I watch lots of films. I guess it’s a way of turning off my mind. A passive acquiescence. But I found Surge, claustrophobic. The plots of most stories are quite simple. Make it hard for the protagonist. And I’m not going to go into that thing of there only being seven basic types. Joseph (Ben Whishaw of This is Going to Hurt) has a shitty job. He works in security at a London airport. He goes home, comes back and does the same things every day. It’s his birthday. That too is part of the routine. It’s all there on his face. He hates his job and he hates his life. Nobody cares about him, even his mum and dad are unsympathetic characters.
Joseph has a meltdown. He rebels against the mundane life that is killing his spirit. In trying to make things better, his mental health gets worse. Mad, bad or sad? As he gets madder, the viewer (me) gets sadder, because good writing demand that these kinds of things could happen, do happen. I’ve seen them happen many times.
Bob, for example, trying too hard to be normal. And being sent to prison in Greenock for six months for carrying an offensive weapon, a scrim, for cleaning windows. He was completely bonkers. As bonkers as Joseph is here. Makes you think. At least he didn’t rob a bank.
I usually pick up these wee books from the library every year. Anybody that has written anything knows the feeling of triumph at being published. They are published by Scottish Book Trust. And they’re free. The paradox of free stuff is snob value. If it’s free, it must be shite.
Almost thirty stories and poems in five sections—Community legends, Making it home, Origin Stories, Finding my place and Tales to treasure—and not one dud.
Most stories are told in a page or two. There is an art to that. Try it at home. You’ll find it’s as easy as painting your reflection in a dark room.
Foxes, by Iris Potter, for example, has that first line that draws you into the story.
‘My dad came across an abandoned fox cub when he was of primary school age.’
I might have suggested ‘primary-school age’ but everything else is good to go. The reader has a question that needs answered. What happened next?
I’ll not tell you. You can find out for yourself. And it’s free. Pick one up from your library. Read on.
Sam Knight reminds the reader, I’m not just making this up. I believe him. I love this kind of wacky stuff and read it in one go. But when Knight tells the reader what psychiatrist John Barker was thinking about when he was flying into New York in the mid-sixties, he’s writing fiction. It’s the kind of world Stephen King writes about and asks questions like how can we know what we do not know? In one of King’s novels, the protagonist sets out to kill the American President who was going to begin the Third World War. Remember, this was written before the moron’s moron was elected in 2016.
A case he highlights was featured in Life magazine in the 1960s. Malete Hanzakos lived in New York. He was a naturalised immigrant who emigrated from Sparta, Greece, in the 1930s. He didn’t marry and his closest relative was his sister Constance. He chose a headstone, had the grave dug, and invited his sister and her son for burgers at L.K. Restaurant. He gave away the few things he had owned with envelopes of cash. When his nephew tried to hand the cash back, he said he didn’t need it and dropped down dead. Heart attack, natural causes.
There are multiple ways of explaining this. Beginning with your starting position, we might end up with different answers. Occam’s razor suggests Malete Hanzakos knew he was going to die and died. The simplest solution is often the best. But it also suggests that a mechanical version of cause and effect does not work in life. Time must somehow be more than what we think and related to how we feel. We are all each other. Jung’s notion of the collective unconscious suggests that future events such as the tragedy at Aberfan will cause a ripple effect that can be picked up before it happens.
The paradox is if we save somebody from dying, they couldn’t really have been dead. There are countless stories about this. ‘Death in a Nut’, for example. Or the story of a man seeing Death in the market and galloping hundreds of miles away and Death being surprised to see him there. We’re talking about fate and fated. Predestination. The bullet with your name on it, in popular First (and Second) World War mythology.
A little girl in Aberfan had a dream she told her mother.
‘No Mummy, you must listen. I went to school and I dreamt there was no school there. Something black had come down all over it.’
Eryl Mai was buried the next morning in the school by something black.
Psychiatrist, John Barker, like hundreds of others, visited Aberfan. He wanted to help. But he also liked being in the limelight. He wrote to Peter Farley, the science editor of London’s Evening Standard. Farley’s big break came from a piece of luck or insight which he couldn’t really explain himself. He was receptive to the idea of setting up what they called a Premonitions Bureau.
28th October, 1966, he publicised and carried an appeal for people that had ‘a genuine premonition before the coal tip fell on Aberfan?’
The response was encouraging enough for the newspaper to employ Jennifer Preston to catalogue cases. There was news in it. But the results of further premonitions and predictions were around 97% guff. Almost all predictions that were accurate came from Miss Middleton and Alan Henscher. They both warned John Barker about his impending death. He died in a Shrewsbury hospital in 1968. The Premonitions Bureau fell out of vogue. A different, but similar, version carried on in New York. You may be fated to read this book, but don’t read too much into it. Read on.
Start with the big stuff. Headlines that grab your attention—and demand something needs to be done. The murders of six members of the Doyle family in April 1984, which included a baby and fourteen-year-old boy in Bankend Street in the north-east of Glasgow, elicits that guttural response.
The bad guys were captured. Joe Steele, who is around the same age as me, and (‘TC’) Thomas Campbell, who died aged 66, in 2019 at his home in the East End of Glasgow. They were sent to life in prison for the arson attack. Someone had climbed the stairs in the modern tenement block in Bankend Street, poured petrol through the door and set it alight. Six of the Doyle family died, three survived. After seven hours of deliberation, the jury reached a ‘Guilty’ verdict that was never in much doubt. Joe Steele later quipped, ‘If they’d tried the Pope, they’d have found him guilty’.
Andrew Doyle was one of the victims. He was aged eighteen and drove an ice-cream van for Marchetti Bros in the East End of Glasgow. At a time of high unemployment, drivers could make decent money. Housing schemes cut off from shops and pubs, a desert wae windows, Billy Connolly called it. Residents came to rely on the chimes of the ice cream vans to bring fags and sweets and odds and ends. Marchetti Bros expanded their fleet in the East End of Glasgow to 37 ice-cream vans. A lucrative market.
An ice-cream war was a term coined by the media to describe the motive for murder. Archie McDougall, Company Secretary for Marchetti Bros, in other words, a boss, described the more mundane ways vans would try to take over their runs. A non-Marchetti Bros would appear and speed ahead of their van, sounding its bells. There was nothing illegal in this. Marchetti Bros had ways of dealing with interlopers. All ice-cream van driver needed was a trading license. Issued by Glasgow Council, which was (s)Miles Better as the marketing campaign of that time was trying to present to the world.
TC Campbell didn’t have a van license, but his wife did. He’d done time for violence and robbery and had a criminal record. By his account, this was him going straight. Archie McDougall told how one of his drivers had handed back the keys to the van. He’d been made ‘an offer he couldn’t refuse’ and he named TC Campbell. He was a hard man and a hard man to refuse.
There was talk of more than sweeties being traded from the back of vans. In other words, drugs. But it was high risk. Nanette Pollock, Detective Strathclyde Police, admitted they’d also heard the same rumours, but searched very few vans. For crooks it was a mug’s game. If a van was searched there was nowhere to hide.
TC Campbell said he’d gone straighter. Read into that what you will. I’m guessing what he meant was no longer carrying out armed robberies. But if somebody was offering to sell knocked-off fags or 1000 boxes of Mars bars, he had a ready market.
It’s not clear where Joe Steele comes into this other than by association. His dad was a safe-cracker and knew TC Campbell’s dad from prison. They were versed in the unwritten rule of working-class neighbourhoods: you never grass. That’s what made you who you were.
Andrew Doyle, for example, who was called Fatboy by TC and his associates, was beaten up. The windscreen of the ice-cream van he was driving was shot at by a shotgun. But he went back to work and didn’t grass. A working theory used by detectives on the Doyle murder case was setting fire to his house was simply an escalation of what had happened before.
Norrie Walker and Charlie Craig were Strathclyde Police’s most senior criminal investigators. They’d a reputation for getting things done. TC Campbell was quickly in the frame. But he wasn’t alone in the dock. Police charged seven men for various offences during the ice-cream war. These included, Thomas Gray known as Tam Bear. He was an associate of TC. He was like a Viking berserker. Gary Moore. He was a tough, tough, customer. Thomas Lafferty, known as ‘Shadow’ was TC’s brother-in-law. And Joe Steele.
Joe Steele’s mum got up on the dock and swore on the bible her son had been at home, with her that night. And she’d seen him at 3 am. She wasn’t believed.
Tam McGraw died in 2007. He denied any involvement in the murder of the Doyle family. He was questioned but his alibi that he was away buying a car was accepted by Strathclyde Police. He was muscling in on the ice-cream business. He later became a successful businessman. He’d another name, The Licensee, which had an apparent association with the pub he owned, The Caravel. Robert McInnes, Detective, Serious Crime Squad suggestion that he’d immunity from arrest and a license to commit crimes, because he was a grass, or in more technical terms, a police informant, were shot down. ‘Rubbish. Absolute garbage. How can he be licensed when we’ve caught him?’
Strathclyde Police, as you’d expect, didn’t help Paul Ferris when he was filming his life story in and around Glasgow at that time. Ferris, of course, was involved in another high profile murder trial in which he walked claiming police corruption. Tam McGraw, ‘The Licensee,’ was out as a major source for Strathclyde Police in Ferris’s book.
Joe Steele, whose constant escape bids, including handcuffing and supergluing himself to the gates of Buckingham Palace, kept the injustice of their case in the media, and wider public. He broke a lifetime of habit and named Tam McGraw as a grass. He was grassing a grasser. It was McGraw, he said, that had ordered the frighteners be put on Doyle and his front door set alight. TC said the same thing to a journalist.
Scotland’s stories of injustice and corruption take a wide road around the murder conviction of Raymond Gilmour in 1981 for the rape and murder of schoolgirl Pamela Hastie. Gilmour was around the same school age, but a bit dumb. That’s not a crime, or most of my mates and me would be in the dock. But Gilmour was local and knew the highways and byways of the woods and paths in Johnson where the attack happened. He was also a flasher. A suspect that would be known to the cops. A suspect that was arrested and admitted he done it. His confession was the key to his conviction.
Gilmour did confess. But the senior investigating officer quickly spotted inaccuracies in what he was confessing to. He might have been threatened with violence by the arresting officers. He might have been beat up.
In contrast, TC Campbell and Joe Steele would have expected to be threatened with violence and beaten up. Joseph Granger, for example, who was a key Crown witness the case, according to police statements said he was in Bankend Street that night with the accused, and went up the stairs with them. But when he went on the stand, and said he lied. He was arrested for perjury when he stepped down.
William Love, a petty-criminal, was in Barlinnie Prison, when he agreed to give evidence for the Crown. He claimed to have overheard TC and his gang plotting to burn down the Doyle’s home. A claim he later retracted after he’d fled to London.
Evidence in both cases was policemen standing up in the dock and telling the jurors what they’d faithfully recorded the accused of having said. The equivalent of ‘it was me guv’.
Charlie Craig was head of The Serious Crime Squad in Scotland. He closed the Gilmour case in the same way he closed the murder of the Doyle family. With little forensic, or supporting evidence, the police stepped into the breach. The murderers of the Doyle family have gone unfound and unpunished. As has the rapist and murderer of Pamela Hastie. But, then again, neither have the murderers of the 72 residents that died in Grenfell.
In April 1984 an arson attack on the north-east of Glasgow killed six members of the same family.
Denise Mina, writer. The Doyle family are not involved in any criminality. They’re just this good working class family.
Police linked the attack to organized criminal gangs who were trying to muscle-in on the city’s ice-cream trade.
A lack of shops. A lack of pubs. Meant the ice-cream vans were the ideal way in which you could serve goods around the housing estates.
One victim, Andrew Doyle, worked as an ice-cream van driver in a housing scheme in north-east Glasgow.
Archie McDougall. Company Secretary, Marchetti (Bros). 37 vans in the East End of Glasgow. Very, very, friendly and outgoing. Which would be ideal for operating an ice-cream van.
It was common knowledge the Thomas Campbell was trying to intimidate drivers by heavy violence.
In the weeks before the attack Andrew Doyle had been victim of theats and intimidation.
A man piled out of the car with a balaclava and shotgun and blasted the windscreen.
The call came out to say, shots fired.
T.C. Campbell slashed, stabbed his way through Glasgow. He was a terrible man.
The trial that followed would be the biggest of its kind in Scotland.
This was the largest mass murder in Scottish criminal history.
At that time I thought whoever was on trial didn’t stand a chance.
After seven hours of deliberation, the jury returned with its verdict.
I remember thinking, I hope you rot in hell.
Joe Steele’s son claimed he’d been with her the whole night.
Q Why did you think the jury disregarded your evidence.
A Don’t know. I stood there and told the truth.
He (Steele) used glue to attach himself to the handrails of the Palace.
Denise Mina: We’re living with the consequences of this case. Suspicion of the police. The beleaguered feelings of the people on these estates. How do these things happen?
Les Trueman. Detective Strathclyde Police. The pressure of the whole thing was enormous. Something had to be done. We couldn’t let that go. That’s not something we could write up and say, ach well, you can’t really prove anything.
The manpower alone was immense.
Marion Scott, Reporter, Sunday Mail. Two of Glasgow’s most senior detective. Charlie Craig and (Detective Superintendent) Norrie Walker took charge of the manhunt.
Norrie Walker and Charlie Craig were kinda hewn from the same rock.
Charlie Craig was known a no-nonsense cop that would get things done. And seemingly cases that couldn’t be cracked. He would always seem to find his man.
Nanette Pollock, Detective Strathclyde Police. Charlie Craig’s approach to a crime was when eventually the investigation was done, and you got your person, not only did you prove the case against him, but you also proved nobody else could have done it.
Ken Smith, Reporter, Evening Times. The police were doing their best by following on various lines of enquiry. They were quite up front about the only line of enquiry they could see was the son that worked for an ice-cream van. They could see no other reason why this family would be targeted.
With the blaze leaving no physical clues. The police swept the city for witnesses who could provide information about the fire. They made a breakthrough with William Love.
A petty criminal awaiting trial for assault and robbery in Barlinnie Prison.
Douglas Skelton, Journalist & Crime writer:What he told was that he had been in a bar (The Jigging) in the east-end of Glasgow on a particular night, when he heard Thomas Campbell and others discussing setting fire to fatboy’s door. Fatboy being the way they talked about Andrew Doyle.
Police also interviewed another possible witness. Joseph Granger.
In an statement, he said he’d been with the accused in a street on Bankend Street on the night of the fire.
12th May 1984.
The police finally started to make arrests and among them was Thomas Campbell. Thomas Campbell had bought a van. His wife, she had the trader’s license. Effectively the Campbell family were in the ice-cream van business.
Arrested several associates.
Thomas Gray known as Tam Bear. He was an associate of TC. He was like a Viking berserker.
Gary Moore. He was a tough, tough, customer.
Thomas Lafferty, known as Shadow was TC’s brother-in-law.
In Joe Steele’s case, TC was friendly with his brothers. And TC’s father knew Joe Steele’s father.
Another associate was questioned, but released without charge, after providing an alibi.
Tam McGraw, I think, also owned ice-cream vans. And, in fact, he helped TC to buy his ice-cream van.
Nearly six months on, police had charged seven men, in relation to the fire and other crimes committed during the ice-cream wars.
[did the wars stop then?] baseline:
3rd April 1984. Trial.
Bill McFarlan, Reporter STV. This was the biggest trial Scotland had known. Everybody, all the newspapers, radio and television stations, they were all there covering it.
Ken Smith, Reporter, Evening Times. 7 accused. Each had a senior counsel. So when you walked in you saw maybe 14 or 15 people. People with wigs on. Just a sea of wigs.
Four of the accused where charged with plotting and carrying out the murders. TC the ringleader. Thomas Gray, Gary Moore and Joe Steele.
The other three were charged with incidences of violence and intimidation relating to the ice-cream wars.
Archie McDougall. Company Secretary, Marchetti (Bros). The only time I’d been in court before if we were chasing drivers for the money they owed us. And I was slightly nervous. But I managed to give the evidence I was asked to give. Reads transcript.
‘The court was told that one of the van drivers was eighteen-year-old Andrew Doyle, who’d been the driver of an ice-cream van controlled by Marchetti Bros. When Archie Dougal, company secretary of the wholesale ice-cream firm, was asked what happened to his young driver, a hushed court heard him reply ‘He was burnt to death’.
I don’t even remember saying that.
10th September 1984.
On the 6th day of the trial, three surviving members of the Doyle family took to the witness stand.
Ken Smith, Reporter, Evening Times. This was just a decent Glasgow family that had been targeted. They just so little evidence to give. They just woke up in the middle of the night with a fire and their family dying around them. Their sheer innocence meant that their evidence was not in any way dramatic. Just heart-breaking.
I was out talking to people in the East-End and there was no doubt you were talking to some terrible, terrible people.
You know T.C. Campbell, he was a terrible, terrible man. And you know the fact his wife was running an ice-cream van, and he, in all innocence, was trying to say, ‘it had nothing to do with me’.
Archie McDougall. Company Secretary, Marchetti (Bros). I must admit I was surprised that TC was maintaining his innocence. From my point of view, he was behind it from the start.
The case against TC centred on objects discovered as his home while he was being arrested.
Douglas Skelton, Journalist & Crime writer: They found pick-axe handles and other weapons. And a map, like a street-directory map, with Bankend Street circled.
As well as the weapons and the map, the prosecution case rested on the evidence of eyewitnesses. And on the sixth day of the trial they called Joseph Granger.
Douglas Skelton, Journalist & Crime writer. One of the biggest shocks would have been Joseph Granger, who, according to his police statements, was actually in Bankend Street with them on the night of the fire, with them as allegedly two men went up the stairs.
On the stand he said that he didn’t actually make those statements.
He signed them because he wanted to get away. He was insistent on that. He was promptly arrested as he came off the stand, for perjury.
Without Joseph Granger’s evidence there was nothing to tie Gary Moore and Thomas Gray to the scene. The murder charges against them would later be dismissed. Leaving only TC and Joe Steele accused of the murders.
Douglas Skelton, Journalist & Crime writer. The onus fell on William Love to be the star witness. (only witness).
Ken Smith, Reporter, Evening Times. When William Love came in and gave evidence of overhearing TC plotting the case in a pub – go through your mind, would you speak so openly in front of other people about this?
Then again, part of your brains says, perhaps he was so arrogant and so full of his hold over the area that he could speak about this, knowing nobody would talk about it.
3rd October 1984.
The prosecution would call on the testimony of police officers who arrested Campbell and Steele.
Four officers reported that Steele had confessed on the way to the police station.
Joe Steele. They said they went into the motor and drove away, and right away I said, ‘I’m no the one that lit the match’. Same sort of thing as if saying ‘I was there but never lit the match’. Which was pure nonsense. Nonsense.
The copper who were interviewing us at the time of the murders, that was Charlie Craig, Walker. They said to us, ‘We know you never done it. But it’s up to you to get yourself out of it. Help yourself to help us.’
So I would have just been putting people in the same position as me that genuinely didnae know nothing or anything like that.
When I was a wean, nane of my family talk to the police. None of my family do. None of my pals kind of thing. We were brought up that way.
Similarly, police officers also testified that TC had incriminated himself shortly after the arrest.
Douglas Skelton, Journalist & Crime writer : According to the evidence, TC blurted out: ‘I only wanted the van windaes shot out. The fire at Fat Boy’s was a frightener that went too far.’
These were all taken down and seen as confessions.
Denise Mina, Crime writer: At that time confessions that was a slam dunk. You could just shut your book at that point because you had them.
[young]Bill McFarlan, Reporter STV. Jurors as asked to decide on the guilt or innocence of Thomas Campbell, aged 31 and Joseph Steele, aged 22, who are accused of murdering six members of the Doyle family by setting fire to their home.
Ken Smith, Reporter, Evening Times. When I went back to court that day and was I talking with Charlie Craig, who was in charge of the investigation, I said to him that my new editor thought the evidence was a bit thin.
And Charlie said to me, ‘really, what’s his name?’
‘What’s his car registration?’
He said it with such a straight face I actually thought he was genuinely joking. Or whether he would have had him stopped, because I think there was nervousness that the evidence was a bit thin.
Nanette Pollock, Detective Strathclyde Police. The Fiscal was happy with the case and the Crown was happy with the case and all the work that went into it with experienced detective officers…there’s no way that I would ever think it wasn’t the right people.
Robert McInnes, Detective, Serious Crime Squad. I don’t think there was enough evidence there. But I could see why they would be pressing them to get a conviction because it was a terrible crime.
Ken Smith, Reporter, Evening Times. There seemed to be an almost psychological pressure on the jury that these were criminals. And whether the evidence they carried out the crime was thin, there seemed to be in no doubt they had carried it out.
10th October 1984.
[young]Bill McFarlan, Reporter STV. At 2.30 this afternoon, after seven hours of deliberation, the jury returned to the courtroom with its verdict.
News. Two men have been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a family of six in what became known as Glasgow’s ice-cream war.
[older] Bill McFarlan STV: T C Campbell and Joe Steele both given life sentences of 20 years. And T.C. Campbell given a further 10 years for a shotgun attack also. And when he was given that sentence, he turned around to the media, and glared in our direction. And I just remember thinking to myself, ‘may you rot in hell’.
The four other men accused were found guilty of a range of crimes relating to the ice-cream wars.
Release of Guildford 4. Release of Birmingham 6. Steele and Campbell became known as the Glasgow 2.
Thomas Love signs an affidavit for John Carol (QC) saying that what he said (in court) wasn’t true.
Douglas Skelton, Journalist & Crime writer. Getting William Love that was the key.
Douglas Skelton’s chapter in a book had become a whole book, ‘Frightener’.
TC speaks out. A campaign for the truth. Though truth we’ll find justice. And through justice we’ll find freedom. Our voice has never been heard. Nobody hears our side of the story. Nobody ever knows what the true facts are.
25th April 1993. Garthamlock.
31 year old Steele escaped from Glasgow, handcuffed himself to Buckingham Palace gates.
Brother: That one stint, turned the whole thing round.
John Carroll, Solicitor. There was a part of me that said, Good on yeh. You’ve made your point. You will go back. You will face the consequences of that. But good on yeh. You’ve not done anybody any harm.
Nanette Pollock, Detective Strathclyde Police. That’s the kind of extreme things that criminals will do. But I never doubted they didn’t do the crime.
Marion Scott, Reporter, Sunday Mail. Joe became the kind of Scarlet Pimpernel of the Scottish Prison System. And it kept his story, certainly in the headlines.
Joe Steele. One of the police said, that’ll be you, you’ll be locked up for years and on the block and whatever.
And I was only kidding. I said, I’ll be oot next week.
25th May 1993.
Joe escapes from Saughton Prison. While escaped tries to maximise publicity.
I don’t take parole. The first thing they ask you is to show remorse for your guilt. I can’t for something I’ve not done.
Marion Scott, Reporter, Sunday Mail He couldn’t bear the thought of always being known as the man who killed a whole family, and a child. I don’t blame him for that. And he would have got out years before. But I think he wanted the proper truth to come out.
Interview with [escapee] Joe Steele on Jura. I’ve lost my whole family. I’ve lost my son. He’s 12 now. He was 18 months when I came in. So obviously I’m bitter. I’ve done nine years. Ten years for something I huvenae done. And I’ve been crying out for nine years for help.
Joe Steele [present] I knew what I was doing when escaping and things like that. I never ever wanted to run away to stay away, which I’d have done if I was guilty. I was daeing that tae highlight my case and brought attention to it.
After six weeks on the run, Joe returned to Glasgow for one final publicity stunt.
[Then] You’ve escaped from prison. Break back into prison. That’d be very high profile. There’s a scaffolding tower near the admiration block of the front office.
The convicted killer Joseph Steele is staging a protest outside Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison.
[Then] I’m up her to draw attention to the miscarriage of justice for myself and Tommy Campbell, who have been wrongfully convicted now for ten years. And nobody’s done nothing about it.
[present] I’d have never put my ma and the family, hail, rain or snow and protesting and all that. I’d never put my ma through that in a million years if I was guilty. Never.
Douglas Skelton, Journalist & Crime writer. And I lot of people said to me, that’s when their opinion changed. Because they said why would he…? He could have been away. But he wasn’t- he handed himself back. Why did he do that?
1st November 1993.
He’s one of Scotland’s most senior judges. Today Lord McCluskey accused the police of lying in court when it suited them, inventing false confessions to get people convicted.
I can think of several cases where a person is alleged to have made a statement which condemns himself, and to have made that statement in the presence only of one or two policemen in a police car.
Les Trueman. Detective Strathclyde Police. It’s not terribly professional but you don’t know the circumstances, you know? There’s a lot of people who would maybe give you a statement, but they don’t want to sign it. Others would tell you something but they don’t want to write it down. You know, that’s what you’re up against in these things.
The decades since TC’s and Joe Steele’s convictions had seen vast changes in Glasgow. And another initial suspect in the case had become one of the most powerful but mysterious men in the city.
Ken Smith, Reporter, Evening Times. We now know that Thomas McGraw was one of the people they looked at. My understanding was that he had an alibi about buying a car, which, whether it’s true or not, at least took him out of the case.
Marion Scott, Reporter, Sunday Mail. Tam McGraw would have loved to have thought of himself as a gentleman gangster. And I knew that he would have made a great effort in making himself out to be a local hero. In you know, the schemes where he operated…But there was a nasty sinister side to him too.
Douglas Skelton, Journalist & Crime writer. TC didn’t think much of him. But yeh, I think he was a dangerous man and I think he would be capable of violence himself if he had to be. But he had a lot of different business interests as well. Legitimate business interests. His code name, allegedly with Strathclyde Police was The Licensee and that was because it’s been alleged that he was also an informer for the police.
Robert McInnes, Detective, Serious Crime Squad. I thought he got it because he was the licensee of a pub [The Caravel]. Some of the criminals, I’ve heard, think it was because he was telling the polis – he was licensed to commit crime. Rubbish. Absolute garbage. How can he be licensed when we’ve caught him?
I personally arrested his team twice.
Marion Scott, Reporter, Sunday Mail. And during that time, of course, his reputation grew within, you know, a certain category of the criminal underworld. Other figures hated him. Because they believed he was a grass.
[news then, Jackie Byrd] The secretary of state has decided to refer the cases of the so-called ice-cream wars back to the Appeal Court.
It’s understood the evidence is based on a key witness.
[young]Bill McFarlan, Reporter STV. William Love says now and has said for the last five years that everything he told the police was a complete lie.
[Interview with WilliamLove]
12 years after their conviction, Joe Steel and TC were released on bail, pending an appeal.
Robert McInnes, Detective, Serious Crime Squad. I wasn’t surprised. Because of the whole case. Nobody ever saw who was at the door. Who went up the stairs. I don’t know how you could actually… be determined and say it was definitely them.
The Court of Criminal Appeal, 10th February 1998.
[then] Joseph Steel and TC arrived at the court this morning that would end 13 years of campaigning.
TC questioned by reporter. It could be all over today?
TC: Yes, I’m hopeful it will be.
Douglas Skelton, Journalist & Crime writer. I really thought it would go through. And common sense would prevail.
Lord Cullen gave their majority decision.
In the light of the views, which I have expressed, the appeals should, in my opinion, be refused.
Joe Steele and TC were returned to prison to server their life sentences.
John Carroll, Solicitor. I did not have a high level of expectation in this case. In fact, it’s more common than not that someone who’s granted bail pending an appeal is going to lose that appeal.
[then] Steele and Campbell’s family were distressed and angered by the judgement.
Douglas Skelton, Journalist & Crime writer. When the judges were reeling out…reading the rulings, the person that was with me, leaned over and said, ‘I can’t believe what they’re doing to these guys.’
Marion Scott, Reporter, Sunday Mail. The effect this had on Joe was absolutely devastating. I think it was just as hard as the day he was convicted.
I think the judges, two-to-one on that occasion did not think that William Love changing his statement was enough…to cast doubt on the verdict of the court. Because they also had, of course, the police evidence.
In the original trial a number of police officer testified that they had heard Steele and Campbell admit to involvement in their murders during their arrests.
But another case raised questions about the creditability of such evidence.
[then]reporter] Police have opened their filed on the case of a Johnston man accused of killing a schoolgirl, following an 11-year campaign by the man’s mother. Raymond Gilmour was jailed for life for rape and murder in 1981.
Gordon Richie, solicitor to Raymond Gilmour: I was first approached around 1990. The crime was a particularly heinous one. It was a schoolgirl who had left school early that day to go to a medical appointment. Because she’d left school early she was walking alone. Somebody attacked her and dragged her off the path. Raped her and strangled her.
Raymond Gilmour lived locally. He was someone of fairly low intelligence at that time. And he was known to frequent the woods. He was known to be a flasher. The police, er, apparently secured a confession from him. But the senior officer of the investigation at that time quickly dismissed the confession because it was full of inaccuracies. And it was quite apparent to him that the police had threatened and assaulted the suspect, Raymond Gilmour.
As time went on, the investigating officer was replaced, by the head of the…what they called The Serious Crime Squad in Scotland. A gentleman called Charlie Craig.
He took a decision at a very early stage of the investigation that Gilmour was the man that did it and he set about ensuring that there was evidence that supported his conclusion. He sent two senior detectives up to Longriggend Prison to effectively perform a taxi service from Longriggend to Paisley Sheriff Court and surprise, surprise – in the course of the journey, Raymond allegedly confessed again.
This confession would be the key to Raymond Gilmour’s conviction.
Gordon Richie, solicitor to Raymond Gilmour: I began to speak to people and they would tell me that you know, ‘that’s funny what happened in Raymond Gilmour’s case because that’s very similar what happened with the Campbell and Steele case.’
And then, of course, the common thread appeared that it was the same investigating officer responsible for the two convictions.
You can draw your own conclusions from that.
In 2007, Raymond Gilmour was cleared of the rape and murder of Pamela Hastie.
Denise Mina, Crime Writer. A verbal perjury was when a cop just puts the cherry on his cake. By standing up and saying, ‘I went to arrest him and he said, “I did do this.”’
And the court kinda accepts this because you have to trust the police. You know, the legal system is fundamentally flawed, but it’s the best we’ve got. It’s the best bad system we have. And if you start trying to fine tune that to your own will, the whole thing is going to fall apart.
Marion Scott, Reporter, Sunday Mail. Everything changed with the establishment of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.
This commission was set up to re-examine cases where miscarriages of justice were strongly suspected of having taken place.
The commission is an independent body with seven members with the authority to refer cases directly to The Criminal Appeal Court, a power previously held solely by the Secretary of State.
Marion Scott, Reporter, Sunday Mail. For the very first time, in a long time, I thought that this must be a golden opportunity for the truth to come out.
In 2001, the commission returned TC and Joe Steele’s case to the Court of Appeal. And once again, they were released on bail.
But as the court date approached, a relationship built over the past two decades, broke down.
John Carroll, Solicitor. So everything essentially was done. The grounds of appeal were all prepared. And I think we were about six weeks or so to go to the final hearing. Mr Campbell decided that what we were seeing, probably, as far as he was concerned wasn’t enough. But at the end of the day we had to withdraw from acting for him.
While John Carrol continued to represent Joe Steele, TC found a new solicitor.
Aamer Anwar, Solicitor for TC Campbell 2004: You had all these connotations in your head. Of who this individual is. Everything that he’d been through. The background, the violent background that he’d had. But when he’d smile…when he’d speak, he was extremely gentle with you. And…and he was clearly well-read. The word for him was justice. And it was also justice for the Doyle family. And he truly believed that.
To stand a chance the appeal court the commission required new evidence. The focus fell on challenging testimony given by police officers.
Steele had supposedly said, ‘I’m no’ the one that lit the match.’
While TC’s confession was more complicated.
Aamer Anwar, Solicitor for TC Campbell 2004: There was a Professor Clifford, who was a psychologist. And he looked the words that four police officers had said.
Crucially, Police officers admitted they’d not even written down the statements. Until later on the same day.
Aamer Anwar, Solicitor for TC Campbell 2004: It was found that unless you were a trained actor, and you repeated those words and repeated those words, the idea that four police officers come together and separately can write in their notebooks the exact words, even though two of them, I understand, said they wrote them later on, was impossible.
17th March 2004.
John Carroll, Solicitor. I was conducting a trial opposite the Appeal Court. So I wasn’t allowed out of that trial for more than about 15 minutes.
Aamer Anwar, Solicitor for TC Campbell 2004. The courtroom was packed.
Joe Steele [now] it was a crazy, crazy sight. My nerves were shattered man.
The Appeal Court accepted the new expert evidence.
That for the arresting officers to remember exactly what TC and Joe Steele had said was extremely unlikely…and that either man to have made such a confession to police would, in the judge’s words, have been remarkable.
Douglas Skelton, Journalist & Crime writer. I remember the cheer that went up as soon as the judge said, ‘In our opinion this is a miscarriage of justice’.
Aamer Anwar, Solicitor for TC Campbell 2004. The relief, the rush of knowing and Tommy turning around smiling. And just that…tremendous elation.
Marion Scott, Reporter, Sunday Mail. TC was holding court and pontificating in front of the crowds. And that was something Joe really didn’t do.
John Carroll, Solicitor. You feel flat. There is no exhilaration. I think this should never have happened, for example. This person should never have been brought to trial. And at the end of the day the only gratitude, the only satisfaction you get is that the correct decision was reached.
Joe Steele [present] Although we were delighted. We were still conscious in our head that the Doyle family were seeing that. I still think of that woman to this day, the whole family to this day. She was just a wee housewife. A scheme woman and they lost their family.
Joe Steele [present] I put a brave face on and kid on things are alright. But you cannae get locked up all those years and not have something wrong with your head.
My missus will say to us, I dae a lot of pacing up and down the house and things like that, the way you do in prison. And I do all that kind of thing and she’ll say I’m hard work and hard to live with, but I get through it all, and I get by and all that, but there’s still issues with my head and that, mental issues, you know what I mean?
Nearly four decades on, only theories remain as who was behind the attack on the Doyle home
Presenter Q to Joe Steele. [present] Can you tell me who ordered it?
Joe Steele: Tam McGraw. It had taken me a long time before I even came out with that. You know what I mean? But why should I protect a fucking rat that put my life through all that and other people’s lives?
And I’m sitting there going, “Oh, I don’t know”. “He couldn’t have done it, he didn’t”.
But aye, he ordered it. Better believe he ordered it.
Douglas Skelton, Journalist & Crime writer. TC always told me it was Tam McGraw who was behind it. He was convinced it was Tam McGraw that was behind the fire. But again, when pressed, when I pressed him for evidence, he really couldn’t come up with anything. It was just that’s what he believed.
Archie McDougall. Company Secretary, Marchetti (Bros).[present] When the murder trial started, the drivers were much more tentative. They were much more reluctant to take their vans out. Would you want to drive an ice-cream van if you thought there was any remote chance you might be murdered?
And, from that point of view, within I’d say two years, the business folded.
We literally could not get ice-cream van drivers.
I wouldn’t like to comment on who specifically lit the match, outside the Doyle family home, but I’m convinced in my own mind that TC was behind it.
TC died in 2019. He was 66 years old.
Tam McGraw died 2007. He denied any involvement in the murder of the Doyle family.
To this day, nobody has been convicted of the murder of the Doyle family.
In the early 1980s, Glasgow was a tale of two cities. While its leaders encouraged residents and visitors to see Scotland’s biggest city as ‘Miles Better’, refreshed with trendy bars and restaurants, its housing schemes became a battleground in criminal warfare. Gangsters found themselves fighting over an unlikely commodity – ice cream vans and the lucrative routes to be found in each of the city’s sprawling new schemes, such as Easterhouse and Ruchazie. The schemes housed thousands but gave them little access to shops, pubs or other facilities. With little alternative, ice cream vans thrived and evolved to sell a range of goods, making so much money that they attracted the attention of the city’s gangsters.
Competition was fierce and would escalate into violence, before becoming deadly on 16 April 1984. In the early hours of that morning, a fire engulfed a top floor flat in Bankend Street, Ruchazie, a three-bed apartment housing nine members of the same family. That family included Andrew Doyle, a young ice cream van driver who had received threats and intimidation in the months leading up to the fire. Six members of the Doyle family, including Andrew, would not survive the impact of the fire. Their ages ranged from 53 years to just 18 months.
It was, in its time, the greatest mass murder in Scottish history and led to an inevitable demand from the media and public for the police to find the killers and bring them to justice.
Featuring testimony from police officers, members of the ice cream business and reporters from the time, each with their own connection to the case, episode one examines how Glasgow’s tough housing estates had developed into an environment where ice cream van routes had become prized possessions, before revealing the lengths some were prepared to go to in order to secure them.
Eyewitnesses describe events around the deadly fire which engulfed the Doyle family home and the days after, with the beginnings of the police investigation and a funeral which moved many across Scotland
The summer of 1984 saw a criminal investigation which gripped Scotland in the aftermath of the fire that killed six members of the Doyle family. The police’s efforts to find those responsible would lead to one of the biggest trials in Scottish history, with seven men in the dock. In the end, just two, Thomas Campbell and Joe Steele, would be convicted of murder, despite doubts over the strength of the evidence against them.
The next decade would see one of the most dramatic campaigns for justice in history as both men fought to keep their case in the public eye. Their campaign would raise questions about the methods employed by police in order to secure convictions. Hunger strikes and no less than three prison escapes combined with the efforts of lawyers and writers on the outside would, in 1996, see both men released on bail, pending appeal. That appeal would fail though, seeing Campbell and Steele return to prison. With both refusing to accept parole, and, by definition, guilt for the crime, it was expected the two men would be forced to fully serve their life sentences.
The formation of a new criminal commission and the revelation of new expert evidence would change that. In 2004, 20 years after they were convicted, Thomas Campbell and Joe Steele were released from prison with their case declared a miscarriage of justice.
The case has left many issues unresolved. Nobody has subsequently been convicted, despite persistent rumours about who really ordered the arson attack on the Doyle home
I read. That’s what I do. I’ve got books in the toilet. In the kitchen and hall. Down the side of my chair and in my van, stashed behind the passenger seat. I no longer keep a book in the glove compartment. I’m not therefore an addict.
Before deaths and Amens, there’s a line that goes something like this: lead us not into temptation and out of our boozers and strip clubs, or away from offers of half-priced drugs because it’s Black Friday on a Thursday.
I inhale dopamine, because it’s free, but not for me. Habit habituates. The superhighway of our brains. Neurotransmitters are like Schroder’s cat. Chemicals and electrical impulses. They jump between neurons. Along the sensorimotor pathways. Knock around the pallidum. Shake hands with the midbrain and neofrontal cortex. And this is how you find yourself outside your front door shouting through the letterbox that you’ve lost your keys.
Wendy Wood quotes Mark Twain (more than once, which is a good habit to have) ‘Nothing needs reforming as other people’s habits.’
She tells the reader almost half of what we do is habitual. I’ve got friends that aren’t drug addicts or drunks, but they’ve crawled up inside their phones to die. Sometimes they pop their heads out. I warn them. That’s no good for you.
But it’s just like smoking was in the fifties and sixties. Around 80% of us smoked. Some of us smoked even more than that. They smoked 100%. They were the real addicts, like Laughing Boy on 80 fags a day.
What worked was making it harder for people to smoke. Wood calls that ‘friction’. Increasing prices until it’s almost £12 a pack. Not allowing advertisements, which is a form of social cueing. It works at an unconscious level by suggesting it’s cool. Making it harder to get fags. Locking cigerettes up. Putting them behind bars. But people still smoke. Mainly poor people.
Wood has an answer for that. ‘Rat Pack’ I wrote in my notebook. I simplify some concepts so I don’t understand them. That’s when I know I’ve gotten them right. Rat Pack quite simply means some people in Drumchapel take drugs and booze because they there’s fuck all else for them. If they moved two miles and lived in Bearsden, they’d immediately live ten years longer, get better educated, get good jobs, pay their mortgages and live the life of a contented rat. You can’t do that with people from Drumchapel or they’d bust you. So they did it with rats in a maze. One end of the maze was marked Drumchapel and offered unlimited drugs. The other end was Bearsden. Equally unlimited drugs, but also the chance not to take drugs and go and do something else instead.
Wood argues almost 100% of those in rehab programmes do not take drink or drugs. But within two years the majority, around 60-80% are back on it. AA has a better strike rate, even though many of these programmes adopt the 12-step programme.
The medical model of addiction fails because it treats the addict in isolation. She or he is seen to have some kind of deficit that needs medicated.
Context is everything argues Wood. By context she means addiction isn’t innate. We’re all addicts that need to replace bad habits with good. Environment plays a large part in addiction. She shows this with a study of American soldiers, grunts, returning from Vietnam.
In the early 1970s there was a moral panic about these supposed addicts. Heroin was easy to get in Vietnam as were most opioids and other drugs. These returning veterans who had tested positive in urine tests were seen a danger to the American way of life. But less than 5% of these tested veterans became addicts in America. The majority quietly got on with their lives, got educated and married and brought up children that didn’t take drugs, because they were for mugs.
Friction is not fiction. When drugs were on tap as they were in Vietnam, the majority of eighteen year old men will take them. Rat Pack. When they return home, drugs were no longer on tap.
Simple. Wood strays into dangerous territory. Neo-liberalism calls for no intervention in smoking, drinking or medicating for diseases like Covid. Manning up. No nanny state. What it calls for is more prisons. More Rat Packs. And our old favourite, the black hole that money pours into as more and more an incarcerated.
Wood tells a story about this. We love stories. That’s what makes us human. I like her story. It goes something like this (I’ve modified it a bit). A doctor jumps into a river to save a man. He brings him ashore and gives him the kiss of live and saves him. But he’s no time to congratulate himself. A woman is floating face down in the same river. He swims out and resuscitates her on the bank. Another body floats towards him. He gets out and does the same things. Again and again. Upstream, supporters of the moron’s moron are pushing in men and women. If they sink they’re true believers with the right stuff. The doctor is warned he better let them sink or swim or he’ll be next. Rat Packers. Read on.
A quote attributed to Mark Twain, but perhaps not said by Mark Twain, the great American writer and humourist goes something like this:
‘What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.’
David Baddiel shows footage of the moron’s moron supporters of the 45th American President chanting, ‘We will not be replaced by the Jews.’
It would be better for humanity if bottom feeders and plant life like this dragged out of the bargain basement of humanity and fed hatred three times a day were replaced by something more humane. Habits form from little lies becoming big lies.
Baddiel interview the actor David Schwimmer. He tells us that Jews make up less than two percent of the population of New York, but account for forty-percent of the hate crime.
Only it’s not really a hate crime to hate Jews goes Whoopi Goldberg. If the KKK came along, or Trump supporters, which is pretty much the same thing, her argument is only the black man or woman needs to scarper. Six million Jews dying, killed by the Nazis, wasn’t an act of racial hatred, because Jews are not a race, but a religion. It’s a whopper from Whoopi, the equivalent of blood libel that goes back to the Middle Ages.
Baddiel’s rhetoric about modern-day antisemitism is about exclusion not inclusion. He uses the example of Labour MP, Dawn Butler. She reads out a long list of exploited and oppressed people that Labour would support. He waits for Jews to be mentioned. He gets frustrated and angry by her omission.
Miriam Margolyes, who seems to pop up on every programme, on every channel, has her say. She, of course, describes herself as an old fat Jewish lesbian. She would have been on Dawn Porter’s list. She brought up the subject of Israel. She admitted, as an atheist Jew, she felt some responsibility for the mass murder and oppression of Palestine, non-Jewish, nationals (not her words).
Baddiel, described himself as an atheist, non-practicing Jew, and thus felt little responsibility. But he knew it would be a stick used to beat him. In the same way paedophile priest as used against practicing and non-practicing Roman Catholics. As if it was our fault. I side more with Margolyles on this one. In a way it is.
I don’t hate Jews. I hate Rangers. I hate Tories. And I hate Trump and all he stands for. Ironically, the racist, rapist, misogynist, thieving hate pedlar’s daughter, Ivanka, married into a Jewish family of property developer almost equally vile. Sometimes it’s not all black and white.
Many of the synagogues in Scotland have closed. The largest Jewish population remains in Glasgow, but it too is declining. For Jewish boys and girls to marry other Jewish boys and girls they may need to move to larger communities. For Jews, like Catholics, to count they need to fend off secularism and apathy.
Indian nationalist have made Muslims scapegoats in many of the same ways Hitler branded the Jews. Populist governments all over the world are doing the same thing, scapegoating, including Israel. Jews, such as Shakespeare’s Shylock or T.S.Eliot’s channelling of antisemitism have always hit a nerve. A form of emotional contagion. It can be and is deadly as Baddiel shows again and again. His old London Primary school, for example, now has a siren which sounds and Jewish children practice drills in which they flee from their attackers. But it’s also worth remembering that Sir Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts took a good beating in and around those same lanes. Trump’s supporters are in retreat. Brazil has elected a less toxic President and populism, at last, may well be in decline. I may be wrong. Like Mark Twain, ‘it ain’t so.’
Hate is a habit we pick up from an early age. We don’t need to think. George Orwell in 1984 got it pretty much right with hate-crime that wasn’t a crime, but a way of non-thinking.
Catherine Simpson is around the same age as me. We’ve both received a little largesse from Scottish Book Trust. Her story is in the title. Most readers understand intuitively with the use of the past tense that her wee sister, Tricia, has passed over. In plainer terms, she’s dead. She died in December 2013, aged 46.
My brother died around 1995. My partner’s brother died around the same time. They were both in their mid-thirties. Mother and father long gone. Our season has past.
Simpson looks for reason in her wee sister’s suicide.
‘I have often wondered many times what if anything, specific happened to Trisha when she was so young—maybe only eight years old—that essentially changed her personality.’
Happy-go-lucky and a wonderful and caring follower of her older sisters, she retreated behind her fringe, never to appear again. But it was a gradual, Mum and Dad had a farm to run and no time for such nonsense.
Catherine and her elder sister, Liz, asked the question.
‘You don’t think anything really terrible happened to her, do you?’
As a child Catherine wondered if she’d used up all her wee sister’s goodness and kindness and cast her in the wrong parts in many of her farmyard plays.
As an adult she wondered if somebody had been fucking with her, literally. They were a family business and it involved animals being born and dying. Chatting was what other people and other families did. It happened on the telly. Kids were to be seen and not heard, which I was familiar with, and best of all, neither seen nor heard.
They could watch a terrier go down a hole near the pig pen and bring out the mother rat and shake it until its neck broke, and farmyard labourers grinded the blind baby rats into the dirt with their boots, but they couldn’t watch the sow being serviced by the inseminator. Sex was taboo.
Going through her sister’s papers, Catherine discovered a note Tricia had written to a friend.
‘I can’t imagine what she’d gone through,’ Tricia wrote.
Catherine deduced from this her sister hadn’t been sexually abused as her friend had. Tricia had been depressed. Psychiatrists also look for a cause. An inciting incident, like a soldier’s body and mind suffering from Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder keeps returning to, which explains things. A battle won and lost. There was none of that for Tricia, as perhaps there isn’t for any of the rest of us. But we do like to wrap lives up so they make sense.
Tricia had secrets. They weren’t very big, but big enough to kill her. She wrote them down in her diary. Her big sister tries to make sense of them. Perhaps we never can and that’s the secret. Read on.
Jose Saramago won The Nobel Prize for Literature, but his writing wasn’t widely published or read until the Portuguese writer was in his sixties. That gives some of us hope. His translator died before finishing revisions. The publisher acknowledged the help of Margaret Jill Costa.
That’s the kind of blurb you can pick up from any book trailer. Those are his credentials. I didn’t like the writing (maybe it was the translation). It was the story that interested me. The plot is quite simple.
A man driving his car misses the green light. Cars behind him start tooting their horns. He misses another light. They become impatient. He has become blind. A man offers to drive him home. The Good Samaritan too becomes blind. But he’s not so good, because he steals his car. The man that treats the blind man also becomes blind.
With Covid we’ve all become experts in contagion. Some argues it doesn’t exist. It’s a conspiracy, but this contagion, the white evil takes over the country.
To begin with those that become blind are taken away and house in a former asylum. They are guarded by soldiers, who fear them, because those in their ranks also become blind. Around 300 blind people who have to fend for themselves. The old adage, in the country of the blind a man with one eye is king. Here it is the doctor’s wife. She feigns blindness so she can stay with her husband.
In the country of the blind, she is king. But a blind man with a gun takes over the food supply. He demands payment and women for him and his acolytes.
When things come apart, as they did in Ukraine, for example, is people become dirty and hungry. Toilets stop working and become covered in shit. It backs up as they back up. There’s nobody to fix it. People stink. Saramago gets that not only do we need to eat, we need to shit. What we can’t see still hurts us.
Dogs become packs and eat corpses. Blind people don’t know how to get where they are going. Shops are looted for edibles but supplies quickly run out. People starve. But there is nobody to bury them. The doctor’s wife sees all this. She is the leader of her group. But also reads for us the reader. She is our eyes.
Look out for when she enters a church near the end. That’s powerful. Blind society becomes blinded. Every man for themselves. Separate tribes. But there is uncommon humanity in all this. Read on.
I’ve been following Danny Robins’ The Witch Farm on BBC Sounds. But I jumped ahead by reading Mark Chadbourn’s Testimony on which much of the Podcast is based. A small publisher, I’m guessing sales were dead. Now it’s jumped to Number 2 in Amazon’s Supernatural category. Resurrection of a different kind.
Most funerals I go to now are humanist. No overt religious input. No hymns. But sometimes a floating jokey reference to him or her being somebody up there looking down on us. We’re full of contradictions. We say something and do another. There’s that overhang of secular and supernatural and what we’re not quite sure.
Mark Chadbourn said he followed up a report in the Independent about supernatural events at Heol Fanog. The most haunted house in Wales or Britain is usually tagged on. Bill Rich and Liz, his wife suggested there was something more than that. There was a brooding evil that was trying to harm them. Heol Fanog, in the Brecon area, was an unholy place and they were cursed.
As a reporter, Chadbourn looked for corroboration. He’s interviewed politicians and bare-faced liars, which is the same thing and you don’t have to be a Tory, but that helps. Face value of a face appearing at the window is no value. A strong smell of incense, the stink of sulphur, knocking sounds, footsteps and the appearance of a seven-foot demon. Animals dying, inexplicably. Power surges. The Spirit of Seduction as a beautiful woman, a succubus, trying to tempt Bill.
The author tells the reader, ‘Remember: it is a true story’.
Danny Robins takes a more circuitous route. He employs a resident sceptic to come up with alternative explanations.
We cherry pick. I was brought up Catholic. Grace before meals. Grace after meals. Holy Days of Obligation. No meat on Friday. That rule was slackened and disappeared like the idea of purgatory. Angels and demons fighting over our immortal soul. A bit like Dracula, but not on the telly, but in Heol Fanog. Bible John and his ability to come out with snippets from the Bible wasn’t such an amazing ability a generation ago. It was built in. Now we’re largely a heathen society, but these kinds of cases ask questions of us. Does God exist?
I’m a waverer. Iona is called The Thin Place because of its Columbian background and supposed closeness to heaven. Heol Fanog I believe is its hellish counterpart. In other words, when pushed, I believe what happened to Bill and Rich was down to supernatural events. What I couldn’t work out was why they stayed there for such a prolonged period—November 1989 to June 1995—long enough to have three children. I got it they had no money, no luck and little chance of a council house, but for god’s sake, get real. Move on. Read on.
Shuggie Bain, the 2020 Booker prize winner, was Douglas Stuart’s debut novel. It has sold around 1.5 million copies worldwide. His follow-up novel, Young Mungo, is also set in the Glasgow of Stuart’s birth and follows a gay son trying to hang on to the coattails of a mum that is lost to drink, but sometimes finds her way home.
Readings come from the big hitters of Scottish culture. Lulu, who’s been there and done it and is doing it again, did a terrific reading from Shuggie Bain. Val McDermid, who has written more books than the Bible and sold more than Douglas Stuart, spoke about the sinister elements that make Young Mungo’s apparent friendships with St Christopher and Gallowgate nauseating even for a thriller writer. Alan Cumming, who followed a similar trajectory, from a small Scottish town to worldwide queer icon also contributed.
It’s better to be a stupid cunt than a dick. Discuss? The problem of dialect. There is something miraculous about Douglas Stuart’s success because it happened twice. His alcoholic mum died when he was sixteen. He was still at school, yet on the verge of homelessness. But he wasn’t good at school. The only thing he was good at was art. Yet, he somehow, with the help of his art teachers, got a place in the Royal College of Art in London. He went from there to work as a chief designer for Calvin Klein in New York. He tells us how most folk couldn’t place his accent. In other words, they couldn’t patronise him.
Class matters, let’s not kid ourselves. Douglas Stuart is a success story by any measure and he did it the hard way. It’s one of those unbelievable stories that rich people tell to show anybody can do it if they work hard enough. To show how rich people aren’t rich because they are rich, but because they are innately talented. Fuck off.
When travelling from the meatpacker district to the fashion capital of the world, Stuart had thirty minutes every day to write. He wrote about his mum. He wrote about people he knew. He wrote about Glasgow. 1800 pages that haunted him. Every writer needs a reader. His husband was first in line. There’s humour when they speak about it now. He annotated the text, ‘No Douglas. No. NO. NO.’ I like that. They wouldn’t speak for days. Goin fuckin yersel is ner easy.
Darren McGarvie Poverty Safari’s success story mirrors Douglas Stuart’s but in localised form. McGarvie is used as the authentic voice of working-class lives for programme makers who have come to gawp, but claim to understand. Let’s be honest. We all hate the fuckin Tories and it’s not all location, location, location. Facts have never mattered less. We lost the propaganda war. These guys tell it how it is. If you’re on a pedestal, the Glasgow thing is to knock yeh aff.