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

Friday, December 26, 2008


“Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year.” (Victor Borge)


I REMEMBER being really angry when my parents admitted that there was no such person as Santa Claus.

I REMEMBER my father telling us children that on Hogmanay there would be a man at Kirkintilloch Cross who had as many heads as the days in the year.

I REMEMBER carols being played and sung by the Salvation Army outside our tenement building in the dark.

I REMEMBER that our family and the family of our father’s brother George used to get together every New Year’s Day, meeting in each other’s homes on alternate years. There was always a huge meal, and I think there was a bit of rivalry between our mother and Aunt Jen.

I REMEMBER our parents taking us to a pantomime in a Glasgow theatre. I was more interested in the musicians in the pit than what was happening on the stage. In those days theatres had fairly big orchestras.

I REMEMBER that, as a young man, I used to attend the New Year’s Day performance of Handel’s Messiah in St. Andrew’s Halls. Every seat was occupied by the time the Glasgow Choral Union and the Glasgow Orchestral Society took their places, and from midday till three o’clock we sat enthralled by the music.

This is a clip of "For unto us a child is born" with Sir Colin Davis conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and the Tenebrae singers.


A sad tale -

‘Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house
Nothing would fit me, not even a blouse.
The cookies I'd nibbled, the eggnog I'd taste.
All the holiday parties had gone to my waist.

When I got on the scales there arose such a number!
When I walked to the store (less a walk than a lumber).
I'd remember the marvellous meals I'd prepared;
The gravies and sauces and beef nicely rared,
The wine and the rum balls, the bread and the cheese
And the way I'd never said, "No thank you, please."

So - away with the last of the sour cream dip,
Get rid of the fruit cake, every cracker and chip
Every last bit of food that I like must be banished
Till all the additional ounces have vanished.

I won't have a cookie--not even a lick.
I'll want only to chew on a long celery stick.
I won't have hot biscuits, or corn bread, or pie,
I'll munch on a carrot and quietly cry.

I'm hungry, I'm lonesome, and life is a bore---
But isn't that what January is for?
Unable to giggle, no longer a riot.
Happy New Year to all and to all a good diet!


The Nativity by the 15th century Italian painter Piero della Francesca


Naturally being a church organist for many years Christmas had added importance for me. As early as October, music had to be chosen for the special services, and, if a cantata was to be performed, September wasn’t too early to start practising.

Christmas services were always very well attended, and it was a great experience to accompany the singing. Unfortunately a problem arose one Christmas Eve service at Lenzie Old Parish Church. Because the licensing hours had been changed, the hour of the pubs’ closing time coincided with the time folks were arriving for the service, and quite a number of drunks came into the church. There was a lot of noise and some disruption, and we soon learned that ours was not the only church to be affected in this way. Many of the congregation vowed never to come again to a Christmas Eve service, which was sad for a solution to the problem was found. In the years that followed, rather than turn people away from the church, any drunks were led in to the hall where they were given coffee and something to eat, and they could hear the singing coming from the church.

Christmas Day services are designed for the children of course, but I was always sorry for our own three girls on Christmas morning. Instead of playing with their toys and games, they had to come to church with us, although I don’t remember them complaining.

I’m often asked if I miss playing church organ. Well, all that was a long time ago. My answer would be - no, I don’t miss it, but when I hear “O come all ye faithful” on Songs of Praise……………


Recently on YouTube I’ve been re-discovering songs I haven’t heard for more than fifty years, many of them giving me a real thrill. This one has no connection with Christmas or the New Year, but in some way it seems suitable for this time of the year - Paul Robeson singing “When you come to the end of a perfect day”.

The New Year lies before you
Like a spotless tract of snow
Be careful how you tread on it
For every mark will show. (Anon)


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