh. We wave and they pretty much all wave back.

The Govan Fair 2009

The Sheep's Heid

Preparations are under way for another historic evening.

This year's best sellers are pink cowboy hats with fluffy trim . . .

Saltires, ma man . . .

and furry wiggle thingmys in every hue.

Grandstand views can be had from windaes on the Govan Road,

or the tap a' the wa' in front of Govan Old