Monday, 23 May 2011

Wee Heidies

What a wild,windy day today, with gale force winds of up to 70mph! Games of football, which go on all summer long, have to be abandoned - unless you can find somewhere sheltered to play.
Welcome to guest Blogger Dan with an account of his own highly competitive games in the safe haven of Govan's tenements.

It’s probably around 55 years since I last played ‘wee heidies’ in our back court (goodness, that sounds posh – we just called it ‘roon the back’).

Anyway, as an adult, before the building at 571 Govan Road and the whole of Burndyke Street was demolished, I re-visited the scene of hundreds of closely fought (and fought is definitely the right word) encounters – mainly between me and my older brother, Duncan.
On other occasions these contests would include boys who lived locally or school pals who came by after school. I call them contests because we usually nominated the team that we were representing, which of course, would be the favourite team we supported.

The game of ‘wee heidies’ was very simple. We had goalposts and a crossbar painted on two walls facing each other, the space being the width of the backcourt, in this case about 6 yards. Each player took turns of tossing the ball up above their head and making towards the opponent’s goal and trying to get it past him to score.

Going through the close into the backcourt as an adult, I had to bend my head for fear of knocking it against the ceiling just as you entered the back. That was the first surprise. I could remember having to jump up and touch the back close ceiling.
Next, I couldn’t believe how small the back was – the phrase, ‘no room to swing a cat’ was completely apt and had me wondering if I had come to the right address! Everything looked so different to what I had remembered.

One of the main things recalled from my ‘wee heidie’ days was the fact that one of the goals was adjacent to the midden. Up our close - a three storey building with four houses on each landing - there would probably be more than 50 people living. The midden also had to serve the pub, a dairy and a tobacconist on each side of the close, so you can imagine that it got very full of rubbish before the weekly emptying. The main, and messiest, rubbish would be the cinders of ash that each of the houses would empty in daily from their coal fires.

My reason for telling you the contents of the midden is that during a game of ‘wee heidies’ the ball would very often be knocked in the yard square hole through which the rubbish was emptied. Of course, whoever knocked the ball in was expected to go into the midden and retrieve it – only to come out covered in white ash dust.

Very often too, there would be a dead cat or dog in there which had been knocked down on the busy Govan Road and thereafter thrown into the didgie.
Certainly not one of the ‘lucky middens’ that were spoken about by the ‘didgie-rakers’. Those lucky middens yielded up treasures that had been thrown away in the more affluent areas, such as the top end of Copeland Road, or Vicarfield or Southcroft Street.

I hasten to point out that I was never into the midden raking. The only time we went into the midden was to get wur ba’ back, and we had to check that oor Mammy was not looking out the windae, which overlooked the Wee Heidie pitch.


Sandra PA said...

Great story, Dan. It was mostly girls up our close so we were more into playing balls against the PI wall or a game of peever. But I know what you mean about the size of the "back". Our tenement has long been demolished but the area that covered the back is about the size of a postage stamp.....yet it seemed huge when we were wee!

Ellen said...

Enjoyed the story Dan. Remember the puddles that used to form after the rain? A lot of the time it would be just one huge one which would fill almost the whole back. We would have fun just running round and round it or taking a tin can out of the midden and mixing puddle water and dirt together. As the puddle got smaller there would be room for us to make mud pies to sell as cakes. Broken glass from the midden was the money for our wee shop. We had to be quick as we had a neighbour who watched out for us getting into mischief. We would hear the squeak of her window being lifted then her voice, "Get out of the puddles or I'll be telling your mothers!"