My first memory of my little brother must have been at his birth. I can’t bring that to mind, but within my psyche, there must be a tiny recollection of the day. How could I not remember his first cries? Being there in my cot just 18 months old, I must have wondered at this new awakening in my life as my wee brother emerged into our world. Apparently I was besotted with him, wanted to love him all the time and share my sweeties(dolly mixtures) with him. All very well if he had been a bit older, but giving him sweeties at two weeks old was not the thing to do, and fortunately, mum was near enough to remove the offerings from his mouth before any harm came to him. I wonder if that’s why he developed such a sweet tooth?? And speaking of sweet tooth, my first actual memory of George was him sitting in a high chair in Tighnabruaich being given a teaspoonful of jam as he watched his big sis tumble over her wilkies on a mattress that dad had laid on the floor. Then of course he was given his dummy with a wee touch of condensed milk to make it more appealing. In those days packaged sweets were not something available to many folks, so we made do with what we had. I do love condensed milk straight out of the tin on a spoon to this day.
Our childhood took us from Helensburgh where George was born to Ulva for a brief spell, Glasgow for an even briefer one then we were back in Tighnabruaich for a couple of years before we eventually moved into our tenement home in Renfrew where we both went to school and lived for five years. Memories of Renfrew were happy ones. We did so many things as a family and George and I spent a lot of time together.
I recall his first car, a red pedal car that had two seats, one for the driver,George of course, and one for his passenger-most times pusher behind-big sister Ray. We both loved that car and used to go together in it to the bus stop to meet mum coming home from work. We’d race down after she arrived and smile with anticipation as she opened her shopper to reveal something nice for us to have after our tea, a poke of chocolate buttons, dolly mixtures or maybe a small bar of cadbury’s chocolate. After tea we’d get to play out in the waste ground behind the houses, or go for a game of rounders or king ball with pals, then come back in to get our bath in a tin one in front of the fire, then head for bed after maybe a piece on jam and a glass of milk. Of course we did have to make a visit to the shared toilet outside or maybe just ‘go’ in the chantie under the bed if it was a bit too cold! Shared toilets were common then, and we were well used to the newspaper squares hanging on string and the delight of finding a warm seat if somebody else had just ‘been’.
School for us both was Blythswood Testimonial, a short walk up High Street, then through behind the Town Hall. We both loved school. I remember taking skipping ropes and a peever tin and George took his marbles. I recall a playground with long long ice slides where we had great fun during winter months. The ‘Jannie’ lived in a house in the playground and used to ring his big school bell as playtime began and ended. Sometimes we had school dinners which meant that we had to be escorted down to the secondary school in the town centre for a ‘sitting’ with our dinner tickets clutched safely in our hands- two different colours and prices, 1shilling for me as first child, 11d for George as second child. Most of the time we went home for lunch where dad and mum spent the short time with us making rolls with scrambled egg, cheese pudding or maybe roasted cheese. Mum and dad both worked but wanted to be there with us at lunchtime even although it might only be for 10 or 15minutes. Typical kids, we devoured our lunch and raced back to school to play in the playground for as long as we could before the bell went!
After school we rushed home, sometimes via the wee bakery where we could buy a bag of broken pastry for a penny, but usually to get home and changed then out to play, let in by our neighbour Mr Irvine who was always around to look after us. We both did love to get out to play. Then when mum and dad came home, we had tea and usually that was time for us to go out together for a walk, or when we had bikes we’d ride on ahead and we’d explore Renfrew, go up and visit mum’s parents in Linthouse or go for a half pint glass of orange at Renfrew Airport just like Prince Charles had done on a visit there. Sometimes Uncle Tom would come down on his bike and come with us. He spoiled us both and bought us the most wonderful presents. I remember once he gave us string puppets, proper wooden ones, and dinky and corgi cars. He encouraged George to develop those fiddly fingers with a meccano set and always bought me sketch pads and paints and pencils to encourage my love of drawing.
Saturday was the day we always visited gran and grandpa in Drive Road. We loved going there to play in the front room and have a look in the big cupboard where Uncle Tom used to sleep when he was a boy. They had a big sideboard in there with an open shelved area which we were small enough to fit inside. There was a table at the front window and chairs to sit and look out from our first floor window across to Elder Park and along Drive Road. We used to watch the rag and bone man and the coalman come along still with a horse and cart to deliver and sell. As it got nearly dark we’d look out for the ‘leerie’ who came along to light the gas lamps in the closes and we’d marvel at this strange orange glow that could be seen up and down the street. George loved cars and we’d sit for ages with pencil and paper writing down car number plates as they passed or parked on the street. We had tea,with cakes from Cameron’s the bakers, then maybe went across to the park for a walk, play on the swings and maybe go to the pond to watch people sailing their wee boats. Uncle Tom would come home and he’d take us each in turn for a ride on his bike, where we’d sit on the crossbar. When we asked for a ride he’d always say “Next Pancake Tuesday!” But then we’d smile and he’d relent. After we’d been out we’d watch him bring the bike back upstairs, clean every inch of it then pull it up above the hall stand on a pulley so that it was out of the way. Some Saturdays we’d go on into Govan to the pictures and maybe see Bambi or Snow White or some other Disney film. We always got sweeties for during the film, and came out when it was dark to begin the walk home. Sometimes dad would give one of us a ‘coal carry’ or put us right up on his shoulders where we’d have to hold onto his hands or put our hands on his forehead. By the time we got home we were well and truly ready for bed!
To be continued……….