Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


One of my daughters calls this photo “Happy Dad”. Any better suggestions? What about “The Little Boy that Santa Claus forgot”?

I used to tell people, jokingly I must add, that I had a deprived childhood. As a wee boy, I took all the illnesses that were around, I was small and thin, and had to be encouraged to eat. (My family will tell you that my appetite hasn’t improved much). Also, when I got scarlet fever, our doctor told the hospital staff to take particular care of me.

The consequence of all that was that my mother made certain rules for me. I wasn’t allowed to run about outside, I was excused PT in primary school, in winter I was warmly wrapped up all the time, but worst of all I wasn’t allowed ice cream!!!

Most children in those days went to the Saturday matinee in the local cinema, but that was not for us. There were two reasons - first, my mother’s upbringing as a Baptist gave her serious doubts about picture houses and theatres, but more important than that was the terrible tragedy which occurred in Paisley on the afternoon of December 31st 1929.
Nine hundred children between the ages of eighteen months and twelve years had gathered in the Glen Cinema, when a fire broke out in the projection box. It was quickly brought under control but as smoke filled the hall panic ensued. Some of the exits couldn’t be opened and tragically 70 children were crushed to death in the stampede.

On rare occasions certainly we went to the local cinema as a family, and I remember that I was always so excited that halfway through the main feature my father had to take me to the Gents’. The films we saw were usually stories about children and starred either Freddie Bartholomew or Shirley Temple.

Probably the most famous child actress of all time, Shirley Temple later became a USA ambassador and diplomat. Aged 80 she lives in San Francisco.

This is a clip from the 1935 film Curly Top. Shirley sings “When I grow up”.


There were quite a number of old books in our house, and I know that one or two had been school prizes given to my father or mother. When I was a bit older, I was able to enjoy some of them - adventures stories like Treasure Island, Coral Island and Peter the Whaler.

Surprisingly, the collection included a faded copy of Hamlet (which I didn’t really understand) and a little book called Poems of Passion (which I enjoyed). The latter was the work of an American author/poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox 1850-1919 who is probably best known for the lines -

Laugh and the world laughs with you,
Weep and you weep alone.

Many years later I was shocked to discover that her poems are often given as examples of bad poetry. However that doesn’t change my opinion, and I’m happy to share this one with you.


One ship drives east and another west
With the selfsame winds that blow,
Tis the set of the sails and not the gales
That tell us the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate,
As we voyage along through life,
Tis the set of a soul that decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.


I wrote a few weeks ago about the “best” room in our tenement house. I think there was probably one thing that all “best” rooms had in common at that time, and that was a painting of a Highland scene with Highland cattle. I couldn’t find a picture that closely resembled the one we had, but perhaps this will do -


Finally, here is this week’s quote for all those who are EIGHTY PLUS -

By the time you're eighty years old you've learned everything. You only have to remember it. (George Burns)


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