I remember when John Ferguson slipped me twenty-quid and I went to the Oasis with the cash. My older brother Stephen—or SEV, as pre-Banksie, he liked to artistically daub on walls or doors— married his daughter Emily. Or wee Emily. I didn’t remember how small she was until I saw her today. Platform shoes of the kind that Elton John wore to play the part of Tommy, and sing Pinball Wizard , took Emily up to the glorious height of about five-foot (stripy-banded socks optional). She was a gorgeous wee thing, inside and out. She and her twin brother Gerry were adopted. When people say bloods thicker than water, I’ll just say Emily and Gerry were John and May’s children.
But when I count the years, I also count the bodies. Stephen’s dead, May’s dead and now John’s dead and I’ve not even got the end of the second paragraph. When John slipped me that cash, I thought he was Methuselah’s twin. But he was around the same age, or younger, than I am now.
Here’s a few quiz question which should help you determine whether you should start building a casket, or buying a used coffin (one careful owner).
- Do you remember the Oasis in Dumbarton Road and TJs beside the Co-op funeral parlour?
- Did you go to the Oasis and TJs?
If you answered YES to A and B you can start shopping for funeral plans (online, but you’re probably too old for that technical malarkey). If you answered just A, then you can probably put it off for about five years.
When John was born in early December nearly 90 years ago, we can guess it would be a dreich Glasgow day as it was when he was buried. Scottish weather, despite global warming, is consistent in its dreichness and summer is when your nose and the back of your ears burn. A £150 000 relief fund was set up to help fisherman who lost their nets and crippled the fishing fleet in a typical 1929, November, gale-force storm. Questions were raised in Parliament, blaming the workers for not anticipating God’s wrath and taking out insurance. The Wall Street Crash, 1929, (like the crash in 2008) which wasn’t anybody’s fault, marked the start of the worldwide, Great Depression, which continued until the second world war. Death and carnage filled to overflowing order books as manufacturing rocketed.
John Ferguson, or Fergie as every Ferguson that lives in the West of Scotland is nicknamed, was too young to fight in the second world war, but he’d have been drafted for National Service. I don’t know about which arena of the armed forces he served in.
Full employment was the order of the day. Fergie was a bus driver. He’d the right kind of scowling face for that kind of work. Public transport was king and Fergie was riding high. Only snobs owned cars. About quarter of a million Glaswegians, for example, lined the streets in a driech downpour to mark the ending of the tram ‘caurs’ in September 1962. As usual, one of trams broke down, delaying the ending of the end.
Quiz question 2.
Do you remember watching a TV series On the Buses?
Fergie was On the Buses at that time. Drivers drove and looked miserable about it and the clippies did all the work. May was a clippie. May was Fergie’s clippie. On the Buses, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. May, his wife, was lovely, no joke.
I remember the house they had half way up West Thompson Street. Knocked down and re-built now. John and May in their later years had an upstairs house, Glenhead Road, Parkhall, back and front garden. John was diabetic and had a couple of heart attacks, but May died first. John moaned that Gerry and the grandkids didn’t come up to see him enough. They lived just a few streets away.
John didn’t moan when he’d phone Gerry to come and pick him up from John Brown’s pub, or ironically, The Pinetrees Hotel, which is now The West Park Hotel where refreshments were served after his funeral today. Let’s hope John doesn’t phone Gerry to come pick him up tonight. R.I.P.