Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Raising a Dram to a Vanished World

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Raising a Dram to a Vanished World

Article excerpt

Byline: By George Macintyre

Scots and fellow exiled Scots have been raising a dram to Northumberland writer Robert Douglas. George Macintyre explains why he's among them.

It has been a while since a book has reduced me to both tears of laughter and sympathy but Robert Douglas managed it with Night Song Of The Last Tram.

Born and raised in Maryhill, Glasgow, Douglas, who now lives in Corbridge, writes of his childhood in the city during and after the Second World War.

He may have been writing about a time nine years or so before I was born but any of us who were brought up with the Glasgow "overspill" into Ayrshire will undoubtedly have a parallel existence and know Douglas's characters down to the last skint knee and shared penny caramel.

Descriptions of his black-garbed grandmother ( from the Girvan fishing family of McCrindle (with whom I have shared many a pint and trips to sea in search of prawn and basking shark) ( were so vivid I shivered in sheer terror, picturing Gran Macintyre, similarly dressed for the rest of her life following my grandfather's death, striding up the street where we lived.

And, as for the games of guesses, only the Glasgow and West of Scotland dialect would allow for the following exchange:

"CC," said Billy.

Within minutes the limited number of CCs were exhausted.

"We give in."

"Ye's aw give in?" Billy looked around to make sure.

"Cat's ceech," he said triumphantly.

"Whit dae ye mean, cat's keech?" said Robert Walker. "Ah cannae see any cat's keech,"

The hilarious exchange ends with the indignant query: "Anyway, diz `keech' no start wi' a `K'?"

Of course, as any Glasgow or Ayrshire youngster will tell you, keech (excrement) certainly does start with a K, as in khaki, otherwise it would be seech as in beseech.

The violence of Robert's father towards his mother was not unknown in the street where I lived, nor was the gentle drunk who could be waylaid on his way home from the "Tap Shop" on a Saturday afternoon and persuaded to share a copper or two, maybe even a threepenny bit or a silver sixpence, with the local children before his own offspring could come to the rescue and shepherd him safely home. …

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