The Doric Columns
The Youngest Bairn
Mother's Final Disappointment
Born a 'grait big Hillock' of a bairn at Summerhill Hospital on the Lang Stracht Road, in Aberdeen - how did mither ever get there from Castle Terrace - at .7.10pm Tuesday 9th September 1941 and held up with all my masculine genitalia on display by the midwife for the exhausted Frances to comment despairingly 'och no - nae anither ane' It seems she desperately wanted a daughter after having two sons in consecutive years with a four year gap before conceiving me in the midst of a War. No doubt breast feeding ensued and as I used my main orifice and best sucking technique to bond securely to the soft warmth and cooings of 'fa's ma wee gasherdoo' as my first introductions to the Doric Pitman's Shorthand version of a half lost language.
Mother 17th May 1944 with Jack left, Sandy Right and 'come en aboot a' bit' me in the front. She 24yrs, wee Jack at about 9yrs and Sandy 8yrs in a military pose. Bring it to Jerome's - photoshop in George St. Shighty Lighting and nafF background - i should have voiced my reserved opinion then. Ma - I dinna like 'es! Mother with her fur coat - rabbit fur of course and very cuddly. A token picture for a depressed and far off father then in Italy. The Ties were obligatory stripe. and the jersey shirts. Three Braw Brithers
Infancy must have been precarious in the first my winter in the Attics, a But and Ben with an absentee father by then fighting in North Africa, with herself and two other mouths to feed but then she was resourceful woman with two large Families who would help when they could - albeit in sheer suspicion and rivalry between the his and her camps. The only space for me was under the table - oot o' the Road - and my companions were passing legs and 'keeking' brithers Jackie and Sandy who would do me more damage than good. I was kicked off the Loons bed once and endured a broken shoulder at a very early age and 'drappet on ma heid' a lot to give me concussion and a permanent dent in the soft bone of my forehead. This must have curtailed my good looks and frontal lobe development to that of curbed intelligence instead of the full potential of my capacious genius sized cranium. (first announced when my then 6-7/8th Life Boy hat size could not be located). To say nothing of the thousand ailments that flesh is heir to including scabies fleas, knits and bacteria from the great unwashed my brothers mixed with or inadvertently coughed over me during their accusing gazes at my progress as a 'Growin loon'.
I dinna mine - a pram or a push chair but such things are superfluous when you live 6 flights of stairs towards heaven in a Tenement Attic. The wifie Powdrill opposite with her daughter Marion (a real stunner) was a willing baby sitter and would allow my mother to clart her legs with dark ocre and pencil a line doon the backs of her legs as straight as she could to simulate nylon stockings. She would powder her nose, rouge her cheeks, Scarlet O'Hara her lips and finally arrange her hair into a circle of old nylon stocking to go out and enjoy herself in some economic manner as a love starved female. Clara P would entertain us with her ditties and songs and make noises like motorbikes with her croaking cigarette damaged larynx. The landing between the attics was another play area but fraught with danger from falling improvised toys that would slip through the banisters or stunned unstable bodies 'rummellin doon' the stairs. Mither cooked by warming things on a coal fired range with two ovens heated by the central firebox and a single floor mounted gas ring. with so many naked flames and hot surfaces my first word was 'Bum' which is baby shock for the pain of being severely 'burned' by a hot surface, smoothing Iron, chance flame or falling hot coals or sparking timber etc etc.. But I grew and grew and looked healthy in my myopic shyness born of living in my foreboding ivory tower and aye laughing to myself with my dressing table mirror image for company and unfathomable depth of character.
Being dragged around toon shopping was exhausting and hazardous as soon as I could walk. 'Pick me up ma' - would be answered with 'och am nae able eddie' or 'it's nae far now' and then I would 'jist girn and girn' till she finally burdened herself with my heavy and tired frame which heaved sighs of relief before sinking into a dead weight slumber.
As my aural skills improved and repetitive words were understood and logged for future use my mother would for her own amusement teach me bawdy songs and lyrics.
Old Mother Hunt
and I am still 'werd' perfect when reciting this very fast even today after some 65 yrs.
Castle Terrace – a street you must have walked up many a day - I was ensconced in the Attics of No.32 – but that another tale ‘beyond the Pail’. The Harbours, Piers, Jetties, Fish Market and the Beach were my playground – a contemporary of mine Brian Herbert was washed into the sea aged 9 from the lower promenade and now buried in Trinity Cemetery – I was a wee bit quicker at dodging super waves ripping along the slopes regardless of the Breakwater, racing style fences, and inviting steps. Sawmills, Coopers and Engineers – Grain warehouses and iced floored Cold Stores. Carbide Dumps at Point Law. Silent shunting empty Goods Wagons were another source of fun. ‘jist watch fit yer daein’ was my only warning. I literally burst the end of my finger rolling about in a Concrete pipe at a yard at the end of Fish Street far a’ that. Yes a closeted life for a wee observant bairn and nae fear of Paedophiles among visiting sailors –– Cove Mary, Cinnamon Hole and Biscuit Facey (street prostitute wifies) would have exhausted all their appetites if not their pockets.
Did I mention playing on the rim of Rubislaw Quarry chucking stanes, chasing swans at Walkers Dam and climbing doon tae Bucksburn via the waterfilled Dancing Cairns Quarry – yes Aberdeen was a wee explorative placie indeed.
Not far from the old Walker Dam reservoir (Nr ‘Hazelheid’) where as raggedy kids we found our wriggly black tadpoles for 1lb jam jars full of weeds wi’ string handles and we fair harried thone swans – a distant guardian lady who's house overlooked the Reservoir armed with a tin megaphone used to shout at us like an old crooner – ‘Leave – the - Swans - alone!’
– Eh - fit did she say?
Now put that there wee thread to music Mr Elgar!
I remember raking through the waste dump at the ‘Point o’ Pier‘ for carbide lumps as used by the boiler makers in Wood & Davidson's Repair Yard in their wee lamps so we could put it down drains and ignite the resulting gas by throwing lit matches at the bubbles in an attempt to blow up the drain Branders with this explosive emanation. Stealing green bananas from Veitch - Moir’s lorries as they loaded them into store under the Citadel in the Castlegate. Cockie Hunters 2nd Hand store in the old Hospital at the top of Castle Terrace was constant source of amusement looking at others lifetime collections of social detritus.
Before ‘Birnie’s’ I remember a glass shop on the corner when an escaped Bull actually got in there just like the proverb and extensive damage ensued - thus confirming what happens when a Bovine goes shopping for Bone China. Brokeners - eh
Tuppence a ‘smush’ from the two sweetie shoppie’s – one in the Castlegate and the tither doon Marischal Street – all the sweepings from the display trays. Pennyworth worth of rancid crisps dredged from the searing lard of Robertson’s Chipper and bounced into a foreboding recess awaiting our entreaty to have our stomachs involuntarily purged – jist doon the stairs. Knickerbocker Glories from the Soda Fountain shops - layered sweetness and colour – were those shops not run by the Corolla’s by name?
Ach I must have bought 3d ‘sliders’ and 2d ‘cappies’ from yer faither Dougie when he came ‘roon bye’ pedalling that ice box tricycle - there were aye pennies in the hoose fae the gas meter hoard on the mantelpiece.
Mmm Gas Mantles how I miss their shattered light output when the old man poked a hole in it by lighting his fag.
Any one remember when the ‘shear legs’ blew down and crushed the night watchman in his hut near the Tusker’s berth – and did he ken what hit him.
Burning Braziers too – long before females got the idea of smouldering their own misspelt attire – where you could roast a tattie by reducing it to a near cinder while keeping warm.
There used to be a potato crisp ‘factory’ in East North Street area where ‘stairvin’ bairns’ could make themselves sick by engorgement. A ‘toby jug’ collection in the VP wine shop next to the Model Home for vagrants and ‘Tabby Kings’ and guy’s that bubbled town gas through milk for its hallucinatory cocktail. Street singers, sword and chain swallowers, feats of strength for hand to hand collections and a monkey on a barrel organ in the ‘Timmer’ Market Place.
O’er The Tarry Brig – and the Regent swing brig for Victoria and Albert – was it ever necessary?
Cotton Street – the stench of gas and sulphur worthy of a large Volcanoe
Fish Street – cul-de-sac of tenements. Fish Hooses and rat hunting
Bannermill Place – a whole community overlooking the train marshalling yards opposite Fish Street – steam Shunters glowing cabs that silhouetted the fireman!
Hangman’s Brae - a grisly thoroughfare for Scaffies, workmen and bairns fae the Terrace
The Barracks - a dark warren for the homeless
Sugar House Lane – not so sweet in the Gutter.
Hanover Lane – jings it’s a awa!
Yes, it needs to be written down Lads! there is a need for yon fisher folk heritage to be remembered
We are three
brothers who work day and night
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