The Ice Cream Wars, BBC 2, BBC Scotland, BBC iPlayer, narrator Kate Dickie, director Robert Neil.

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?

April 1984.

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]

December 1996.

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.

Garthamlock 2022.

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

Billy Connolly (2020 [2019]) Tall Tales & Wee Stories

I’m not a big fan of Billy Connolly, but I do know how to spell the Big Yin’s name. The funny thing is never that funny. I think I’ve already told you the tale of a pal of mine, a taxi driver, she could be quite opinionated. She was driving him to Drymen and he was talking some pish about Scotland and she left him at the side of the road. He’d the last laugh by becoming a national icon like the Queen Mother but with a beard and Parkinsonism. She got really bad arthritis. But that’s another story.

Billy’s not got long to go. He’s hot now. He could shit in a bucket and sell it as a work of art. Over the years I’ve got to like Billy more. Laughter is contagious. You’re already primed to laugh when you are with other people like you, and all you need is that spark. Billy Connolly was good at what he did. He was a storyteller. This is his last cry. He’s giving it the big welly. Here are all my secrets, he’s telling you, but I don’t have any secrets. I’m just like you. That’s his secret.

On the page his stories don’t resonate in the same way, because reading is a private—one-to-one—rather than a public experience. A different kind of energy. You look at Laurel and Hardy and you start laughing. You listen to Billy Connolly and you smile.

The Old Woman on the Bus, for example, is a story set on my home town, Clydebank. The familiarity makes me smile. This is someone I know.

The Bicycle is the story he told on Parkinson before he got it. The story that made him, but I didn’t laugh. Not then, not now.

This man, he says, ‘How’s the wife?’

The other one says, ‘Ah, she’s deid.’

He says, ‘Wha?’

The other one says, ‘Deid. In the ground. I murdered her, I’ll show you if you want.’

He says, ‘Aye, yeah, show me.’

…He says, ‘Is that her?’

He says, ‘Aye.’

He says, ‘What did you leave her bum sticking out for?’

He says, ‘I need somewhere to park, ma bike.’    

When Billy Connolly told that story on English telly he outgrew Scotland. He went on to conquer the world. We all know who he is, because he’s familiar Tall Tales & Wee Stories. Read on.

Alan Cumming (2021) Baggage: Tales From a Fully Packed Life.

I was vaguely aware who Alan Cumming is. For independent film consortiums, Miriam Margolyes seems to be the pensioner of choice to go on adventures and sell the results to BBC, ITV or Channel 4. She’s been sent to America a few times and to Australia. The latest wheeze is Scotland. Yes, Bonnie old Scotland. Who’d have thought of that? Monopoly money for old rope. They flung in Alan Cummings as a guide, and driver of their motorhome. He’s Scottish, I didn’t know that. Stanley Kubrick though he was American, so I’m in good company. I wouldn’t know a good actor from a ham. But my partner who watched bits of the scenery in the Grand Tour said Cumming’s dad was bad to him. That piqued my interest. Now is the time to fling in some quotes about happy families being all the same. We’re off to a flyer. Cumming’s da was a sadistic cunt.

The book starts with discord. He’s in a marriage, I wouldn’t call it unhappy. They’re trying for a child. She’s an old acquaintance from drama school. A few years older. She’s the star turn with the operatic voice. The diva.  He’s the man with a childish face that gets parts playing adolescents. I thought Cumming was gay. So being married to a woman (he later marries a man) was the done thing. And if you’re going to do the done thing, you might as well do it early.

Before he went from the West End of Glasgow (the snobby bit) to Drama school he worked for D.C. Thompson and Company near Dundee, and near his home. He wrote the Astrology bits and pieces. You will find a stranger in Uranus. Not quite, but similar. The Fiction department. A Thompson clone was on ever floor.  When we grew up, Cummings being much the same age as me, they produced The Beano and Dandy, but also The Sunday Post, with Oor Wullie in it, a true Scottish legend. Cummings points out D.C.Thompson had a London address to give their publishing empire legitimacy. No unions, but Unionism and no Catholics were a given. Cummings ticked all the right boxes. Gay men or women, of course, didn’t exist and were too risqué for even the Fictional department.

I knew he’d done the MC in Cabaret. I hadn’t seen him in that, but watched (I suppose like everybody else) the film version with Liza Minelli. I’d read the Christopher Isherwood books, Mr Norris Changes Train and Goodbye to Berlin on which the musical is based. Cumming suggests that Isherwood and W.H. Auden et al weren’t there to fight fascism or do anything highbrow, but simply wanting to escape England and sample cock. No big surprise.


‘It’s hard to be your authentic self when you don’t know who you really are.’

Cummings was in New York, close enough in his apartment to witness 9/11 and the fall of the Twin Towers. He acknowledges the fear and mistrust of Muslims and those of non-white, pasty, Scottish skin colour that ensued. The finding of a scapegoat and the invasion of Afghanistan, followed by Iraq. And how this all fed into the moron moron’s Trumpism (maybe I’m reading too much into a general observation).

Sean Connery, Billy Connolly, Faye Dunaway, Tina Turner, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Halley Berry, Gore Vidal…they’re all here (apart from Rod Stewart and Elton John). The book was five years late. Too early for a chapter on Miriam Margolyes and her observations on bowel movements and the howls of laughter that ensures. Ho-hum. Read on.    

 James Robertson (2021) News of the Dead

The cover of James Robertson’s latest novel, News of the Dead, has a blurb from Ali Smith: ‘A marvellous novelist’. I spend much of my time looking at marketing techniques, when I should be reading, or even writing. Get a big hitter, preferably Scottish, like Ali Smith to say something nice about your writing and copy and paste it to all of your other books. It doesn’t need to be a novelist or writer. Billy Connolly’s good press (Jane Godley Handstands in the Dark). A gold-leaf endorsement of Scottishness and quality. I don’t know Billy Connolly or Ali Smith. I have met James Robertson on the page before. I looked for a review of his debut novel I might have written, but couldn’t find it. His novel, The Testament of Gideon Mack was stupendous. All the fine granular details have fell out of my brain like sand in a broken sandglass.

News of the Dead offers that old trick of bringing things back to life. There’s a ghost that only a young boy, Lachie, aged eight, can see.  

‘Lachie Darroch came to see me, for the first time in a while. It was autumn, the leaves were turning and falling fast, and most afternoons it was cold enough to light the stove before it got dark.’

‘…What’s a ghost?’ he asked.

…He had this story and he knew he could tell it to me and I would not laugh. Or tell anybody else.

‘…A girl. She had a white dress on. Well kind of grey. It was quite dirty, I think.’

I’ve used that trick too, in one of my longer stories, Lily Poole. There’s a holy man. Saint Conach— the story setting, Glen Conach. I’d written something about that too, but hadn’t finished it. Stories are brought to life by believers, so that’s OK, I’m not sure I believed in it enough. No church recognised Conach as a Saint, but a follower left a Latin chapbook, which showed that like all men, he had failings and was a sinner.

Marj, the old buddy, Lachie visits, has an inkling who the ghost was, or indeed is. Ghosts an echo of the past—I was here—but also for some reason a marker of the present.

The Journal of Charles Kirkliston Gibb, a penniless antiquarian, which begins Sunday, 2nd July 1809 takes us back to the beginning of the nineteenth century and before that to the Jacobites and  Highland Clearances. His transcription of a Latin manuscript of Saint Conach and his miracles takes us back to the time of the Picts. A thread of time runs from the Middle Ages to coming to the Glen of the Corona Virus. A backwater that reflects back what Scotland was and is in a whimsical and realistic manner.  

A good book asks questions of you. News of the Dead leaves you thinking this could happen, or this happened. The circularity of time provides answers. Often, not as we expect, but perhaps recognise. Read on.

The Last Wave, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, Writers Raphaelle Roudaut and Alexis Le Sec, Director Rodolphe Tissot.

I’m a bit of telly snob. If it’s on BBC 4 and its got subtitles I’m usually watching it. Part of my hangover from bingeing on Wallander. The Last Wave is a French drama with subtitles, therefore it ticks one of the boxes. Unfortunately, there’s no introspective morbid detective with a booze problem and a non-existent home life, he’s trying to drown out. But hey, hang on a second. There’s a big cloud hanging over the seaside town of Brizan. None of the adults seem particularly happy and their kids are pretty fucked up. So it’s almost Nordic in its promise, but without the snow and ice and grumpy faces. The ever smiling mayor acts as concierge as she promotes the annual surf party headlined by local-bad-boy made good, Max Alcorta (Roberto Calvet) who is one of the top surfers in the world. He’s joined in the water by other locals. Mathieu Ketchak (Theo Christine) is the black guy whose white dad is a bit of a sleaze. He sets himself up as a self-help guru for people with cancer, which he’s also got. Lena Lebon (Marie Dompnier) is also in the breaking surf. She’s the mother of the girl Ketchak fancies and he fancies back, but it’s complicated. Ben Lebon (David Kammenos) is the geeky science teacher in the school, but his daughter, their daughter stays with him, rather than their mother, because she’s been suicidal and left them after the death of a child. It’s not been explained yet, what happened to the kid, but I’m sure we’ll get there. He watches on the beach as his wife enters the surf and you know they’re estranged, but still in love. Thomas Lewen  (Gael Raes) is the speccy kid that kicks his heels and refuses to go into the water. Mummy is the town’s doctor and daddy is the town’s developer, trying to cash out in real estate and promote it as the new eco-friendly Biarritz. He has to drag his son into the water. He reassures him, it’ll be OK.

You know what Billy Connolly (the Big Yin) says about sharks, also the Big Yin.  Stay out the fucking water. But just like any young virginal looking type with big tits can’t help drifting down to see if Dracula is indeed in the basement, this crowd surf out into the waves.

Where were you when the cloud rolled in? Anyway, to jump ahead a bit because I’m getting bored writing this. Max comes out of the water changed, as they all do. It takes a wee bit of time to find out what their new superpowers are. Max seems to be able to breathe underwater, which is useful trait for a surfer and for fish. The speccy kid no longer needs specs. His mum’s a doctor and she explains to her perplexed husband, that the colour of his eyes has also changed. Dads in my experience don’t notice things like that, but if you fluff a chance at schoolboy fitba they certainly don’t miss that one. Speccy kid now can see through things.  Lena Lebon’s powers are more ambiguous. She gifts her ex-husband the horn and they seem set to give back together. The injuries to her wrists, slash wounds, disappeared after her return from the surf, but I’d guess her ongoing gift of the clould is love (generally and not the horn, specifically) or something similar.  Ketchak’s powers is to heal. He’s starts with a pigeon and then heals his dad’s leg pain and then one of his patients. Sleazy dad is quick to claim the credit.

I claim credit for treating myself to the first two episodes and would have binge watched all six, but they’ve been rationed. Look forward to more.

Derren Brown (2016) Happy: Why more or less everything is fine.

I like Derren Brown which makes everything easier. As Billy Connolly said when people approach him they are usually smiling. Derren Brown doesn’t make me happy. You can only do that yourself and he’s not really sure that happiness exists, except as a transitory experience, a bi-product of something else. Derren Brown’s book reminds me f those chap-books heroines in nineteenth-century novels, written by Jane Austen, who were, for example, always scribbling in it remembrances such as   ‘Where our treasure is there will our hearts be also’.

I’m not knocking it. That’s what this blog is. Derren is a great debunker. I like that too. He’s got an inside track on how magic works and debunks mystics, especially charlatans that prey on the needy searching for answers that involve the afterlife. For Derren there’s no after life. The theme of his book is it’s this life we should concentrate on.

First up on the firing line are those selling the notion of positive thinking as a panacea for…well, just about everything positive. The negative stuff is your fault, for not being positive enough. If you’ve got cancer, it’s your fault for not being positive. As it progresses it’s your fault for not being positive enough. Derren isn’t saying positive thinking isn’t a good idea, but it’s not a cure, but a marketing strategy to hook the gullible and snake-oil for the most vulnerable and needy.  We don’t for example give a dog a tablet and tell it to think positively about it, or give a horse an injection and then complain that it no longer gallops as fast.

The problem as Derren (and economists) see it is our needs are limited our wants unlimited. The solution is asking why we want something, what story is being told to sell it? When we change ourselves we change the narratives of our lives.

Derren looks at the considered life. Stoicism and hedonism as propounded by the ancient Greek Epicureans. He flings in a bit of everything: Aristotle, Christianity, Renaissance and Marxism and stirs with a big spoon. (I’m going to look at that bit again, I’m always interested in Marxist dialectic because it sounds quite intellectual.)

The next major means of achieving happiness and redemption from the encumbrance of society was offered by the Marxists: work will set you free.  

(No it willnae, I hear myself saying).

To Marx, a bourgeois society alienates its working class from rewarding or creative labour.

(That’s more in line with my viewpoint. We all tell ourselves stories that resonate within us and seem true.)

Next up are the Stoic building blocks for a proper life. I can’t remember what they are, but they sounded to me like one of the steps in the AA handbook about powerlessness. To paraphrase, accepting the things you cannot change and having the wisdom to know the difference. You can get somebody (like Alexander the Great) to step out of the way so you can get the sunlight, but you can’t move the sun.

Derren rattles through more of life’s lessons, regarding being famous, being rich and being loved. As Meatloaf says 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. But Darren gives us the secret magic formula for success (which I’ve forgotten and will need to look up, again, but I’m happy too).



Twinkle, twinkle I say, but Derren does allow for the Greek idea of FATE. This is shorthand for saying I don’t know. I often use it to bemoan my own fate. I’m often happy to do so.

The ending of the book is about death and happy endings. Funnily enough they’re not mutually exclusive. I recently came face to face with death. I like Derren’s take on all that positive thinking crap. He’s reiterating what I’ve often thought and written about. ‘How to Die Well’ is not often on the agenda. We ignore death until we cannot. His idea of ‘a good-enough death’ is lovely. He quotes Donald Winnicott:

I have extended the ‘good enough’ theory to most of my life and now my death. We are at times so obsessed or feel pressurised into ‘being the best at…the fastest at…the cleverest at…’ I genuinely worry about all this positive thinking/ life coaching!

…It is undoubtedly excellent to try to achieve one’s maximum potential, but that should be to please ourselves, not be judged by others, and for living a ‘good-enough’ life with its shares of wonders and disasters…

We’ve came to the end, as does Derren Brown, with a chapter And in the End. And Now. He’s perhaps gone too far, but hey, it’s entertaining and informative and I do like the guy.   

John Kennedy Toole (1980) A Confederacy of Dunces

john kennedy tooole.jpg

I got to page 35 of this book and gave up. The tale of Ignatius J. Reilly who has a high opinion of himself and a low opinion of humanity and his poor, put-upon mother whom he lives with, and is dependent on, could be described as farce. Anthony Burgess on the cover describes it as ‘A Fine Funny Novel. This is the kind of book one wants to keep quoting from.’ I don’t feel any great need to do that.

The story of how I and so many others came to be reading this book is more interesting to me than the book itself. Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland mentioned John Kennedy Toole and A Confederacy of Dunces as being the kind of book he loved. He’d he’d given it to one of his friends and he loved the fact he heard them laughing through the walls of his cabin (he was on a cruise, Billy Connolly is loaded, but he’s still one of us – kinda- Made in Scotland is his swansong).

Libraries across Scotland were swamped for requests for A Confederacy of Dunces. It jumped up the Amazon ratings like a Yeti coming out of cold storage.

The foreword by Walker Percy is the best part of the book. I’ll quote it rather than the book.

Perhaps the best way to introduce this novel –which on my third reading of it astounds me even more than the first – is to tell the first encounter with it. While I was teaching at Loyola in 1976 I began to get telephone calls from a lady unknown to me. What she proposed was preposterous. It was not that she had written a couple of chapters of a novel and wanted to go to my class. It was her son, who was dead had written an entire novel during the early sixties, a big novel and she wanted me to read it. Why would I want to do that? I asked her. Because it’s a great novel, she said.

…somehow it came to pass that she stood in my office and handed me the hefty manuscript.

The rest is history, or her story, the story of John Kennedy Toole’s mother, whose persistence, like the mother or Ignatius J. Reilly,  paid off. Her son’s genius was recognised. Not by me, but people that matter. All readers matter, but some more than others.  There’s a lesson there for all us would-be novelists. Have a persistent mother and be friends with the god of luck and The Big Yin above.   Read on.

Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland, Part 1, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, director Mike Reily.

Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland, Part 1, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, director Mike Reily.

billy connolly.jpg

Billy Connolly is one of our most successful exports. A bit like Sean Connery, but with a beard and a lot more hair. Nobody comes away with the usual shite, oh, I can’t understand what he’s saying, he doesn’t speak proper English. Well, fuck off then. I must admit I wasn’t a fan. Obviously, being that age, I got what he meant by The Crucifixion, that LP which was meant to be, oh, so funny.

You know it’s one of those jokes when somebody tells you all about it, I think it was Summy and they’re laughing so much, you think it must be hilarious. Judas goes up to the cross and Jesus tells him to come closer and closer and the punchline is Jesus sticks the heid on him. Ho. Ho. So fucking what?

As Billy Connolly admits, you get guys telling you funny things like that all the time. Only now do I appreciate when I’m a grumpy old cunt do I appreciate what Billy Connolly was doing then and is doing now. He’s telling it like it is, or at least like it was. That’s your da, that’s my da, when they’re pissed. Here’s your daft auntie, singing at the Christmas party, a song without any words but lots of shoulders and tear-filled emotion. Billy Connelly gets it, which is initself a gift, but his genius is he translates it into Glasgowese. Don’t try and get above yerself or somebody will knock you down.

He was a welder in the shipyards, those men only spaces where everybody let rip and you had to shout to be heard. And everybody took the piss out of everybody else because that’s how you got through the day. Dour men would find their voice in that other men-only space of the boozer. And of course there was bigotry. I’m not a Billy, you’re a Tim.

Billy recalls calling an old guy in the yard a blue nose and being held down and his nose painted blue. That’s funny in a lot of ways. It couldn’t happen now? Keep parroting and peddling that line until you believe it.  Billy called bigotry ‘a hobby’. The best of men, became the worst of men, for a few hours and after a few drinks brought their life back to normal. We’re still here. Especially in the build-up and aftermath of an Old Firm game. We’re still here today. Billy Connelly tells it like it is. Long may he last. Truth will out.