Hippy Times (text)


MAIN LOCATION: 115 Kelvin Terrace West, Kelvinside, Glasgow (Top Flat Right) (1 huge room, 1 big room, 1 medium room, and 2 smaller rooms, and a big kitchen)

TIME: May 1978 until June 1979 (the "Winter of Discontent")

Some of the CAST (in no particular order, with ages at the time)

Lavinia (18)
Splee (15)
Sam (20)
Anna (26)
David (21)
Dave (18) -- this is ME
Simon (18)
Ally (18)
Alistair (32)
Cindy (18)
Sahail (24)
Night Nurse (20)
The Creep (45)
The Opera Singer (30)
The ex-nun and anorexic (38)
Max Jaffa (30)
Hamish (29)
Big Hamish (24)
Percy (62)
Stallard (23)
Astral (45)
Gavin (23)
Marion (16)
Specy (48)
The Astrologer (44)
Chrissie (20)
The Detective (37)
The Partnership (30, 31)
Linda (17)
Helen (17)
Hag Aggie (46)
The under-agers (13 to 14)
Call-girl (43)
Chow Parrot (28 to 38)
Mary M of the BBC (47)
Brian O’Kay, the Kung Fu kid
David Giltrap
Joe Cooly


David was 20 years old when I first met him and is a significant character in this story. I first encountered, him, only briefly, a few months earlier (this was before I moved into his bed-sit in Kelvinside).

In 1978 me and my mate Ally (both us were 18) used to visit a family on the other side of Pollok to where we lived. We travelled over there on my Suzuki 100cc motorbike. At the age of 15 (year:1975) my family moved out to East Kilbride, and so I used to travel back to Pollok on my bike to see my old mates.

The family, we regularly visited, consisted of a 15-year old youngster called "Splee" who had dark curly hair; and an 18 year old girl called "Lavinia" (the older sister of Splee). Their mother was called "Jenny" and there was also a friend of Splee called "Andy."


David was the "boyfriend" of Lavinia, and I met him, only once, when he turned up (in his car) to pick up his "girlfriend" (Lavinia).

The husband of Jenny (Splee and Lavinia's father) was estranged. He worked for British Telecom (BT) in a senior (administrative) position. This husband/father was an obnoxious man. Evil, in fact. Jenny (the mother-figure) was a good-natured person, and so was Splee (inheriting his Mother’s personality traits). However, Lavinia had the evil characteristics of the Father (the man who worked for BT). And David and Lavinia were an "item."


Me and Ally (both 18) were older than Splee (15) and Andy (16) and I had a motorbike, and so we were seen to be ‘cool’ in their naïve eyes.

Splee used to sit on an armchair, with his shirt completely unbuttoned, bearing his pasty skin and flabby chest. He was addicted to salt, and kept a salt cellar next to him. Every few minutes he would pour a ‘line’ of Saxa salt on the back of his hand, then sook it down. He sat right next to a gas-flamed fire, which he constantly switched to "half" if he was getting too hot, and then to "full" if he was feeling a chill.

Andy (on the couch) and Splee (on the arm-chair) sat about, talking inane gibberish, while drawing pictures of each other using felt pens and scraps of paper. Andy’s nickname for Lavinia's younger brother was actually "Splodge" (because he looked like an inkblot) but, one day when Andy was composing a drawing, he was entitling it, when his felt pen ran out of ink and all he could draw was "SPL" then some eeee’s (squiggles) which looked like "Spleeee" and so that is were the name came from, and it stuck.

Because Ally and Me were taller, heavier set, and older than the young lads we were seen to be "bears" which meant: big, streetwise, tough blokes. Their nickname for Ally was "Bear-Splee" and I was known as "Gambit" because I wore a khaki jacket and supposedly looked like Gareth Hunt from the TV series the New Avengers.


Splee, the 15-year-old younger brother of Lavinia (David's girlfriend) did not address his big sister by her actual name, instead he called her "Swoaly" (pronounced to rhyme with ‘Holy’ ) in reference to the fact that she was never to been seen without her eye make-up on. Splee would say that, to see her without make-up was a sight best avoided by those of a nervous disposition. It was true that "Swoaly" would never leave her bedroom (upstairs) in the council house without an hour of preparation beforehand. And so, when they used to bicker (almost constantly) he would say, "Shut up Swoaly," and she would reply, "No, you belt up, Splodge."


The first time I became aware of Swoaly/Lavinia was when my mate Ally informed me that, "Rab has a girlfriend."

"What?" I said, in surprise. "Rab? A girlfriend? Are you joshing me? What’s she like?" I asked, with curiosity.

Rab having a "bird" was totally out-of-character, he was a twenty-year-old loafer. He had a job, as an ‘electrician’ with a two-bit firm but wasn’t under any training programme and didn’t seem (to me) to know much about electrical installation. And he had great difficulty in turning up for work for more than three days in any given week.


Splee (15) also had a nickname for David (it was "Twurp"). Me (18), Ally (18) and Andy (16) used to sit about in the two-level council hoose while Splee described his sister’s latest boyfriend (20-year-old David) in unflattering terms.

"Twurp walks in here," says Splee, "and he just throws his car keys on the table there, and then he never stops talking. Jenny thinks he’s amazing." (referring, disrespectfully, to his own Mother, by her first name).

"He’s called Twerp?" asks Ally.

"Naw, Twurp."

"Is that his name then?" asks Ally.

"Naw, that’s wit I call him. His real name’s Davy, but he calls himself "David."

"Look, here he is." Splee then produced a black-and-white photo-booth picture of "Twurp" depicting a harsh-looking, angular-jawed, man who was shockingly ugly. "That’s him," said Splee. We all stared at the photo of David.


We stared at the photo of David and it wasn’t a pretty sight. Soon, he would turn up, and I would have the thrill of meeting him in person.

Splee and Lavinia treated their Mother worse than a lowly slave. They showed no respect for her whatsoever and called her (and referred to her) as "Jenny."

Their Mother had a full-time job (as a carer) at the local Mental-Welfare Hospital (commonly known as the "Loony Bin") and her brief descriptions of what she had to put up with, and deal with, on a shift, were disturbing. Especially at a full moon she used to say.

Jenny had jet-black, withered, dyed hair with white/grey prominent roots and a defeated and downtrodden manner. Her complexion was pasty-white making her look like a ghost or a photographic negative. She spent most of her time cleaning up, and cooking, for Splee and Lavinia, and they showed no appreciation for this. Instead they constantly scolded her for getting everything wrong and not being good enough.

Jenny bought them lavish presents from catalogues and spent a never-ending time paying for them. She dreaded Christmas as her ungrateful children would only demand more. She was usually carrying debts going back years.


Lavinia's estranged Father paid Jenny a pittance of maintenance, just £3.50 a week, and she had full responsibility for the two grown-up teenagers and Jenny worked a full-time shift-work job. The father made Jenny squirm for her allowance.

Jenny told me, one time, that she had to go, each week, by bus, to the centre of Glasgow (where the Father worked for BT, or the GPO, as it was known at the time) to pick up the meagre amount. They would meet at a piece of waste-ground (out of sight) and he would make Jenny kneel down and literally beg him for the maintenance money.

On one occasion, Jenny said to me, that she wasn’t tearful enough at her humiliation and so he put his fingers into her eye-sockets, and pushed hard, in an attempt to temporarily blind her, by way of punishment (for not appreciating the money he was giving her). She sobbed when she recounted this to me.

I took a mental note, to trace this man and give him a piece of my mind. Maybe more. In the future, this actually happened. However, in an act of vengeance the Father reported David to the police (and he got the blame for it) and so a police detective arrested David at Inverclyde University. David then blamed me, and I got questioned too.


Soon after this questioning (for harassing Lavinia's Father) I got questioned again (this time with Splee) for another charge of "causing fear and alarm" - and terror - in the community and I was looking at 30 years in jail after they analysed the Hilti-Gun capsules. Later I got cautioned yet again (with Rick, an electrician) for exploding bottles of Irn Bru in the centre of Paisley, during the day, by (apparently) throwing them from a motorbike (which I was driving without a helmet, they noted). Next up, I was identified on the front page of the Sunday Mail (me, Linda. David's new girlfriend, and David himself were all in the picture) at a National Front march in Glasgow. And then soon I was to be jailed for lying down on a box-junction at 11pm on Saturday in Renfield Street in the city centre. The charge was "causing fear and alarm" (again). Next I ‘accidentally’ opened a train door, which was travelling at full speed, and nearly got sucked out. This made the national news as someone else (nothing to do me) jumped in front of the same train and was decapitated. This was just an odd coincidence.


Next up, David got another visit from CID at the University after Lavinia received a cheap plastic mask of Miss Piggy in the post on her birthday. David blamed me for sending it. The detective said that they had a "hysterical woman on their hands."


During this turbulent period I was in the process of getting my background vetted, for potential high-security clearance, for a job with the Ministry of Defence…


And so, long before I entered my "Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll" phase, I already had considerable "form" - but this was just the start.


I had heard that Rab had a girlfriend (Lavinia). But Rab having a "bird" needed explanation because he was hardly a catch. And, at 20, Rab was two years older than my mates (Harry, Jim, Ally and Brian).

Harry was a school mate I used to go camping (in 1973) at Easter for four days without contact with anyone (into the Campsie Fells). That is two thirteen-year-olds on their own, without anyone even knowing their location (we didn't really know where we were either). The pair of us "roughed it" and survived on a few tins of beans and a couple of loaves of bread (we had a second-world-war threadbare heavy-weight canvas tent and no sleeping bags, only cheap Parka jackets).

Jim was the guy who I was going to visit when Riley stamped on my cassette tape of Band on the Run. With hindsight, I think Riley was maybe right to destroy it. It seems he did have discernible taste. Ally was "Bear-Splee" and Brian lived in the close next to me and was more straight-laced than the others (his parents were responsible and had placed Brian's two older brothers in private education, that is St Mungo's Academy, and they didn't have a TV in the house, which was unusual).

However, Rab was a complete reprobate, and born eejit and loser (although the Americanised term "loser" wasn't routinely used at that time; this rather brutal descriptive noun started to come into fashion in the 80s, mainly uttered by strident American woman, to describe a grown man that didn't have a good job or prospects, in their eyes).


Rab was the first of us lads to get a job and a wage. And so we would hang around with him at the weekend because he would buy us all a sausage supper at the chippy (22p at the time, I seem to remember). Rab would lose all his money buying approval.

The reason why Rab and Lavinia were an "item" was because Lavinia collected engagement rings. If someone was over at the house she would produce a catalogue. Very soon she would get to the jewellery pages. Rab and Lavinia were sitting on the couch, looking at the pictures. She pointed to a ring and said to Rab that, "I would like that one." Rab said that it was an engagement ring, and he would only buy it for her if they got engaged. And so Lavinia replied, "Let’s get engaged then." After the ring arrived, Rab got dumped.


David then became the new boyfriend of Lavinia, and he could not have been more of a contrast to Rab, the born loser.

David was the first person I ever knew who was genuinely ambitious and he was particularly good at presenting himself as some kind of superior Being. His Father was the Chief Officer in a huge building in the centre of Glasgow, and his older brother was a barrister. He was raised in a salubrious part of Ayr (his Dad commuted into work on a train) and he got a lot of parental support and encouragement during his studying (for an honours degree in politics) at Inverclyde University.

David had his student grant but he also got a generous allowance from his parents to keep him topped up. And being brought up in a competitive male environment ensured he had learned to be articulate and persuasive, to get his way, or stand his ground. He certainly wasn’t lacking in self-belief.

He used to tell me how Himself, his Father, and his Brother, would regularly have intellectual “debates” at the kitchen table and this was how he learned to “argue his case.” A few months later, I would actually sit at that very table. However, it was David’s Mother that surprised me … but in a rather sad way.


David's older brother looked like him - a physically stronger version - but still with the prominent jaw-line and angular face. However, he was a cold fish. His personality was detached. Arrogant. When I met him, he made no attempt to engage with me, although I did not take this personally. I think that was just they way he was. He looked at me, perhaps with pity, as if I had just crawled out from under a rock.

David’s father was an amiable type. Quick to connect with me and positive in his outlook. However, his mother was timid. The kind of woman that was almost invisible. But what endeared me to her was that she deeply cared about the welfare of animals, and I believe that this was her main purpose in life. She didn’t have any animals to look after; no pets. But I believe she took a serious interest in supporting animal charities. This was the first time I realised people like this existed. That is, those who give animals a high status.

David’s brother’s only interest was himself, and his status as a barrister. David also only worked, entirely, under self-interest, but he was good at disguising this. I would say that David’s father was a nice guy. Self-confident, but no “airs and graces.”


If we now go back a few months to the council-house in Pollok, with Ally, Splee and Andy, we get my first encounter with David.

That evening, Jenny was there, and we were expecting David to arrive any time soon, to pick up Lavinia. David had a car (which impressed Jenny). But the 1976 Opel Cadet (1.2 litre) was not actually David’s. It was his Dad’s car. However, this did not stop David referring to it as “my car.”

And so, in walked David ...


David (20) arrived in the early evening at the council house. Splee (15), Andy (16), me (18), and Ally (18) were there. Lavinia was upstairs finishing off her make-up. The withered Jenny was present also (the responsible Mother-figure/Adult).

As David entered the living-room he was already speaking. He didn’t wait to be announced. And, sure enough, he placed ‘his’ car-keys on the wooden coffee-table. David was socially adept and so was able to relax Jenny with his greeting and initial patter, while waiting for his lovely girlfriend to appear.

While waiting, David quickly, scanned the room to assess the four of us lads. He would have seen us as his “audience.” I was an unfamiliar face to him; the others he already knew. He had probably ‘clocked’ my Suzuki 100 outside, sitting there on its centre-stand, and he could see, inside, that I was in possession of a motorbike helmet.

When I encountered him, again, a couple of months later, at Butlins Holiday Camp, Ayr (only the second time I’d met him) he told me that his initial gauge on me was that I was a motorbike “hood” and so maybe not very “bright.”


My first impression of David was that he was confident and ‘posh’ and wasn’t frightened to look at people. It was clear that he relished an audience and was an extrovert. He was, by no means, fazed by us (four rather surly and laconic lower-working-class blokes). I’d never really encountered anyone like him before. Remember, I used to hang around with guys like sausage-supper Rab, And Rab, of course, had been unceremoniously ‘chucked’ once he supplied the sparkling rock to the lovely Lavinia.


David knew he was mixing with the great unwashed, and that his barrister brother would be contemptuous of these types of surroundings where low-life scuttled around in the nooks and crannies. But this was not a concern of his. His sole interest in Lavinia was of a sexual nature. Her appetite was voracious; and so was his. Anything else that was happening were just the social pleasantries.


And so, all David required, at this point, was an audience (us four hoods) and the Mother (to impress) and some prompting (from the lovely Lavinia) for him to launch into that evening’s rarefied selection of humorous 'stories' before he sped away in his Opel Cadet with the damsel.

And this is when I realised just how good a story-teller he was. And how finely-tuned his ‘patter’ could be.


It was also the case that David had a repertoire of well-rehearsed anecdotes up his sleeve. But none of us 'hoods' could possibly have known this because he appeared to be shooting from the hip. He also had fair acting skills too. And Jenny was in awe of him. Finally, Lavinia had picked up a ‘decent’ bloke. A bright future could now, maybe, be assured for her daughter. And so David chose to keep standing, rather than sitting (down) on the settee. He began to spin a yarn.


David was the same height as me - around 5-10” - but his physique was thinner and more angular (skinnier). He knew he was ugly, he wasn’t deluded, but this did not seem to affect his positive self-image one iota. His confident voice never wavered by a quaver.

When Lavinia appeared she prompted David. “Tell Jenny aboot rat student-form thing rat happened the day,” she said, disrespecting her mother by using her first name.

“Ah, yes…” said David, grateful for the cue. And then he launched into his first story of the evening. Jenny was soon in titters. Lavinia laughed with meanness and sarcasm. Us four lads came close to a snigger, but we made sure it did not hit our faces as we didn’t want to look like 'poofs' (guys that showed emotion) in front of this posh tit. We had to stay ‘hard.’

I watched, listened, and learned … from the master.


This was also the first time I had clapped eyes on Lavinia. When I had heard from Ally that Rab had a “bird” I was not only incredulous, I was also curious.

What is this girl (with the unusual name, for a lassie from Pollok) like I thought. Lassies, in those days, were normally called, Margaret, Anne, Bernadette, Morag, Agnes, and the like. But “Lavinia” sounded quite exotic.

“What does she look like?” I asked my mate Ally. “This Lavinia?"


“What does she look like?” I asked.

“A dog,” replied Ally.

“What, like a female version of Rab?” I asked.

“Aye. Gawky, way missin teef,” said Ally.

“A foat mibby,” I replied.

And so, that evening, I had discovered that David looked, pretty much, as shocking-ugly as his photo-booth picture depicted him. However, Lavinia must have been dabbling in the Dark Arts recently because she looked like a vamp. A sexpot. A siren. And there was no denying that she had a certain allure.

I whispered to Ally. “A foat yoo sayed she wis a dog?”

Ally replied. “Eh… she wis… but…”

“Bit wit?” I asked.

“She’s noo werin make-up,” answered Ally. “She didnae huv that own the last time a saw her.”

And Lavinia also sported a full set of molars too, into the bargain. Most guys would have agreed that she was a “corker.” And I could see why David was willing to debase himself to get access to her femininity.


With her updated act, Lavinia could now be considered a danger to men. In particular, soft-hearted and gullible ones. Which David was not. They matched each other in ruthlessness, that was for sure, and this probably meant their new relationship (of mutual gratification) would likely be a volatile one. Neither of them could be properly assuaged by using their hands for self-pleasure. They both needed the real deal, often.

And David had to carefully manage his desires, lest he jeopardise his promising career (he wanted to be “Chairman of ICI” he often declared to me). Lavinia would take (nearly) anything that was on offer (Ally, for example, on three occasions) and, on many interchanges, the local, middle-aged, Pakistani convenience-store owner (leading to a future pregnancy and a child). There was also Andy (a couple of times) and quite a few others (concurrently too). Poor Rab never got his end away, however. She drew the line there. But it did not stop her from keeping the expensive rock that Rab took three years to pay for.

I never succumbed to the ‘bait’ myself. And I don’t think I was even tempted either. It must have been my survival instinct (which was to serve me well in the near future). She’d “been around” and I thought I could be looking at acquiring a severe case of the pox. I wondered what David thought? In fact, I found out. He routinely escorted all his girlfriends to the Family Planning Clinic (for a thorough check-up) before consummating their relationship.


Lavinia was about 5-foot-4 in height, and had a feminine shape. She wore pretty good “clays” (clothing/garments). Her fine brown hair was straight and shoulder-length. She always had a fully made-up face, with particular attention paid to her generously applied, and dramatic, eye make-up. Indeed, I never saw her without her ‘face’ on, ever. But Splee, her younger brother, described her as “looking like a pig withoot her make-up own. You’ve no seen her. A hiv,” he would declare.

Fully presented, however, Lavinia was attractive and, dare I say it, sexy. At some point later, Andy (16) said to me that Lavinia looked “like wan oh those biker birds fae Splee’s motorbike magazine. Pit yer helmet own her,” Andy said, “in see wit she looks like. Try it oot.”

I did, and she did. Lavinia peered, alluringly, out through the helmet-visor at me, with a smug grin on her face. “You should be in an advert,” I said. She loved this appraisal.

“You can gee me a go own yer bike then Davie,” she replied. “We could go a run intae the Toon, the night, if yay waant.”

At initial glance, Lavinia, looked pretty good, but her accent was coarse. However, since hooking-up with David, she made some attempts to speak more ‘proper.’

“Waant” changed to “Wawnt” in her new elocution.


In fact, David demanded that Lavinia was to try and speak “more properly” as he was considering taking her for a meal to a hotel (near to his Dad’s office) and he did not “wish to have to enter by the tradesmen’s entrance.” He added, “It will not look good for me if people think you are a cleaner, and not a guest. And remember,” he reinforced, “tell your Mother, if she comes along, that if she spills something they clean it up. It was somewhat embarrassing, at the Alhambra,” David said, “when Jenny got down on her knees to wipe the floor after she spilled her coffee on the carpet. I was mortified," he said, "and my Dad was nearby too, in the next building. And, another thing, when they ask you if you'd like a menu, say, yes, à la carte please, ok?"

"Ally who? "

"Just say it. You don't have to know what it means darling."



And so David chose to keep standing, rather than sitting (down) on the settee and he began to spin a yarn.

"Tell Jenny aboot rat student-form thing rat happened the day," prompted Lavinia, disrespecting her mother by using her first name.

"Ah, yes…" said David, grateful for the cue. He then went on to tell a story about turning up at the Tax Office to get a form in relation to his summer working status. David said that he spoke to a lady-receptionist who said that he was asking for the wrong form, and she was not treating him with the respect he so richly deserved. David insisted it was the right one that he was asking for.

The lady-officer challenged him. “Who advised you about this exact form?”

David said, “My Father.”

The lady replied, “Well, obviously your Dad doesn’t know much about how the income tax system works.”

“Well, you may know my him," David replied. "He works in the office upstairs, he’s the Chief Tax Officer.”

David then said the form was placed in his hand, quick as a flash.


David went on to tell some more stories. No-one else really got a word in. I don’t even think I said anything to him directly myself, although he probably had overheard some of my banter with the other ‘hoods."

And then David and Lavinia left, driving away in the Opel Cadet. Presumably they were heading to his "West End Flat" (which was actually a bedsit-room). The flat had five separate rooms that were rented to singles or couples.

I never saw him again, until a few months later, when I spotted him operating the Big Wheel at Butlins Holiday Camp, Ayr (where he introduced me to Helen from Oxford. A very pure lady).

This was David’s style of self-presentation. His Dad’s car became his car, and a bedsit in a flat, with several occupants, became his flat.


Butlins Holiday Camps became popular with working-class families in the 1960s. There were quite a few of them around the UK. They were all located in England, apart from one that is, Butlins, Ayr, Scotland. And because all the others were at ‘exotic’ places such as Clacton and Bognor Regis, the perception (by those south of the border) was that "Ayr" was more salubrious. Nothing could have been further from the truth, of course, but it was all about perception, not reality.


The idea of Butlins Holiday Camps was to provide an, all-inclusive, affordable family holiday with everything provided, pretty much for free, once you had paid the fee. It was usual for a family to book for a week (Saturday to Saturday). For this you got a private Chalet (the accommodation) and three meals a day. There could be about 4000 to 5000 “campers” staying at Ayr in the peak summer months.

I had three phases of experiences there: (1) as a kid, aged 9-11 (2) as a young teenager, aged 13/14, and (3) in 1978, at the age of 18, when I met David (he was 20 at the time) who was a member of the staff and operating a ferris wheel (the Big Wheel) at the fun park.

My experiences, in these three phases, were influenced by the cultural standards and expectations of the times, and my own age and maturity. And there were many, very exciting - 'coming-of-age' - events. I developed, from a child, into an impressionable and naïve teenager, and then into, perhaps, a slightly more cynical young adult.

In a lot of ways, they were the best days of my life. Oh, and I nearly forgot. I had a fourth phase there too, when I was 24. I turned up in a Honda Silverwing motorbike, and stayed there for a week in the summer of 1984. Perhaps I was addicted to the place. And when I describe the salacious details you’ll probably understand why. Suffice to say, Butlins, by the mid-80s had become a Den of Iniquity. And I think that was what lured me back. This was the main attraction. The sleaze.

A few years later, in September 1988, a 5-year-old kid vanished from the camp whilst on holiday with his aunt and uncle. This led to the largest ever missing child hunt by Scottish Police, as 200 officers searched the camp and a six-mile radius.

Oops. I forgot to mention. There was an earlier phase (from the ages of 4,5,6 and 7). I have seen the photos of myself. But, I think I must have been in shock/trauma over that period and so I have no memory of it at all. However, I do recognise the pain in my face in the old, square, black-and-white pictures of me as a child.


And so, in 1978, I was probably a couple of months away from meeting up with the profound intellectual, David T, again, after he had arrived that evening (at the council house that we hoods hung about in) to pick up his new exotic bird (the lovely Lavinia) - telling a few yarns - before pissing off to his West End Flat (in his Dad’s Opel Cadet) to get up to mischief with the vixen that Lavinia had amazingly transformed herself into after extracting a sparkling rock from Rab (who never got anything in return for his act of supreme generosity, apart from hassle from the catalogue people for payments). Levenia had pawned the gem in order to fund her new beauty regime. She had changed from a "dog" into a "ride" in just a few short weeks. She then hung about in the centre of Glasgow, waiting to pounce on glamorous footballers, at exclusive clubs. She aimed at fit foreign blokes who had maybe being involved in big European matches against Rangers or Selik. How did she manage to wangle her way into these posh clubs? She would use her finest asset, of course, her big pair of … eyes.


And so, before I bumped into (for only the second time) the legend that was the great David T, at Butlins, Ayr, I hung about with the two immature juveniles, Andy (soon to be jailed for 3 months) and Splee (soon to be on charges of terrorism, just like me, for stupidest thing I have ever done. I was 18 and old enough to know better).

Meanwhile I was appalled at how Jenny was being treated by her offsping (Splee & Lavinia) and so I felt compelled to help their mother by doing jobs around the house and doing some chores and shopping and stuff. But I was also being drawn into a life of petty crime. Me, Splee, and Andy used to wander through the night, stealing cars, and "thrashing" them along Mosspark Boulevard, trying to reach the ton in knocked-off Rover V8 3500 hot-wired vehicles. I’m not proud of this.


In 1978 I was serving an electrical-engineering apprenticeship with Balfour Kilpatrick (a subsidiary of the global corporate Balfour Beatty). There were two big firms, at the time, that offered the best training; the other was James Scott Engineering. BK took on 12 apprentices every six months. They had their own, dedicated, training school in Paisley and positions were well sought after. I sent off an application form when I left school in 1977. I had been given no advice, or encouragement, from anyone to do this. I just did it off my own back.

400 hundred hopefuls applied for my phase. They took on 12. I was one of them. It was only after I started the training that I realised just how rare these prized positions were. Many families went to great lengths to get “their boy” on a training course with “KP’s” (the nickname for Balfour Kilpatrick) because they knew it could lead to a well-paid job for life, and travelling all over the world, working on lucrative contracts.


I received a letter of response from Balfour Kilpatrick (BK) to turn up at their Paisley head office for an assessment. This was to be between 9 and 11am on a Monday morning. I had never been to the area before and had no transport (I got a Suzuki 100 motorbike later, once I was hired).

Travelling from East Kilbride to Paisley, by public transport, required me to get a (1) local bus from Greenhills, East Kilbride, to Hairmyres train station, then a (2) train to the centre of Glasgow, then another (3) train to Paisley, then another (4) local bus across Paisley. Four separate journeys. The commute took two hours and I arrived at 9.20am (20 minutes late). I had no idea what I was in for.


When I arrived at Balfour Kilpatrick’s, Paisley, I was flustered, unsure, and 17 years old. I had only just scraped up the money for the fares (2 buses, two trains, walks in between, and the like). I had been up since 6am. I had ill-fitting thin clothes that made me feel naked. I hadn’t had any breakfast (never a feature in my house) and my stomach was now rumbling. I probably also needed a good haircut. The Balfour Kilpatrick (Works) complex looked intimidating and all ‘adult’ and ‘corporate’- not like school. It was a workplace for men.


When our family moved from Pollok, Glasgow, to Greenhills, East Kilbride, in August 1975, my life was ripped apart. Everything I had ever known was taken away from me. And so, for 2 years (ages 15 to 17) I was lost and bewildered. I wasn’t aware of this, myself, and I remained in this condition of clinical depression for the next 15 years (until about the age of 30).

I had passed all my Ordinary Level exams (6 of them, in 1976) with flying colours. However, by 1977, my depression had deepened. So much so, I never turned up for any of my Highers. I just could not bear to enter the exam hall. I did manage to turn up for one Higher: mathematics. And I passed this (but I have no recollection of actually sitting the exam).

I was a walking shell, with nothing inside of me.


There was a relatively new school-subject, in those days, called “Economics” and it was my favourite at the Glasgow school. Classes at Glasgow …

(Lourdes Secondary School, established in 1956, serviced the south-west of Glasgow, a large catchment area, including the communities of Cardonald, Craigton, Crookston, Drumoyne, Govan, Hillington, Ibrox, Kinning Park, Mosspark, Penilee and Pollok)

… usually had over 40 pupils. But Economics had maybe just 10. At this was why I chose that subject. It was quieter. Other classes were battlefields of boys (no girls, no mixed classes) trying to gain a ‘promotion’ in the hierarchy by “battering” each other, spitting on others, or stabbing them with red-hot pencils (that had been heated up by being in contact with the convector-heater element, through the grills). My rating, for any class, was usually 6 to 8, on the hierarchy, mainly because I was about 3 inches taller than average, and played for the football team, and ran for my school at Scotstoun Stadium (100 metres and 400 metres relay).


Having been brought up in Glasgow, when we moved to East Kilbride I was convinced I had landed on an alien planet. People spoke differently, acted oddly, and appeared (to me) like homogeneous clones.

And I made a fine impression on my first day at St Brides High School by getting expelled, without even setting foot in a classroom.


St Brides was near to the Town Centre of EK, however, Greenhills was on the outskirts, and 900ft in elevation. On my first day I walked the two miles to school. No-one was advising me about anything, and so I just turned up. I was wearing blue flared cords, sand-shoes, and a jazzy tank-top. I looked like one of the Bay City Rollers. And my hair was wild.


As I approached the pre-fabricated excuse for a building that morning, I thought “I think I’d rather die than walk in there.” And, pretty soon, I did die a psychological death.

As I wandered about, trying to work out which door to go in, and who to speak to, I noticed that everybody else had blazers and ties on. And they were staring at me in fear and alarm. And then a chief swot reported me to the deputy Heidy (Headmaster).

A po-faced, and stern man, appeared a few minutes later.

“Who are you sonny, and what are you doing here?” he asked.


“Who are you sonny, and what are you doing here?” he asked, in a serious, and authoritarian, manner.

“Am turnin’ up fur school,” I replied.

(who is this posh git, in a suit, I thought)

There was a pause. He looked concerned. Maybe even fearful. This is all highly irregular, he must have been thinking.

“What is your name?” he asked.

“Davy,” I replied.

“Have you enrolled?”

“Wit?” I grunted (I thought he was talking about rolls of bread).

“Is this your first day?”


“Well, young man, I suggest you go home,” he said uncompromisingly, “and come back when you are dressed properly.”

And so I headed out the gate, and trudged back home.


“Well, young man, I suggest you go home,” the Deputy Head said, uncompromisingly, “and come back when you are dressed properly.”

And so I headed out, through the gate, and trudged back home. When I arrived back at the house, that morning, I got merry hell for being “dumb” and “stupid.”

“What have you done now?” my Mother asked, accusatorily.

“A goat chipped oot,” I said.

“Wit fur?” she asked, without concern (for me).

“A didnae huv the right clays own,” I replied.

I didn’t have any clothes that fitted me, never mind anything that resembled a uniform. My parents hadn’t noticed that I had been growing fast and was now approaching my adult height of 5ft 10” - but I still had the clothes of a 13-year old boy (from Pollok) in my cupboard.


“We canny afford new clays fur you,” declared my Mother. “Who jay think a um, Carnegie?”

“I wis told tae get a PE kit tae,” I said.

“Wits that?”

“Physical … eh … phys… eh … a … sports kit…”

“We’re no buying yay a fitba strip. Wit jay think it is, Christmas?” she said, with venom, and conviction.


“Will yay be able tae gee me the bus fare tae school?” I asked.

“Kin yay no jist walk?” she said

“It’s err two miles,” I pointed out. “It took me hawf an oor tae get there.”

“A bus?” she said, incredulously. “How much is that gonnae coast us?”

“Eleven and a half pence … if I go tae the right stoap, tae get own.”

“Eleven pence? Dis the school no py fur rat?”

“Naw,” I replied. “A huv tae py fur it ma sell.”

“You tell rem, they’ve goat tae py fur it, ok?”

“Awright.” I conceded.


I turned up at St Brides, that afternoon, again, having walked to the Town Centre from Greenhills, in my cousin’s cast-off jacket (a couple of sizes too small) and ripped flannels (from tree-climbing in Pollok) and my Dad’s tie on (not the official school-tie, of course). I felt naked and vulnerable.

I witnessed a peculiar mixture of fear, and appalled curiosity, coming from the pupils in the school playground, as I approached.

The deputy head interviewed me, asking, “What General Certificates of Education are you currently studying for, sonny?” showing overt disdain at my slovenly appearance. I had no idea what he was talking about.

“I dunno,” I replied. “Aw a no is rat I wis toap oav ma class at mayst oav the subjiks.”

“This was, probably, because you had no real competition, sonny,” he replied, dismissively.

(St Brides had a couple of hundred pupils; whereas Lourdes had 2,500)

“What was your favourite subject laddie, metalwork?” he asked, without interest.

“ee ka nom iks,” I replied.

“How long have you been interested in cakes?” he asked, with an expression of contemptuous pity.


“I don’t think this school is right for you, son,” he said

He then assessed me as a “slow learner” on the enrolment form.

Next, I was put into six different classes … of dunderheads. That is, those types who had trouble just balancing on stools, or chairs, without falling over. The rabble, the dregs, the lost-causes.

The first class I entered, was full of girls. They put me into a Home Economics class. The cooking and baking class. There was much tittering. Some guy shouted down the corridor.

“Hey you, Les McKeown, that’s a class fur wumin, yah f*kin' p**f".


I couldn't bear the school, and used to avoid going there. That winter was bitterly cold. And I had no proper clothing. I took to wandering around the Plaza (the shopping mall) to try and stay warm. I had no footwear. Just sand-shoes, with no soles. I walked around like a soulless zombie. If someone had asked me my name, I don’t think I could have even told them. I was disassociating from my core. I had no sense of self. I was conscious, but not alive. My feet were like blocks of ice. I didn’t have any money for food. Nothing to drink. I used to hide in the toilets in the shopping mall, until they shut the door. Sometimes I was locked in overnight.


The next two years (1976 & 1977) were the coldest, and hottest, on record. And this still stands today. John McEnroe, playing at Wimbledon, was getting burnt to a crisp. I almost perished, in East Kilbride, through the winter, as our council house wasn’t heated (a money-saving strategy) and we were positioned near to the “Trig Point” (900ft in elevation) which was marked by a pillar on top of the highest hill. I almost died of exposure, several times.


I sat 6 Ordinary Level exams in 1976, and then got so deeply depressed that I didn’t turn up for 4 of my Highers. I turned up for the mathematics test (but have no recollection of doing so) in 1977.

I left school in 1977, and applied to Balfour Kilpatrick. One year later, I moved out of the family home.

As I walked out of the door, My Mother spewed out, with bared teeth, “Don’t ever come back here, this is not a hotel, you know.” I took her up on this offer, and never did go back.

And I never returned to full-time education until the year 2000 (23 years later).


When I arrived at Balfour Kilpatrick’s, Paisley, I was bewildered, unsure, and 17 years old. I had only just scraped up the coins for the fares (two buses, two trains, and then the return). I had been up since 6am that morning. I was wearing ill-fitting thin clothes (the story of my life) that made me feel naked. I hadn’t had anything to eat (breakfast was never a feature in my house) and my stomach was now growling. I think I also needed a good haircut. My long locks were wild. Freestyle. And bottled water was not a ‘thing’ in those days. And so I was dehydrated, into the bargain.

The Balfour Kilpatrick (Works) buildings-complex looked cold and intimidating. Unapproachable and serious. It was a workplace for adults. My journey there had taken two hours and I arrived at 9.20am (20 minutes late). I had failed even to get there on time.

I had no idea what I was in for. But I thought, pessimistically, that I was going to get a ‘row’ for being late, or get ‘sacked’ before I was hired. Like what happened at school. I was wondering, at that point, if I should ever go back home again. My mother would surely take the opportunity to tell me that, yet again, I was a complete waste of space. And I believed she was probably right, too.

I, tentatively, walked in through the entrance doorway …


When I walked into the building, I went over to a glass panel that gave me a view into an office were women were sitting at desks. The glass was slid over and so I could not speak directly. I tried to say something, but my voice made no sound. I decided that it would be best just to walk out. I had caused enough trouble already, I thought. And then this bloke, with a clipboard, and wearing beige overalls, approached.

“Are you here for the test?” he said, in a serious manner.

“Eh?” I replied.”

“What’s your name, son?” he said.

I panicked. I flipped into disassociation mode.

“Brian McKinstry,” I replied. (this was a mate I had from Pollok). But my defence trick did not wash.

“Who are you?” he said.

“Davy,” I replied.



“David what?”

“Eh…” I was struggling to get my surname name out. I couldn’t pronounce it. “Ma Quarnin,” I said.

“Ma Quarnon?”


He made allowances for me, and checked his list.

“In here son," he escorted me through a door. "You’re 25 minutes late.”

I walked into a huge room. There were rows of school-desks in a grid pattern. There were 100 positions, all occupied, apart from one.


“In here son." The man in the beige overalls ushered me through a door. "You’re 25 minutes late,” he said. It was now 9.25am.

I walked into a huge room. There were rows of school-desks in a grid pattern. There were 100 positions, all occupied, apart from one. I sat down at the unoccupied seat.

Overall-Man placed an A4-size booklet, and a pen, on the small desk.

“You have until 10.30am to complete the assessment.”

I opened up the blue booklet. There was page-after-page of questions, diagrams, circuits, cogs, drawings of all types, related to electricity, engineering and construction materials.

I got cracking. I didn’t waste any more time. I blotted out the room, and got into the ‘zone‘. I was pacing through the initial questions, but as it went from number 1 to number 20 the questions were becoming increasingly difficult. An hour passed. Someone jabbed on my shoulder.

“Put your pen down son. Time up.”

I looked at the number: it was number 90. I had been an abject failure. There was a total of 100 questions to complete. If only I had came in on time, I thought, scolding myself.


One week later a letter dropped on my mat. Balfour Kilpatrick had invited me for a job interview.

I was treated very respectfully at the interview. It was as if they wanted to give me the training position, and they tried their best to help me.

I found out later that 400 had initially applied, and 100 were tested. Half of those who sat the test didn’t get past question 50. Of the people who got past question 51 only 2 reached question 80. The highest mark recorded was 82/100. Apart from my mark.

I scored 90/100.

I didn’t fail after all.