Posted by: Valerie | March 4, 2010

My Scottish granny and riotous drunks

This is unusual. I have no work to do today. The stats that I have been waiting for have been delayed so I decided to fix some glitches on my computer that have been annoying me. Guess what? Not one of the glitches has agreed to be fixed! Usually I just fiddle around and find a way to sort things. Now I am really annoyed.

So a good time to shift focus. We are having a visit from the local TD Bank’s Mobile Mortgage Specialist. In fact the questions that we have could be answered easily on the phone but the MMS is new to the job and was anxious to visit. Therefore I have to scoot around and tidy up! Crazy, eh? Why should she care if my place is messy? Oh, oh! Here she comes!

Joe is now happily ensconced with the MMS so back to my question about cleaning up. I remember as a child that if the doorbell rang in the early evening my Mum would hiss “It might be the Minister! Hurry up, clear that stuff away!” Now why couldn’t the Minister see what we had been doing? I used to hate the Minister’s visit. I remember him vividly. He was enormously tall and thin with a bald head and glasses. He had a deep sonorous voice as is appropriate for ministers of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland (shudder!) and always appeared to have a drip on the end of his nose. Of course he was clad completely in black with the only relief being his white collar. He exuded “Thou shalt not!” and I was terrified of him. No wonder I used to play hookey from Sunday School. My bad brother David who was younger than I, but far more outgoing, set the example and the bonus was you got to go to the sweetie shop and spend all the money you were given to put in the collection on sweeties.

David - he looks "bad"!

That old Minister was called John Thomson. There was another John Thomson, more commonly known as Jock, who was a drinking buddy of grandfather. They were upright citizens until they went on a binge every so often. Staggering home one night, Jock met my very strict and severe Auntie Maggie who took it upon herself to give him a telling off. “Jock Thomson,” she said. “If you were my man you wouldnae come hame in that state!” To which Jock is said to have replied “Maggie, if I was your man, I wouldnae come hame at a’.” It could have been true, knowing the personalities involved.

My grandparents

My Granny used to tell us stories of what Sunday was like when she was a girl – she was born in 1890. Absolutely nothing was allowed on Sunday. A child could read the bible but nothing else, they were not allowed to play with toys or to go outside other than to walk to church. Neither were they allowed to speak up or make any other form of noise.

Thankfully none of that was practised in our home but the religious Scots were very severe and in the far north you still could not buy petrol on a Sunday even in the 1970s. Oh, and the ridiculous Scottish licencing laws. You could not buy a drink on a Sunday unless you were a bona fide traveller and then only in a hotel. So we used to travel a few miles up the road (by bus – young people did not have cars then) and pretend we were exhausted travellers. I am sure no-one was fooled by it but the landlord wasn’t going to miss out on selling some booze! Drinking age was 16 in Scotland in those days.

On regular business days pubs were licenced to serve between 11.30 am and 2.30 pm, close and then reopen at 5.30 and close promptly at 9.00pm. This was to combat public drunkenness – the Scots who went to the kirk were well outnumbered by the ones who spent too much time in the pub – but in fact this had the opposite effect. Workers charged into the pub at opening time and stayed there till they were chucked out at Last Call, usually with a “carry-oot” which meant wine or beer bought in the pub to be consumed in the street later. Those who weren’t involved in a fight would stagger down to the chippie for sixpence-worth of chips and finally get home in time to beat up their wives. Even the supposedly more respectable boys and men operated a double standard. On Fridays they went to the pub with their mates, got plastered and picked up any girl available for a quick tumble. On Saturday, it was ladies’ night and they took their girlfriends out – often to the same pub. The Scottish attitude towards women contributed greatly to my decision to leave the place and go seek my fortune in London. It didn’t work very well but I married an Englishman.

A final note: accolades to Joe for making the most wonderful dinner of stuffed Hungarian peppers tonight. It was so delicious and that I overate and now I’m, well, stuffed!


  1. Awesomeness! Love the pic too!!

    • Thanks, sweetie! I kind of enjoy just rambling on like that. I usually have no idea what I’m going to write about when I start so there’s no knowing where I will end up.

  2. A great cameo of working class life in Scotland. Living in the rarified atmostphere of Milngavie I was immune to the real slice of life!!
    There was nothing more stultifying than Scottish middle class village life.

    • I can imagine! I think the excitement of rough old Dundee was preferable to village life. But then I only stayed there until I was 20 when I shipped out to be a house slave (au pair) in Germany, before heading for the big city. I had forty-three pounds and no job. How come I was so brave? I had three quid left when I got a job. Never occurred to me to go home though – couldn’t afford the train ticket!

      • I never knew you were au pair–how little one can know of friends one considers “good friends”. The good must relate to common bonds of experience and we certainly have had plenty of those!!

      • It really means a lot to me that we are we still such good friends. It has been so many years. Richard is 44 and I was pregnant with him when we met! Criptes! Not sure we’ll make it for another 44 though!

        Common bonds and common interests too, I think.

  3. Any chance Joe would share his recipe for stuffed peppers? I made some recently. Froze the two that were left and then threw them out. I hate to throw out food, but when you know you can’t eat it, what do you do?

    • Yes, sure. I’ll get him right on it!

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