Because one or two people demanded it! It’s the secret origin of me!!
I was born in Glasgow in February 1967. My parents were typically working class Glasgow folk but my father (James) was a protestant and my mother (Dorothy) was a catholic and both were married in the 1950’s.To most readers of this today this seems normal and why the bloody hell would I even start this post by bringing it up, but Dear Reader, this is important because this is Glasgow, and it’s the 1950’s. Sectarianism is rife and the idea of a mixing of religions then was seen as a dangerous thing and I’m really not joking about how badly treated people were for marrying outside their religion then in Glasgow.
Now I don’t know the full details but I know there were rifts in both families, but things were sketchy whenever I asked and considering the majority of my family on both sides joined in the post-war emigration to Australia I never got a chance to ask until I got out there when I was 16 and even then I was swiftly told it wasn’t a subject to bring up. I got a few details from my uncle on my mothers side, but again things were left vague and it seems both my uncle and my mother had a falling out with religion at an early age, and my father never cared for religion of any kind in a fairly apathetic way so that’s a snapshot of how things were.
So my parents married, my father drifted from labouring work into being a postie, while my mother stayed a housewife and here’s where the Red Clydeside stuff comes from as her aunt (and my great aunt) as she was one of the organisers of the rent strikes in Partick during the First World War. So there’s a vein of being fucked off and doing something about it in me going back a century and I’m a wee bit proud of this.
But anyhow, they had two boys before me, James and Steven. Then nothing for eight years and I pop along, followed by another boy, Francis, born a year after me. He was sadly a cot-death while we were sharing a room so even though I obviously don’t remember a thing, I still to this day have this awkwardness around babies and all that that unnerves me. The effects of this seeing as I was now the youngest and therefore seen as a survivor (these sort of deaths were depressingly common in working class families across the UK in the 1960’s and have been attributed to a number of things but poverty played a part) I ended up being not spoiled, but protected in a way other children my age weren’t.
I was also educated to a six or seven year old level by the time I started Primary school at age five. This is down to being taught to read and encouraged to read anything I wanted within reason, so this was a mix of Asterix, Tintin, Marvel and DC comics, horror novels for kids, books about films and especially horror and SF, books about history or anything. I would even sit as a five year old in the old library in Possilpark reading the newspapers even though I didn’t understand what was in them all the time, I was encouraged mainly by my parents to just bloody read.
Here’s a picture of the library I spent over a decade reading anything I could in. I believe it’s from the early to mid 80’s.
This is the main entrance, and the road leading up the hill to the right used to lead to Possilpark Secondary school, so I passed this pretty much every day from 1979 to 84/85. I think I read every Asterix comic, every Tintin, every horror story compilation which meant reading a load of M.R James and anything about Hammer Films as the BBC used to show double bills of horror films on a Saturday night during the summer, which would mean them teaming up a classic Universal horror with a more modern film, normally something from Hammer, but often odd things like The Crazies which was my first exposure to American modern horror films.
So i wouldn’t say I was spoiled, but just a bit protected. Considering the area and the time it’s entirely understandable. It was shite, grim and living a fairly poor life was depressing as there was still a post-war mentality with my parents who were also trying to cope with the fact the 20th century had crawled it’s way to north Glasgow. This isn’t to say we were eating tripe and cardboard every night (only eat tripe once and that’s more than enough and even then my father sneaked off to the chippy to get us some real food half way through that experience) but we were skint constantly and not in this pseudo-Guardian reader type of skint where they didn’t have money to keep their horses, or they only had one holiday that year, but actually fucking broke. That said, we still lived alright. Money was found and like I said, my father worked stupidly long hours.
Most of this time we lived in Possilpark itself on Stonyhurst Street, though we’d moved from Maryhill around or before my birth, but it was clear by 74/75 the area was in steep decline even though there were strong families there fighting to keep it alive, the dealers had moved in and the first heroin addicts started turning up. Luckily my family knew a local councillor who managed to pull a few strings and we managed to move to a nice house in Milton in 1975 sometime which was for a few years actually a pretty peaceful time. Milton at the time wasn’t that bad. It still had fields and we were only a good walk away from the outskirts of Glasgow and effectively the countryside. It was fairly sweet.
I still went to school in Possilpark and as I’ve pointed out previously I knew where in the city to get my hits of comics, so I was fairly content and being a kid I was happy as long as I had my comics, my dog (which we got when we moved) Doctor Who, Star Trek and the odd fish supper. Ok, we didn’t do holidays apart from one hellish trip to Millport where it rained and rained and rained and rained and rained and rained and rained..
And there’s was Country and Western. Lots of it.
There was also the odd day trip to Ayr, or Largs or Edinburgh, but mainly life was spent in the grim harshness that was Glasgow of the 70’s. Sure it was a ridiculously hot summer in 1976 and yes, there were fun and good times but looking back there’s a melancholic air about everything we did as we were all struggling to survive which meant looking over our shoulders all the time. What joy we did have we grabbed, so that is either a hot summer flying stunt kites, or getting to see Scotland qualify for the 1978 World Cup, or just anything really.
Around 1979 things started going a bit wrong. My oldest brother James suddenly went from being a fairly social person to being quiet and odd, while my other brother Steve started going to a local group of SF fans who met at the Wintersgills pub who had formed a group called ”The Friends of Kilgore Trout‘ or FOKT for short. It was here he met one of the organisers, a chap by the name of Bob Shaw who I’ve mentioned before and will mention a lot more of in the future. So Steve started hanging out a lot with the FOKT crowd and started becoming very involved with organising Glasgow’s SF Convention Faircon, which was held during the Fair Fortnight every July. They quickly became just an event for a hundred or so Scottish SF fans to something which attracted a national and even worldwide audience.
Things were also changing for me. I’d finished primary school and left Hawthorn Primary School to go to secondary at Possilpark Secondary. I learned a lot of things very quickly here, and it was an odd place with some very odd teachers, but that’s maybe for another time.
Which brings us Dear Reader to the start of 1980. Everything is sort of ok, but in 18 months time everything starts going very, very wrong…
But that’s Part Two of my Secret Origin….