My childhood was a sustained period of celebration that happened in a magical time and place that was full of colour, innocence, and freedom.
The scene was set, purely by chance, two years before I was born. One day my father read an article in a newspaper about housing bosses taking bribes for houses. At the time, he was living in the Townhead area of Glasgow with my mother and three sisters. The flat, a single end, had no toilet, no kitchen and only one room. The environment was filthy by today’s standards and people struggled to get by on a day to day basis. He was so angry he wrote a letter to the housing department that night. The following week he was offered a house in Lillyburn Place, Drumchapel.
The house was in a quiet cul-de-sac, was in perfect condition, and had two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen. The back windows looked onto a sea of green fields, a giant water tower and a farm. My mother was over the moon and they moved in just before Christmas, 1963.
The sixties kept giving and giving, jobs were plentiful and tons of new opportunities and experiences opened to all. People began to take holidays abroad, buy cars and tour further afield. Churches got in on the act by opening social halls and organising mystery bus runs all over Scotland. Young people expressed themselves through music and fashion. Flower power sprung its roots with bright colours, dance, long hair styles, music, festivals, “groovy” new words and much more. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elvis and many others churned out thousands of vinyl records in a battle to be number one.
For the first time, every home had electricity. Cookers, fridges, washing machines, carpets, record players and radios became must have items in every home. Previously unvoiced masses were grabbing the headlines as good triumphed over evil; the Civil Rights movement in America was gaining momentum, laying seeds for future change and 400,000 people gathered to take part in a “hippy” music festival at Woodstock Farm, America. It was as if we were coming out of a deep depression and the planet was wearing a smile.
My father didn’t know it but the second half of the decade was about to deliver even more. At 6.50pm on the 10th January, 1965 he was blessed by the arrival of a son. After work, he travelled to Redlands hospital in the West End of Glasgow to be with his wife and new baby. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my sisters waited with bated breath to get their first glimpse of their new baby brother. Said enthusiasm soon wore off and was replaced by constant complaining and complete indifference. Cries of “Do I have to watch him” or “It’s not my turn” were commonplace.
Overall, the girls were alright, although they did favour sister number three, Evelyn, and spoiled her accordingly. As it turns out there were two other girls in our close who were the same age as me. Life was simple and I didn’t have a care in the world – every day was play-day.
The seasons were in tune with nature and the summers arrived bang on time.
Sister number one, Marie, would track me down when it was time to come in. Embarrassed, she would chase me all over the street while the other children shouted and cheered. When tomboy sister number two, Kathleen, turned up, I would give up.
On Thursday 25 May 1967, my father’s favourite football team, Celtic F.C., won the European Cup. They were the first British club to lift the trophy and all the players hailed from in and around Glasgow. Ripples of this famous victory spread far and wide and it is still talked about today.
Next, televisions and telephones arrived in our homes. The world was becoming a smaller place and it seemed anything was possible. The next logical thing to do it seemed was to visit the moon. And so on July 20, 1969 Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took one small step for mankind. This was watched by millions who gathered around TVs all over the world.
Just as change had entered my family’s life overnight, the same would happen to me.
The writing was on the wall when I was sent to nursery school: being locked up from 9am to 3pm didn’t sit well with my emancipated disposition. Then when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they sent me to a place called “school” wearing a uniform and a balaclava. I had no idea I would have to go to this place every day for the next twelve years or so.
On my first day I punched a boy’s nose when the teacher was out of the classroom and there was blood everywhere. The teacher returned to find me cleaning up the crime scene with the sleeve of my blazer. She went mental. Everything was falling apart. The family decided to move to a bigger house far away from all of my friends and my countryside paradise. The clock struck 12.01am, December 31st 1969 and the sixties were over.
We moved to a three bedroom flat in Drumry Road, Drumchapel close to the border of Clydebank. Situated on a busy main road, I had no friends and nowhere to play. Two years later I would come face to face with the unexpected death of my mother. I was only seven years of age and longed for my mother’s warm embrace and times gone by.
Nothing has ever come close to that magical time, and then I found a way to travel in time and place. All I have to do is close my eyes and listen to music and I am immediately transported to the place I heard it first. Simple! My paradise in Lillyburn Place no longer exists; Lost in time, but forever in my heart.