By the time she was 15, she already had a figure to die for.
At 17 she was voluptuous, stacked, all the right curves in all the right places. You name it, she had it, she was every mans fantasy girl and the first girl this boy ever fancied.
She was a younger better looking, slimmer, shapelier version of Nerys Hughes, the good looking one from The Liver Birds, that BBC must-watch comedy of the time, two girls living together, going on dates, meeting men, being dumped, everyone fancied Sandra, no-one I know fancied Beryl.
Irene was a few years older than me, that few years at that age make all the difference.
She was a woman, I was a wee boy, but my God did I fancy her!!
I was the same age as her younger sister Sandra. We used to play together in the back court, a couple of kids, playing chases and not knowing what to do if you caught her.
Irene and Sandra lived in the tenement next to us, a much nicer apartment and more spacious.
Sandra was lovely, a really nice wee girl and we were good friends.
But Irene was just absolutely gorgeous, my first childhood fantasy girl as I became aware of my own sexuality.
At 17, she was aware of her high-level of attraction and would love to wind up men.
We lived in Linthouse besides the Govan shipyards and when the gates would open at 4:30pm, thousands of men would escape from their work, rushing home along the Govan Road.
I never realised it at the time, but thinking back now, I remember Irene would often be at the café at the end of our street and then deliberately walk through the crowd of men in the opposite direction getting lots of attention and wolf-whistles, she knew what she was doing. At the time I wondered why.
Irene aged 16, used to baby-sit for my brother Mark who was born when I was 14. If I knew she was coming in to watch Mark, then I’d make sure I was home from the playing football in the park early, just so that I could talk to her and we’d often sit on the couch watching tv laughing.
She wasn’t just good looking, but she was soft and friendly and I just liked being with her. She had a lovely personality and could find humour in almost anything. I never heard her once speak about anyone in a bad way.
One Saturday night, sitting on the sofa with Irene watching tv, Mark sleeping in his cot and my other 2 brothers were in bed. The house seemed quiet, the lights were low and it was dark outside.
She was sitting to my right and somehow she seemed to be closer than usual. I could feel her presence beside me, her legs tucked under her as she curled up on the couch watching tv but it felt that she was facing me.
A few minutes later, she put her arm behind me .. innocent enough, but she seemed even closer.
I could feel her looking at me and when I glanced towards her, she wasn’t watching tv any longer.
I could feel myself almost tremble with excitement, I didn’t have a clue what to do.
Irene moved closer, her left arm on my shoulder and I could feel the warm of her breathe on my cheek. I could feel my sinews tighten and my nerves firing as if my skin was on fire, waiting on her touch.
Thinking back to that moment, I was holding my breathe, waiting to see what would happen next. I had fantasised about this moment, I had imagined that on those previous occasions we had snogged and kissed and how much I wanted her.
But at that moment on the sofa, my brain wasn’t working and I didn’t have a clue.
Irene moved closer still, her face was inches from my cheek, I could feel myself flush with excitement and my heart throbbing in my chest.
She put her tongue in my ear and started to nibble, it felt good in a strange tickly way.
Then she leaned forward put her mouth towards mine and kissed me on the lips.
What happened next?
For some stupid, stupid reason I jumped up and told her I needed to go to the bathroom.
To my dying day, I will both regret that moment and savour its innocence at the same time.
Last night, at my dads, I asked him what he’d been up to, he told me that he had been to a funeral. I expected that it would be one of his cronies from one of his clubs, they are at the age where it’s almost one per week.
Dad told me that it was his friend Brian’s wife, Irene and that I should know her as I used to play with her younger sister when I was a kid.
Irene sadly passed away last Tuesday after a long battle against Cancer and was buried in sunny Govan yesterday.
When I heard the news and writing this now, I’m not ashamed to say that I cried for her loss even although we didn’t have any contact in our adult years.
It’s like part of my childhood has died.
I’ve never forgotten her and that first innocent kiss, I never will.