My partner said I’d like this. We don’t have the same tastes. She watches fuckin Emmerdale and Coronation Street. But she knows I’m a sucker for anything Scottish, with actors playing working-class characters. I’ve not read Andrew O’Hagan’s book, yet. So I’m doing it in the wrong order. Two-part series first. Book to follow.
I have read O’Hagan’s book, The Illuminations. It is set in parts of Saltcoats on the Ayrshire coast. I put the last part in for English readers. Most folk in Glasgow and the surrounding area of a certain age, know where Saltcoats is. It’s the kind of place where your mum took you to paddle in the sea and feed your wee brother to the seagulls.
Here we have Tully (Tony Curran) and Jimmy (Martin Compston) playing the natives that got away thirty years ago, returning to their seaside roots. Tully is an ex-English teacher. Jimmy is a writer. Not just any old writer, but a writer like Andrew O’Hagan that makes a more than decent living from his writing. He lives in London with his playwright partner, Angela (Natali McCleary). The focus fall more on Tully’s partner, Anna (Ashley Jensen). The reason becomes apparent after the opening exchanges.
You cannae just check out, you’ve got responsibilities.
I’m doing this my way.
Tully’s got terminal cancer. He doesn’t want treatment. He wants to go to Switzerland and end it. Voluntary euthanasia. He’s for it. Anna isn’t against it, in general, but only when it concerns the love of her life, Tully. She wants more time. More time with him.
Tully also wants to get together with the guys they used to hang about with. That used to be in a band that worshipped at the feet of Manchester bands that played The Hacienda in 1984. New Order and The Fall feature in backstory when the lads from Saltcoats made a trip of a lifetime and thought growing old was not an option. Thatcherism was never an option. And the ability to rhyme off Robert De Niro’s three greatest movies was a given.
Youth goes north to go south and live forever.
Big themes, well worth a watch. I’m with Tully on that one. Cancer gets one in two of us. But it’s dementia, I fear. Aging population. One million of us have it. Projections for 2050, one-and-a-half million. My mum had dementia. My da had cancer. I said to my partner, if I get dementia, just shoot me. She said I wouldn’t know I’ve got dementia, because I’ve already got it. I think that was a joke.
I don’t know any writers with cash to spare for a trip to Euthanasia-land. But I could maybe make Saltcoats. I don’t want to make death proud. I just don’t want to be alive when my brain is spaghetti oops. What’s your take on this? Or can’t you remember?
‘The subject of this film does not want to show his face.’
But we’re shown it anyway, in animation, in media coverage of the aftermath of the event. Seventeen-year-old Brandon Lee enrolled in Bearsden Academy in 1993. He wanted to become a doctor. You get a lot of doctors in Bearsden and dentists and their middle-and-upper-middle class ilk. Brandon Lee’s father was apparently a doctor. He’d made the phone call to the headmaster to enrol his son at the school. His mother an international opera singer. If you live in Bearsden, on average, you live ten years, or more, longer than those that live in Drumchapel less than a mile away, but it is worlds apart. There was nothing unusual about a Bearsden pupil studying medicine at University and becoming a doctor.
It was not as if Brandon was working class. It was not as if he had been a pupil at the same school over a decade earlier. But his name then was Brian McKinnon. His mum worked in a care-assistant in a care-home in Bearsden. His dad was a lollipop man. By those measures they were a working-class family. He lived in the district and went to a school whose children were middle-class and expected to become middle-class too. Nothing unusual about Brian McKinnon. He recounted how his IQ scores when he was tested at eight and nine years old were in the top percentile range. He was a genius that got as expected top grades at school. He went to study medicine at The University of Glasgow.
His career in medicine didn’t last beyond the first year, which he repeated. He was asked to leave, consider a career outside medicine. Nobody remembered Brian McKinnon. Everybody remembered Brandon Lee.
Animation brings Brandon and his time at Bearsden Academy back to life. Pupils that knew him at that time pop up seated at school desks. Their cartoon avatars playing out the stories they told. Such as the confusion of Brandon having a car and driving his school friends to Glasgow. But when it looked like they might get stopped by the police, Brandon admitting he might have to say he was somebody else. The confusion of his dad apparently dying. Then his mum. Then his granny, whom he was living with. Brandon was meant to be keeping his head down.
Alan Cummings pops up like his middle-aged classmates to play middle-aged Brandon and discuss how he was ‘hiding in plain sight’.
Much was made of Brandon’s esoteric knowledge of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. In particular, the motivation of the main character Willy Loman and his relationship with his son, Buff. How time ‘bends’ enough for Brandon to be older than some of the teachers at the school. How he wasn’t recognised by others who’d also taught Brian McKinnon. How he was convinced he hypnotised the assistant-head so not only did she not recognise him, but did not ask for a birth certificate, or passport. She did not ask for certification of who he said he was. The answer may be much simpler. She was busy. We see what we want. More importantly what we expect to see. Even a crap magician plays on that.
Brandon ‘hiding in plain sight’, for example, had the starring role in the school’s annual play, South Pacific. He warbled rather than sung, but most teachers and pupils remember him as having carried the production. But at the end he had to kiss his co-star. The consensus among former pupils and teachers was that Brandon refused to kiss her at rehearsals, but said he’d do it on the opening night. It would be no more than a peck on the lips.
The girl Brandon apparently refused to kiss remembered it the same way. The production team got a video of the play and played it back to them and us. But the middle-aged woman, who was the girl—and love interest in the play—didn’t remember being kissed like that. She had to take a few minutes to decide there was something creepy about it. A middle-aged man had kissed the girl she was.
Brian McKinnon still it seems lives in Bearsden, in his mum’s house. Thirty years ago, she was playing a role as his granny. Bearsden Academy is gone, replaced by housing. Former classmates of Brandon/Brian and their former teachers think there’s something sad about him. They suspect he’s still applying for places, perhaps abroad, where he can study medicine. Evidence for this comes from having possibly seen him in Bearsden library, which has computers.
I think someone with an apparently genius IQ would see through that pretty quick. He’s in his sixties. Anyone with a phone has a computer. Nobody knew what Willy Loman was selling. What they’re selling here is closure that appeals to the middle-classes. It was an entertaining story in which nobody really got hurt apart from the protagonists. I feel sorry for the Brandon’s of this world.
‘Above all do no harm’ is a maxim in medicine. Who did he harm?
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’m no longer a pretty girl,’ Gail Porter says in a conversation she’s having with an old friend, but she’s also speaking to the viewer.
We judge so much by appearance. And she’s right. She’s no longer young and she’s no longer pretty. Alopecia has robbed her of her trademark blonde hair. In 1999, she was one of the most well-known presenters on telly. Her naked image was projected onto the Houses of Parliament. FHM magazine sold out. She remembers herself being one of the top ten hotties, but with her usual candour notes that she didn’t win. She wasn’t voted number one. Sometimes when you scratch the surface, you get more surface.
But Gail Porter is no longer a pretty mess, she’s just trying to get by. We go back to her roots, off Portobello in Edinburgh. An idyllic upbringing, sorta. Right on the beach, but mum and dad were always fighting. She was a pretty girl and got work as a children’s presenter. Anorexia was her fall-back positon. But watching these clips a different kind of girl emerges, vibrant and funny and a natural in front of the camera. She was the real deal.
Moving to London was a natural stepping stone. Everybody loved her. She even got to present Top of the Pops. That brought her a boyfriend, the lead singer of Hipsway, and a much loved child. But she suffered from post-natal depression—and depression in general—she was sectioned in 2014. Mental Health patients are hiding away at the back of the hospital she was admitted to in London. And she admitted to being homeless and sleeping on a park bench.
The tabloids fed on her fall from fame. Her alopecia and drunkness. She also cut herself. Serious self-harm. Make-up girls were familiar with these wounds and worked out how best to hide them when she had work presenting. When the phone stopped ringing. When she had no work and no home. There’s no way out. A self-fulfilling prophecy of doom. But here’s the thing, she’s no longer pretty, but Gail Porter is lovely. She’s self-depreciating and honest. That little girl that never quite grew up has retained her childlike wonder. The media sucked her in and spat her out. But Gail Porter is still Gail Porter. I wish her all kinds of well.
Peter Mullan always seems to snag the parts of the homeless alkie. Hector McAdam doesn’t even have to be an alkie, just grizzled looking as Peter Mullan in a beanie hat, and as if he’s just stepped out a cardboard box, washed up in a motorway café’s toilet and rustled up a quick snack. He’s left two pals and a dog still sleeping at the side of the building. He nips of the post office to pick up his pension and bought his pals cans of beer. They’re hitchhiking to London, but he’s got to go to hospital for tests, and it’s the one beside me, The Golden Jubilee. No fixed address, no place to call home. They tell him to come back in January. For the last 15 years he’s went to the same place in London that gives a bed and puts on a spread for the down and outs at Christmas.
I’ve hitchhiked to London a few times (stick a thumb out outside Calder Park Zoo) and slept in a plastic bin bag beside other homeless people, with people from soup kitchens coming in the middle of the night offering throwaway cartons of minestrone soup to throwaway people. I was younger then and not running away from anything, but you learn little tricks like don’t put your bin bag down near doorways where large groups of people gather, because, inevitably, someone will have pished there. Safety in numbers. But always know your exits because to a bear in a wood a man in a sleeping bag is a ready-wrapped snack. For Hector this is second-nature. What brought him to this state is drip fed to the viewer.
First clue is he’s looking for his sister in Liverpool. He goes to a house where she once stayed, but she’d moved. Her husband works as a car dealer. Hector goes to his work. A grizzled Glaswegian among all those shiny new toys. He’s given a cup of tea and short shrift.
In London, the shelter he goes to every year is already full. No room at the inn. But he’s recognised by a saintly worker, Hazel (Natalie Gavin) and a camp bed set up in one of the dorms. Hector is among friends. Then his brother turns up. We learn more about his life. The cliff edge Hector fell off 15 years ago is revealed. A bit too melodramatic for my liking. A jigsaw with some bits missing is still a jigsaw. The question in the quest then becomes, will he live happily ever after, especially when his wee sister resurfaces and they have a family reunion. In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy claims all happy families are the same. You don’t need to fling yourself under a train to figure that they aren’t. Hector, and writer/director Jake Gavin, gets pass marks for trying to reveal something of humanity many of us already know. It’s complicated. Those that don’t know, won’t get it. Authenticity is hard won.
Darren McGarvey from Pollock admits he’s lucky, incredibly lucky. And he’s right to do so. He’s on a roll after Poverty Safari. The go-to man when the BBC, or any other media organisation, wants to signal that they’re doing the right thing. Giving the working class a voice. The equivalent of a black woman in the moron moron’s cabinet of his 45th American Presidency debacle. The alternative view. The Fool in Shakespearian plays, such as King Lear, who is allowed to speak truth to power. Invisible, but a place holder. Greta Thunberg addressing delegates at the United Nations, patted on the head, before they get back down to adult business of maintaining the status quo. Class War?
Not in my lifetime. Capitulation would be a better word. All the post-war gains since the second world war taken away. Marxism, is like liberalism or capitalism, difficult to summarise, but Marx argued that the point wasn’t to philosophise or interpret the world, ‘but to change it’.
The crudest formulations of class are clichéd. If I working class man throw dice and keep throwing double sixes. Then the dice are taken to be loaded. The system flawed. He’s regarded as a crook. But if an upper class man throws six after six after six. Dice aren’t taken to be loaded. The capitalist system not flawed. When actors such as Darren pop-up they are pointed at as the exception to the rule-rule. They show how fair the system can be. The end of history. The end of theory. The triumph of capitalism.
But clichés are also reservoirs of meaning. Darren flings out a few ideas and asks various characters—one of whom looks out of his face—what their thinking is on particular topics. ‘Buckfast’, for example, brought a satisfying chortle. Lower class, of course. But hey, it used to be a tonic wine, for middle-class folk.
I like the parody of class that features in The Frost Report: John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett.
The first thing to be noted is height. The upper class with better diet and access to proteins lived longer. Literally, walk taller. Those that own the land, own the people on the land. Windfall profits of billons for our monarch who also owns large tranches of our offshore sea, where windfarms will be situated. If you need to work for money, you’re in the wrong game. Money for the richest one-percent makes money by investing capital. After reaching a certain mass it’s a no-lose gain. It’s in all of Belzac’s books. And try a bit of Jane Austen. I’m a fan of Emile Zola, although he has a tendency to assume the working class get more sex and are sexually active earlier. Maybe they are. I must have missed that bit.
Darren gets pulled up about his posture. Watch any programme about long-lost families. You’ll find those that went abroad, including those transported to Australia, are taller, more muscular. Fish and cheap cuts of meat for the less well off at home. Starvation is back in fashion in Old Blighty. Food banks as a solution to hunger. In Shakespeare’s day people that got to around thirty-eight were the equivalent of our old age pensioners. Thirty-nine was ancient. Gladstonian liberals allowed for a pension for those aged over 65 in 1909. Less than a fraction of one-percent of the population was expected to live that long to collect it. We know now that is no longer the case and pension age has risen to over sixty-eight. But for the first time since records began the average age of British citizens has stopped increasing annually. It’s a class thing. A working class thing. Our babies die first and in greater numbers than their middle-class or upper class cohorts. A negative impact that carries on throughout life. Like those infected with Covid-19 we’re dying off quicker and pulling down the average age of our general population.
The second thing to be noted is dress. Darren plays that dressing up game too. All of our characters wear hats. The upper class character wears a bowler. A marker of rank. Bowler hats were a useful tool in preventing directors, such as Stevens of Steven’s shipyard, knocking his head. His father would have worn a top hat. Workers in the yards didn’t wear hats. Their heads were thicker. They wore overalls.
Winston Churchill wore a top hat to his public school. Accent speaks of breading. Churchill was regarded as a bit of a thicko. But he had the right kind of accent, Received Pronunciation. He famously barked at an opposition Labour MP to take his hands out of his pockets. And as a reflex action to the upper-class demands the MP complied. Here a butler is brought in to give Darren the once over when he’s dressed as a toff. The butler demands he take his hands out of his pockets and pull his socks up. Ho-hum, bit of playing to the camera.
Then we have the big reveal. The butler reveals he’s one of us. He’s working class. But he worked harder than everybody else at learning to be a butler. He got up to bed earlier. Went to bed later. He’s using Thatcheristic language reiterated by George Osborne in his debate about ‘strivers versus shirkers’. The universality of a Dickensian appeal to an imagined past that never existed. One hand destroying the welfare state, and the other clapping NHS workers, before crashing the economy into Brexitland and calling it a triumph.
Darren does cricket. I’m working-class enough to hate it. Just a little reminder here, wasn’t that the Malcolm Rifkind that was caught selling access to our British Parliament for ready cash? Cash for questions? Like the whisky priest in Father Ted I can’t help jumping out my chair and shouting ‘Tory Scum’, and for good reason. In a propaganda war they set out to destroy us, and largely succeeded.
Darren touches on it with the seeming contradiction of the ever-shrinking working class. Two-thirds of the population at the end of the nineteen century to around a third today. A mix and matching of definitions of what is meant by the working class relating to income. Weberian definitions as opposed to Marxist definitions where those that need to sell their labour are authentic working class. The proletariat. Academics toyed with these ideas in the sixties, the embourgeoisement thesis. Luton car workers because they were so well-off were the new middle class. Yet, when interviewed they claimed still to be working class despite having enough money to be considered bourgeoisie. Ronnie Corbett instead of wearing a bunnet would wear a flat cap and vote Tory. Corbett’s working class character, ‘I know my place’. You hear that kinda crap all the time, rich folk have money and they must know how to manage it. The answer is simple. By claiming working class origins, the middle (or indeed, upper) class gain greater kudos for achieving what they have achieved. They’ve rolled more sixes in life because of their skill. Look how far I’ve come, narrative.
Funny, until you consider 170 million Americans voted for the moron’s moron, and ‘red wall’ constituencies in deindustrialised areas such as Yorkshire voted for the equivalent here and for Boris Johnson and Brexit. Racist, dog-whistle politics, triumph. Eugenics is back with a bang, but dressed up in the clothes of morality.
In short, follow the money and the stories of machismo. Boris Johnson shouting through a microphone about returning £165 million a week to the NHS, while pedalling the same old bullshit as the moron’s moron, the other side of the Atlantic, about making America great again.
Marxism follows the evidence. Going against the grain. Prejudices are so engrained they need to step back and look at them.
Gramsci’s view of popular culture. Class is ideology in action. Pattern recognition of narrative the stories we’ve been told again and again until they have substance. Truth is relative.
Cul-de-sac of boring, often impenetrable theory to develop ideas of what is meant be class. Premises, methodology, perception. Examining the ideas behind our assumptions. We better be quick talking about class before we all become middle class tomorrow.
Darren examines the idea of marrying outside our class. It happens less often. Money becomes concentrated in fewer and fewer hands Remember 7:84, The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil? The history of Scotland in Brechtian theatre. How our sovereign wealth went to pay for Unemployment Benefit in Thatcher’s Britain in the mid-80s. Eighty-four percent of the land owned by seven percent of the population. We’d expect that figure to be a lot higher, now. And with green energy relying on having access to land, we can also expect those that hold the people to ransom, the capitalist and rentier class to become even richer. Thomas Piketty Capital in theTwenty-First Century documents this process. To be working class is to be powerless and treated as expendable scum. I’m not sure I learned anything here. But it’s a reminder of how far we’ve fallen. More of a hotchpot rant than a review. But this class stuff gets in my wick.
Matthew Zajac is an actor. Acting is a precarious profession. The same old faces crop up with regularity. Trying to make a living from acting is akin to trying to make a living from writing. I’ve did a few shifts as an extra. I’ve no interest in being the next what-ever-you-call him/her. Writing, well, that’s a different story.
Writing is my game. I don’t expect to make a living from it. And with over one million self-published books appearing on Amazon every year if you’ve been paying attention, as I have, then you’ll know why.
Matthew Zajac in his downturn between acting and being invisible wrote his own play, The Taylor of Inverness. He took it to the Edinburgh Festival, and with the help of a fiddler, and some projections acted out the part of his dad. It received plaudits. Plaudits don’t pay the rent.
Next his—let’s call it an award winning play, because if it didn’t win something Edinburgh’s culture elite have fell asleep at the wheel—is taken up by BBC Scotland. The peasants up North, us, receive a fraction of the BBC budget to produce content for the fraction of the British population that are interested in that type of thing.
Matthew Zajac gets to play his dad again, for the cameras, in his award-winning play. He gets to travel to his father’s birthplace which was part of Poland until 1939, then in Stalin’s pact with Hitler, became part of the Soviet Union and designated as part of the Ukraine. His dad, Matthew’s grandfather, was Polish, and his grandmother, Ukrainian. The programme also becomes one of those finding about your past kind of road trips where the viewer see nice scenery and meets quaint folk that don’t speak our lingo. Money for old rope.
Zajac’s father told him (and us) how was fox is hunted in his birthplace. Cornered in a field, a fox runs in ever decreasing circles until its captors can bludgeon it to death.
Ukraine used to be thought of the bread-basket of Russia. Soil so rich that to plant a stick was to grow a tree. I’m going off at a tangent here as Zajac did with his da’s story. His dad was buried in Inverness. Whisper it, as a head mason. He was flexible about religion and risen through the ranks. (My understanding is you can be both a Roman Catholic and a Mason, as my da’s pal, Jimmy Mac, was). Zajac’s dad, despite coming from the Ukraine, fought with the Polish army for Britain in the second world war against their common enemy, Nazi Germany.
It all kind of adds up. Before the first world war Glasgow was booming and growing at a rate faster than London. In the interwar years this growth declined, but it was still enough of a metropolis to take a refugee from the Ukraine and for him to find a job as a tailor in Glasgow. And then head to the back of beyond to Inverness to find a shop of his own, a life of his own, a new life and kids. It’s the refugee made good narrative.
The Ukraine of the interwar and postwar years was one of bloodshed. Let me fling some figures at you. 20 million dead. Stalin brought the Ukrainians to heel by mass starvation. Most children under ten would die first. Millions more sent to gulags such as those in Siberia. Ukrainian nationalists fighting the Soviets who had ‘liberated’ them shot and their families deported. Acts of savagery, mass murder and rape. Teenagers, in particular, in the vanguard.
Let’s remember the death camps in the East and the Jews. Jewish tailors that had trained Zajac’s dad. We know around six million Jews were exterminated. But around half, as they were here, were taken into forests and fields and shot.
Zajac finds in the old reels of his father’s tape something unnerving. His story of being swept up by the Soviet machine and being deported to Uzbekistan has a facsimilia of truth. His escape along the Soviet railway, with its own gauge system for train that took three months, seems possible. He joins the British Army.
An alternative story and shadow self emerges that is completely compelling as narrative, as history, or as drama, and a combination of all these. This is much-watch TV. It shouldn’t be given a graveyard slot on BBC Scotland, but a Sunday night slot at 9pm. The kind of slot Small Axe: Mangrove demands and gets because Steve McQueen is a somebody. Zajac is a Scottish yokel, he’s give what he’s got and likes or lumps it territory. Listen up, I watched both and Zajac is better. Watch and learn what a thing man is.
I found it strange that a crew from BBC Scotland led by Anthony Baxter should from 2014 spend five years filming a documentary about water pollution in Flint Michigan, the former home of General Motors, and the narrator is Alec Baldwin. We’re far from home.
Remember around 25 years ago when John Gummer, the then Tory agricultural minister, fed his four-year-old daughter a burgher to prove the British beef was safe after the BSE (Mad Cow Disease) disaster? Here we have President Obama sipping water from the Flint River’s Treatment Plant and declaring it safe. Whilst we have Reverend Jesse Jackson declaring that water is a basic human right. Amen to that.
What we have is a crisis of faith in authority and what they are telling us. (Soon to be mirrored by the almost 50% that will not take a Covid 19 vaccine because they don’t trust those telling us it’s safe – and often for good reason—although in the case of the Covid vaccines, plural, ignorance plays a large part).
Who to believe becomes what we believe. In Flint the mayor declares it an issue of class (and ethnicity). General Motors produced almost 50 million cars in Flint. That’s past tense. Since 1970 the population has halved. Houses that sold for $60 000 can now be bought for $6000. Lots lie empty.
Rick Snyder was elected as Michigan’s governor on a ticket of running local government like a business. This is the kind of ticket the Laurel and Hardy of British politics Cameron and Osborne ran down the British economy. The same ticket Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison ran in sacking firefighters to save public money because in Rupert Murdoch land global warming is a hoax nobody is falling for. We could even throw in the moron’s moron’s wilful dismantling of government agencies tasked with the prevention of public health epidemics because they were insiders.
Snyder got away with sacking firefighters and police officers to balance the books. His plan to ratchet up water prices and take water from the Flint River and not from the Huron River, in south-eastern Michigan which had been used before then to save around $5 million per annum was a fiscal disaster and health disaster.
It followed the usual trajectory. First up is to blame the victims. Jeremiah Loren, aged 12, with a skin rash and debilitating illnesses is somehow to blame, if not him, then his family.
As Michigan’s governor, he stripped Flint’s city council of its power, and his administrators raised water prices to balance the books. They then forced the city to use water from the Flint River in order to save more money. Something was wrong. Tap water was brown. Residents were told to run it a little longer. Advised that colouring had nothing to do with safety—it was still safe to drink. At the last remaining General Motors assembly plant car parts began to rust.
Professor Edwards with the help of his students from nearby Virginia Tech College took water samples and found lead 5000 times over the limits advised by the World Health Organisation. He declared it ‘a man-made disaster’ that such a toxic substance had been allowed to accumulate, particularly, in the bloodstream of around 10 000 city children where it was linked with among other factors a lower IQ and possible brain damage.
ACT 2. Snyder admits there may have been a problem. He’ll fix it (but you’ll pay for him to fix it). Hey Presto. Fixed. Your water is safe to drink. Cue Snyder drinking water treated by the Flint Treatment Plant and taken from the Huron River. No more talk about saving money, now it’s about saving lives. We do get a fix on him with his ad-lib about those on welfare (that they should be glad to pay over-inflated prices for drinking poison).
Class actions suits against Flint, and at state and federal levels are filed. We’re in Erin Brokovich territory.
The expert for the Water Defence League, Scott Smith, proves to be a charlatan and snake-oil salesman. Professor Edwards turns turtle and agrees to work with Snyder. Edwards declares the water safe to drink, well, as safe as any other state. Edwards files a law suit of defamation against, mother of three, Melissa Mays. She was a major part of the city-wide initiative to uncover the truth about Flint’s water. Edward had publicly thanked and praised her and other volunteers.
Alec Baldwin appears in front of the camera to ask a resident and mother, ‘why don’t you leave?’
If you can’t work out the answer, here’s a questionnaire I developed (A) I just love poisoning myself and my kids or (B) I’m skint, and where would I go?
If you answered A, congratulations, you voted for the moron’s moron, Trump. If you answered B, and voted for Trump, keep drinking the water. Rust belt? Sure, hope so.