By Holywell Street 2020
It was summer 1987 in a Scottish Borders rural town; an uninspiring place that most tourists may stop off at on their way to get to somewhere else. It was our town though and was by far the most cosmopolitan if you compared it to other towns in the Borders.
There was, however, a University and students from the bigger cities would move there for a spell. There was also a group of young lads who were maybe influenced by what these students wore as well as their musical tastes. More importantly, they attended football matches in Edinburgh and Glasgow so they were dressed in the terrace attire of the time. If this town had one thing, it had character, or should I say, it had characters; having said that you would only aspire to escape the place at the first opportunity, the town was famous for rugby and the usual divisions in the working class.
Music, football and clothes were linked and that’s what kept these young bods together, it was like a family unit with great camaraderie. But we weren’t the only ones; there was a rival town who thought they could match us but they were always miles and years behind, led by a bloke named McGhee. They all had this grating accent, kind of like finger nails being dragged down a blackboard and would pronounce him as ‘Mawgheeeee’. In our town we had some good level-headed chaps, one in particular being the “T-Bone”. There was never a dull moment with him, always a gag and a laugh. I used to get his lunch every day although mostly I didn’t know anything about it. Loads of times after we’d stood in the queue at the bakers I’d find my hood stuffed with cakes and sausage rolls after I’d got outside.
T-Bone and McGhee simply didn’t like each other and McGhee would often call the local phone box where we’d all hang about in the street and ask to speak to T-Bone. In his awful twang he would tell him, ‘yow are getting it’ but it was water off a duck’s back to him, he’d just keep telling McGhee that he was the continuous winner of the Ugly Man Contest and that his prize would arrive soon.
When I used to meet up with T-Bone we would visit ‘papa-don’t-preach’s house’, which was his granddad’s flat and a fine fella he was, a real good soul, just like a granddad should be, straight out of a “Werther’s Originals” advert. T-Bone would sometimes borrow £10 from PDP, in fact, he would borrow £10 quite regularly. PDP, would always ask what this was for and at the age of 17, he’d tell him, ‘sweets and hings’.
One Friday night we were there before we went for our Becks session at a pub named The Bizz. So, T-Bone gets his ten-spot and off we go. The Bizz was like a disco bar with video jukebox, DJ and a real 80s vibe, which really is what you’d expect it to be like, seeing as it was the 80s. When we got there the place was packed to the rafters with fashionable types, as if we’d just walked into an episode of “The Hitman and Her” but more importantly there would have been about 30 of our like-minded comrades already in. We had decided we were visiting a town in between ours and McGhee’s called The Bannock because it was their yearly festival which meant there was a funfair in town, or as we called it – “the shows”. The screeching Mawgheeeee had been annoying T-Bone most of the week by calling the phone box and informing him that himself and his equally screechy merry followers would be at the shows in The Bannock on this particular Friday evening; so off we went, leaving the Bizz and onto the bus.
T-Bone would like to “sail”, which was an arm movement starting with the hand – much like a Mexican wave and to the instruction of ‘saaiiling men’ we would all do it. However, there was a random chap on the bus who resembled an angry Frank Carson and he seemed to be getting annoyed with ‘sailing men’ so T-Bone tried to get him involved in one of those ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ kinda vibes. He was showing him the drill and movement of “sailing” out of the goodness of his heart, but this just annoyed Frank and he goes nose-to-nose with him. The next thing you know, T-Bone’s left arm – which isn’t sailing – hooks him and knocks his big glasses off which fly across the bus. The two of them squared-up and Frank’s response is to slap at T-Bone as if he’s doing the bongo drums before one of our gang picked his specs up and respectfully put them back on for him. Frank, now with full vision, tried a punch and missed so resorted to the bongo drum again. T-Bone went along with this and the two of them end up dancing bongo drum style, Frank is smiling, not quite sailing, but they got there in the end, the bus stops in the Bannock and we hug him and jump off.
The Bannock was another one of those grey, soul destroying places, the bottom half was industrial and the top half housing with a lifeless main street, sort of like “Village of the Damned” but with a Spar. We made our way to the local showground but there didn’t seem to be any sign of Mawgheeeee and his screeching men as we walked around. A few little stand-offs with the locals were looking promising though, and we consoled ourselves a bit when T-Bone won a coconut at one of the stalls to a round of applause followed by more sailing.
It was then a local lass told us that the screeching lot had just left the shows on their way back to their hometown. We knew there was a bus stop at a golf course on the top half of The Bannock where they’d be getting on at, so we headed up there. In the distance we could see Mawgheeeee and his followers standing at the stop like a bunch of scarecrows when their bus came along and drove past us. In the hope that we would get to them before they boarded we started to sprint but our luck seemed to be out as we saw them getting on, with the last being Mawgheeeee! He was standing shouting obscenities, things that were not very nice, like ‘wonkers’ or something like that. As he turned to get on the bus T-Bone continued his run and in an Ian “Beefy” Botham bowl style he lobs the coconut to crack Mawgheeeee right on the side of the head, his prize had finally been delivered.