My brother Bod phoned to tell me Archie was dead. It was quick. I rolled out the platitudes. He was his pal, much more than mine. Archie only came to Clydebank once. And I was trying to work out when that was. I’d guess about ten years ago. Makadin (Davie Glen and Gordon Ritchie) were playing the bowling club beside my old school, St Andrews. That’s now housing. My next-door neighbour was there with his wife, and he’s now got dementia. I just went along to boo the band and meet up with Archie and Bod. Young Bod was seventeen and shouldn’t have been drinking. We went next door to play pool and laugh like schoolboys that had forgotten their homework and sneaked away from the band that was playing in the main hall.
Archie liked his music and could carry a tune. I’m the kind of guy the music teacher hands the triangle and asks them not to sing, and don’t dare move my lips, unless it was to say I was leaving. So we didn’t have that in common.
We both loved Celtic. Archie was born in 1958, the same year as Elaine C Smith, whom he looked a bit like, but with more of a belly laugh. Archie perched specs on the end of his nose to look down at you with that quizzical expression—that meant, fuck off with those kind of jokes.
1958, The same year ‘Gentleman John Ramensky’ British Second Word War hero and Scotland’s most notorious safe blower escaped from Peterhead’s maximum security prison for the third time was captured delivering gold, frankincense and myrrh to Archie’s Ma. She refused the gifts because they were knocked off. Archie was four years older than me, but he’d tell me he looked younger because he’d hair, and was better looking, anyway. We both watched Casey Jones coming down the track on BBC Saturday morning telly and Zorro, with his swishing black cape, would make an appearance, cutting into the night like his mate Baz. And the other three wise men
Old Joe took Grangemouth’s three wise men, Bod, Baz and Archie in the opposite direction to show them the delights of his homeland. We all know about old Joe, who played international football with Ferenc Puskás, but escaped to the West and ended up in Grangemouth of all places. Did they make it out of the equivalent of the Hungarian Ship Inn? Answers on a postcard to yourself. That was 2016. Archie was hitting his peak season.
Bod joked Archie had another marriage in him. I think he was married three times and had eight more children than the Waltons. When I went to see Bod in Grangemouth, I saw Archie. Kevin had just started working and I’d first met Archie in The Ship Inn. The last time we were out, I’d a couple of cans in his house while we watched some of the Celtic game and went into the town. We might even have been treble-treblers. So that must have been two years ago, before lockdown. Three pints and I was drunk and ready for my bed.
When Bod was having a hard time, Archie was the best man. For the second time, he stepped in and gave him a place to stay, and that was that. Deeds, not words, are what you’re remembered for.
Archie could be a bit forgetful. Perched on a barstool in Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport he closed his eyes for a moment and the flight home to Glasgow left without him. Old Joe couldn’t take him anywhere. That would be one of Archie’s last holidays abroad.
He worked to live, not lived to work. His last job was with the council, but before that he was a lorry driver. He was in no hurry to get anywhere; he liked to have a couple of pints in the local boozers with his mates. Listen to music, tell you it was shite, crack a pint glass on top of another to liven it up, give it bubbly. Archie liked to do a bit of moaning, but not about anything too serious. I’ll miss Archie, not because of his moping, but because he was one of the good guys. He was a distant pal. For my brother Bod, it will be like losing a brother. He was his best man in so many ways. RIP.