1938, 76 years ago today, my mum Patricia was born in a one-bedroom tenement flat in Neptune Street, Govan, Glasgow.
Govan back then just before the second world war was a thriving area, the shipyards were busy and men could easily swap between the various yards depending on who was paying overtime and bonuses.
It was a tough, working class place to grow up, this was the days of the razor gangs and voilence was rife.
Many wives and children would be left struggling for survival with what was left after the men would spend their wages in the bars and betting shops.
Most wives with families didn’t work, they didn’t have the time, running a house was hard work without todays labour saving devices such as waching machines and dishwashers. Even fridges were a rarity so food shopping was a daily task and you bought fresh as and when you needed it or could afford it.
Of course the men didn’t do any housework, they’d been working all day and expected their tea on the table waiting for them when they got home.
Changed days .. could you imagine being in a relationship like that nowadays?
Fortunately my grandad Duncan wasn’t that type of man. He had came down from the Island of Islay in his teenage years and joined the army becoming a corporal in the Argyll and Sutherland Fusiliers. During the war years he worked as an engineer on the railways and was excluded from being called up to fight.
Duncan was a gentleman and a soft character, he met my gran Kathleen at a local dance, Katie was from southern Ireland, red haired and of fiery stock, even in my early memories as a child Katie ruled the roost in their home and Duncan was happy to spent the evenings with mum and her 2 sisters Maureen and Hannah.
If you ever watch Mrs Browns Boys .. thats Katie .. always makes me laugh and think of her.
The war started when mum was a baby, and she has little memories of it apart from hearing the warning sirens and having to rush to the air-raid shelters. An interesting account from a lady a little older than mum can be found here.
It beggars belief that people had to live like that, thankfully for al thats wrong with todays world I can’t see that happening again.
Unfortuately when mum was 5 and the war was in its 4th year mum caught TB, perhaps due to the poverty and malnourishment of rationing or the filthiness and close quarters of the shelters were the disease was passed by breathing microbes in the air passed on by fellow sufferers.
As the disease was contagious, mum was confined to the Victoria Hoipital for 18 months and missed her first 2 years at school.
Duncan wasn’t the kind of man that would let something like that hold his daughter back and spent as much time as possible teaching mum to read and write, taking her to the park and making sure that when she started school age 7 that she wasn’tfar behind the other kids.
There was lots of love back then, poor but love and the bond between mum and her dad was close until he passed away back in 1990.
Mum, as a child playing in the streets, got to know my Dad, not that they were friends, Dad was a few years older and was of the “big bad boys” and by his own admission was a bit of a rogue.
Dad was brought up without a mum and my grandfather was fighting in the war in France, Poland and Germany,
So him and his sister Rose and his brother Mick did what they had to do to survive.
Rose aged 10 largely looked after my Uncle Eddie who was a baby at the time when their mum left, running away with some other guy., then turning up 42 years later looking for al to be forgiven.
When we were kids, Rose became the paternal grandmother, a matriach, and went on to become a Glasgow Ciy Councillor and am activist for womans rights.
Thats another story for another day.
Time passes and the wars over, mum and dad grow up not knowing each other.
Mum works in various factories around the area.
Dad serves his apprenticeship as an engineer then does his national service in Germany. He says that it made him, travel and seeing how the other half lived opened his mind, he learned to look after himself, learned self discipline.
He learned how to speak German and that German people were decent and hard working and not the monsters that the propaganda during the war would have you believe.
Dad returned home, a corporal in the Royal Engineers and fitter and stronger than he’d ever been.
He says that when he got back to Govan the first thing he noticed was the smell, that the streets were stinking, full of waste food and rubish and nothing like the order and cleanliness that was the norm in Germany.
A few weeks later, he met my mum at the “dancing”, he was 24 and she was 21, they didn’t know each other until they realised that they had been playing in the same streets as kids.
Mum and dad started courting .. or as it was called locally “winching” .. despite the disapproval of my gran Katie, who remembered dad as the bad boy without the mother, who was always dirty.
But try and break up a relationship between your kids and they’ll only dig in and grow closer just to spite you.
Dad asked mum if she’d like to go on holiday to Brighton, mum was thrilled at this but there was no way that Katie would allow it unless she was chaperones by my aunt Maureen. So in the August that year, Mum Dad, Maureen and Rose all headed down to Brighton for 2 weeks,
Mum and Dad were in seperate rooms, but nature always finds a way and thankfully my Aunt Maureen wasn’t doing her job properly or I wouldn’t have been born in the March the following year!!
Something that I love to remind Maureen off on many family occasions .. Love her to bits!!
Despite Katies disapproval Mum and Dad were married on Boxing Day, I was born at t end of March, mum looks beautiful in the the wedding photographs and not showing at all.
18 Months later, my brother Duncan was Born, then another 2 for John, then 9 for mark and a last minute suprise for Stuart who is almost 19 years younger than myself .. Good for them, thats some innings!!
My childhood years were poor, living in a one bedroom flat with no bathroom until I was 18 and moved out and mum and dad could afford a bigger place, 3 bedrooms with a bathoom .. whoop-whoo!
Sounds prehistoric doesn’t it?
Can you imagine living without a bathoom?
Fortunately the swimming baths weren’t too far away and Dad taught us to swim from an early age .. and we thought it was about swimming .. it was actually about making sure we were clean.
Poverty can do one or two things, it can tear you apart as you fight for survival or it can push you together.
Being poor doiesn’t mean you don’t have high standards, family values or ambitions.
My brothers arnd I have all done pretty well for ourselves, 4 of us have university degrees,, all of us are married with children, I’m the only one that is divorced. None of us have ever been arrested or been involved in criminal activities.
That all comes from having strong family values, laid down by loving and caring parents.
If you’ve read this blog, you’ll know that my brothers and I are all very close. I’d do anything for them,, I’m sure they’d do the same.
Mum and Dad to their credit brought us up well, poor but well and for that I’m eternally grateful.
Mum passed away 3 years ago, Diverticulitus, usually a non fatal illness affecting the bowel and the intestine, but it was complicated by her weak heart possibly caused by her childhood tubericilosis.
I wrote about it and the strange peace I found afterwards here
But one thing about my mum, she had a great heart, it may not have been physically strong, but she was a kind and generous with what she had. She was a wee battler and when we were kids she would have taken on goliath if they’d came near her boys.
Happy birthday mum wherever you are, you live on in the memories of your 5 sons and 12 grandkids and now 2 great grandkids and counting.
I’ve attached a photograph from mums funeral of us 5 boys taken at her funeral, no black ties, mum didn’t want a morbid service. Its the recreation of a pic taken when Stuart was a baby, we are in the same positions as we were at the time and I’m at the back on the right.
If you enjoyed reading this, and your mum is still with us, then give her a call and tell her you love her.