An t-iasg nach b’ urrainn snàmh/The fish that never swam

An t-iasg nach b’ urrainn snàmh
le Daibhidh Eyre


Bha sinn air ar cuairteachadh. Air an taobh far an robh mise, bha eich a’ dèanamh oirnn. Shuidh mi san rathad. Rinn daoine eile an aon rud.  Chum na ridirean orra ge-tà, agus sin aig astar nach robh slaodach. Thàinig each mòr liath gam ionnsaigh. Nas fhaisge. Nas fhaisge. Glaodhraich air mo chùlaibh. ‘Stad! Stad! Tha clann an seo!’ dh’èigh tè. Agus bha i ceart. Cha b’ e deugairean a-mhàin a bha an làthair, ach leanabhan. Anns na seachdainean roimhe, bhiodh pàrantan gu tric a’ tighinn dhan iomairt le an cuid cloinne.


Cha do stad na h-eich. Bha m’ aghaidh ri casan an fhir liath - mo cheann aig an aon àirde sa bha a ghlùintean. Thog e cas. Chaidh e os mo chionn agus a dh’ionnsaigh an suail mhòr de dhaoine cruinnichte air beulaibh an amar-snàimh. Bha sreath tiugh de phoileas air an taobh eile agus, le sin, cha bhiodh cothrom ann do dhaoine fhaighinn air falbh.  ’S docha nach e sin a bha fainear dhan phoileas. ’S docha gun robh iad dìreach airson feagal a chuir air daoine.


Sheas mi agus chaidh mi a dh’ionnsaigh doras an togalaich. Bha dealbh nam cheann. Poileas air each le maide na làimh, a’ dèanamh deiseil ri slaic eagalach a thoirt air boireannach, ’s i le a làmhan an àird, a’ feuchainn ri dìon a chur oirre fhèin. Fotograf a chaidh a thogail ann an Sasainn nuair a bha stailc nam mèinnearan a’ dol.


Choimhead mi air an doras dhearg. Beagan sheachdainean air ais, bha mi air taobh eile an dorais ud, ’s mi fear dhen na daoine a bha a’ cumail smachd air an togalach. Amaran Shràid Chaladair ann an Cnoc a’ Ghobhainn.


Nuair a dh’ainmich an comhairle gun robh iad airson an amair a dhùnadh, thoisich daoine bhon choimhearsnachd ag iomairt. Ath-chuinge. Litrichean do luchd-poilitigs, dha na pàipearan naidheachd. Caismeachd. Iomairt taobh a-muigh Sheòmraichean a’ Bhaile.


Cha d' rinn e diofar sam bith. Agus le sin - thòisich sinn a’ bruidhinn.


Agus air an oidhche mu dheireadh ’s an amar fhathast fosgailte, chaidh cuid dhuinn ann, agus thuirt sinn ris an luchd-obrach gur ann leis a’ choimhearsnachd a bha an togalach a-nist. Dh’fhalbh iad. Chaidh glas a chuir air na dorsan.


Bhiomaid ga dhèanamh ann an sioftaichean - daoine a’ fuireach san aite airson oidhche, neo dà oidhche, neo nas fhaide na sin nan robh sin comasach dhaibh. Air taobh eile an dorais, air Sraid Chaladair fhèin, bha loidhne-phiocaid le daoine ann a h-uile uair dhen a h-uile latha airson còig mìosan. Dh’fhàs e a bhith na aite far am biodh daoine a’ cur eòlas air an nàbaidhean. Ceanglaichean ùra. Daoine a’ tighinn le briosgaidean, neo pìosan, neo samosas. Teatha ’s cofaidh. Òg ’s seann. Dubh ’s geal. Bha deasbadan ann, agus chaidh planaichean a dhèanamh gus impidh a chumail air a’ chomhairle.


Bha mi air iomadh uair a chur seachad air an loidhne-phiocaid, gu tric tron oidhche. Agus bha mi air trì sioftaichean a dhèanamh am broinn an amair cuideachd. Rinn mi agallamh le Coinneach Mòr airson Radio nan Gaidheal, ’s sin air fòn-làimhe - inneal a bha fhathast ùr dhomh aig an àm.


Gach turas agam san togalach, ghabhainn snàmh san amar mhòr. Cha robh e comasach dhuinn an t-uisge theasachadh, agus cha robh na pumpaichen-glanaidh a’ dol, ach cha do cuir sin dragh orm. Bha e na thlachd dhomh a bhith a’ snàmh nam aonar ann an amar a bha cho tric loma làn. Suas ’s sìos fichead tursan aig astar meadhanach, agus an uairsin air mo dhruim dìreach, nam laighe air uachdar an uisge fhuair, a’ coimhead suas air na maidean-tarsainn mòra dearg, agus suaicheantas bhaile Ghlaschu anns an uinneag leth-chruinn - ‘Gun Soirbhich Glaschu’. An t-iasg nach b’ urrainn snàmh.


As deidh an sioft mu dheireadh agam, bhris luchd-obrach on chomhairle a-steach, agus chuir iad às leis an uisge.


Beagan sheachdainnean as deidh sin fhuair mi gairm air an fòn tràth sa mhadainn. Bha na poileas air nochdadh gus smac fhaighinn air an togalach. Chaidh mi shìos. Bha mu fhichead poileis ann. Agus cha robh e fada gus an robh nas motha de dhaoine bhon choimhearsnachd an làthair na bha oifigearan. Rinn sinn ùpraid le a bhith a’ bualadh poitean air an sraid, agus a’ seinn.


Nuair a dh’fhalbh mi son m’ obair bha mi dhen bheachd nach rachadh leis a’ phoileas. Bha cus dhuinn sa choimhearsnachd a bha deònach nochdadh gus an amar a dhìon. Ach nuair a thill mi air an fheasgar, bha e follaiseach gun dèanadh na poileis rud sam bi gus smac fhaighinn air an àite. Oifigearan nan ceudan. Eich. Heileacoptair. Feumaidh gun robh cha mhòr a h-uile oifigear bho cheann a’ deas Ghlaschu an làthair.


Bha bràist a’ bhaile cuideachd ri fhaicinn air clàr-aghaidh an togalaich, gearrte sa chlach-ghainmhich os cionn an dorais, ’s am poileas a-nist ann an loidhne air a beulaibh. Choimhead mi suas oirre, ’s air na daoine a bha fhathast a’ feuchainn a thighinn eadar nam poileas agus an dorais. An clag nach b’ urrainn seinn. An craobh nach b’ urrainn fàs. An t-eun nach b’ urrainn sgeith.


Ach ann am meadhan nam poileas - na cotaichean buidhe aca a’ coimhead coigreach an aghaidh dhathan ruadh nam flataichean - bha na daoine fhathast a’ cumail ri chèile san dorchadas: meuran am beathannan a’ neartachadh; am freumhaichean san àite seo fhathast a’ fàs; agus na faclan aca fhathast a’ sgèith, a’ dèanamh mac-talla tro na sràidean - ‘Sann againne an t-amar! Sann againne an t-amar!’



The fish that never swam
by David Eyre


We were surrounded. On the side where I was, horses were making their way towards us. I sat down in the road. Other folk did the same thing. But the riders kept coming at a quick pace. A big, grey horse came towards me. Closer. Closer. The noise behind me. ‘Stop! Stop! There’s kids here!’ a woman shouted. And she was right. It wasn’t just teenagers that were there. There were youngsters too. In the weeks previously, parents would often bring their children to the protest.


The horses didn’t stop. My face was looking at the grey one’s legs – my head at the same height as its knees. It lifted a hoof and went over my head towards the great swell of people in front of the swimming pool. A thick line of police was on the other side, so there was nowhere for people to go. Perhaps the police didn’t want them to go. Maybe they were just looking to scare people.


I stood and went towards the main door. I had a picture in my head. A mounted policeman with a baton in his hand, getting ready to strike a young woman, her hands raised in an effort to defend herself. A photograph that was taken in England during the Miners’ Strike.


I looked at the red door. A few weeks before I was on the other side, as one of the campaign occupiers. Calder Street Baths in Govanhill.


When the council announced that they were going to close the pool, people in the community began to campaign. A petition. Letters to politicians, to the newspapers. A march. A demonstration outside the City Chambers.


It didn’t make a difference. And so – we began to talk.


And on the last night when the pool was still open, some of us went in, and told the staff that the building was now in the hands of the community. They left. The doors were locked.


We would work in shifts – people staying in the building for one night, two nights, or longer than that if they could manage it. On the other side of the door, on Calder Street itself, there was a picket line with people there every hour of every day for five months. It became a place where people got to know their neighbours. New connections. People coming with biscuits, or sandwiches, or samosas. Tea and coffee. Young and old. Black and white. There were debates, and plans discussed on how we could keep  up the pressure on the council.


I had spent many hours on the picket line, often through the night. And I had also done three shifts inside the pool. I did an interview with Kenny MacIver for Radio nan Gàidheal, on a mobile phone – something that was still so new to me at the time.


Each time I was inside the building, I’d have a swim in the big pool. We weren’t able to heat the water, and the cleaning pumps weren’t working, but that didn’t bother me. It was a pleasure to swim on my own in a pool that was so often full of people. Up and down twenty times at a medium pace, and then on my back, lying on the cold water, looking up at the great, red, roof trusses, and the symbol of the city in the semi-circular window. Let Glasgow Flourish. The fish that couldn’t swim.


After my last shift, workers from the council broke in and drained the pool.


Some weeks after that, I got a phone call early in the morning. The police had appeared to take over the building. I went down. There were around twenty police. And it wasn’t long until there were more people from the local community than there were police officers. We started making a racket, hitting pots against the street, and singing.


When I left for my work, I thought there was no chance the police would succeed. There were were too many of us in the community who were willing to turn out to defend the pool. But when I returned in the evening, it was clear that the police would do anything to get control of the place. Hundreds of officers. Horses. A helicopter. Nearly every officer from the southside must have been there. The city crest was also on the front of the building, carved into the sandstone above the door, now blocked by a line of police. I looked up at it, and at the people were still trying to come between the police and the door. The bell that never rang. The tree that never grew. The bird that never flew.


But in the middle of the police – their yellow coats looking strange and foreign against the russet colours of the flats – the people were still staying by each other in the darkness: the branches of their lives strengthening; their roots in this place still growing; and their words still flying, echoing through the streets - ‘Whose pool? Our pool! Whose pool? Our pool!’ 


gaelic writing, protest, community, solidarity