Chapter 1: 1955-1959
This chapter isn’t going to be very long, owing to me being born in 1954 which I kinda covered in the prologue.
In 1955 we were living in a flat above a Newsagent (for those unfamiliar with the concept this was a shop selling newspapers (printed they were then on paper), tobacco and tobacco products (I hadn’t started smoking at that time so that wasn’t important) and sweets (candy for our cousins across the pond).
My cousin (Ann) used to baby sit me when she wasn’t at school on the odd occasions when my parents went out. I loved going round to hers (actually it was my Uncle John and Aunt Nella’s house) because she would put on her latest records, Buddy Holly, The Crickets, Jerry Lee Lewis and Cliff Richard were her favourites but she also had some by Chuck Berry and Little Richard. I had a preference for the American artists at that time. On a Friday night when my mum would take me round to her sisters, the adults would sit talking in the kitchen and Ann would take me into the living room to listen to the radio, hardly anyone had televisions in those days.
The biggest problem was the interference we used to get, I remember the signal fading in and fading out (just the same as Radio Luxembourg used to in the 1960’s). Or else she would take me upstairs into her room and put some of her records on. If her friend from around the corner came to visit then they would talk about girl things (just as well I was only a baby through most of this as it could have put me off girls completely for life). From 1956 onwards Ann started teaching me to read, starting me off with some simple Ladybird books and then moving up to her magazines (music ones she wasn’t going to start me reading her girlie ones which spoke about break-ups, periods and other intimate girl things). By the time my brother came along in August 1957 I was at the stage of being able to read almost anything. I asked Ann if I came across anything I didn’t understand (hence the reason for not letting me read her teenage girlie magazines).
The thing was that I would also be taken round to my Nana’s (my maternal Grandmother) who lived about 20 minutes walk away from us and my Uncle John, Aunt Nella and Ann. On occasion my Aunt Freda and Uncle Stan would be there with my other cousin, Stanley, who was 5 months older than me. We used to be called the Gemini Twins as we would do most things together whenever we met up. In these days there were no mobile phones (cell phones) and landlines (house phones) were rarer than televisions. My Nana had a television set, it was a rental set and absolutely massive with a very tiny screen, about the size of my iPad. Because two of my uncles (Uncle Bill (known as Buff) and Uncle Norman) lived there as well as my Aunt Joyce they had all clubbed together to get a television set in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. I used to love going round there not just to watch tv but also to listen to some of my Uncle Norman’s records, he had some 78’s of Duke Ellington, Nina Simone and others that I can’t remember now. American Jazz was his favourite music. Ann, Stanley and I would stay there on Saturday mornings while our respective parents would go shopping with my Nana into Newcastle. I really loved those days of doing very little but having fun and listening to all this different music, Jazz and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Nothing much has changed as you will see as we go through this brief history of my youth.
In 1958 my dad started becoming home sick and missing his siblings and parents, but it was approximately 6 months into the year before he moved up to Scotland, taking a job with Alexanders bus company in Kirkcaldy. The three of us (Graham, mum and I) followed him up with all our belongings about two weeks later. We were living with my Grandmother and Grandfather in St. Andrews until we got our first Scottish council place in Kinglassie in late 1958. At this time both my parents smoked and mum hadn’t given up either time she was pregnant. There was no Catholic primary school in Kinglassie so I was enrolled in the Episcopalian school just up the road. We had to travel on two buses every Sunday to go to church (Kinglassie-Cardenden then Cardenden-Kirkcaldy) with another two to travel home again after mass.
Anyway, it was about this time that I started driving my mum up the wall, aged 4 I started school in September 1958 and screamed when my mum left me at the classroom door until she had cleared the grounds, I think it took me about 2 months to start talking to the other “stupid” kids who didn’t know how to read. After I turned 5 I had stopped carrying on when being left so my mum had started dropping me off at the school gates. Even at that young age I knew I didn’t want to be at school as they were all conspiring to hold me back. I was refused permission to join the library unless I stuck to the kids section which contained books I’d already read with Ann. I felt that I was too intelligent to remain at that school and anyway, they were all different to me. There was one kid who told me I should go back to where I’d come from and he started picking on me every day before school, during breaks and after school. Since he lived across the road it was kind of hard to avoid him. However, the bullying stopped when the new kid moved in next door to me and we started hanging out together, walking to school together, sitting next to each other in class and doing things together during breaks.
This was the start of a beautiful friendship, not just for me but also for Ann when she came to visit as Andy had an older sister who was about Ann’s age so they would get together whenever Ann was up for a visit. So here we are in 1959, that year for Christmas I remember I was given a Meccano set, a building set with metal parts (small scale) and the tools to put it all together.
I also got another building set consisting of boards, pegs and other pieces which all clicked together to form roads, bridges etc. Anyway, we always attended early mass on Christmas Day after Santa had been but couldn’t open any presents until after we returned home. More to come in Chapter 2.