BICYCLING

It was about 1930 that I acquired a bike, which, as I have described elsewhere, was a light-weight racing model.  It opened up a whole new world for me!  I associated with a few kindred spirits and casually with lots of other Clydebank cyclists of that era.  There was "Rab" Knight, Ha'penny, Chugger, the Rankins -- three brothers and a sister -- Peter Russell and his wife, and of course, Tony Ventilla, who came into the group.  One of our habits was to leave Clydebank about 9 or 10 p.m., head up Loch Lomond to Tinkers Point, where we would light a big campfire and sleep away the night.     One Saturday night, four of us, myself, Ha'penny, and two others, were up near the village of Luss.  The four of us were cycling along when we saw in the dim light of our cycle lamps a "body" lying over a stone wall, doubled over the wall face down.  We slowed, but didn't dismount.  We talked among ourselves and speculated that it was a hit-and-run victim.  We were all a wee bit scared to investigate too closely, so we decided we would go on to Luss and get the village cop to investigate.  We cycled to the Constable's house and knocked on the door.  Luckily, he hadn't gone to bed.  We explained why we were there and he said he would get his bike and ride back with us to see the "body." When we returned to the spot, there was nothing there.  The body had disappeared!  Constable Marchbanks wasn't annoyed; in fact, he complimented us for our trouble.  He thought it was a local poacher who had hidden when he heard us coming along and bent over so his face wouldn't be seen, but he said it might have been someone in need of help and he assured us we had done the right thing coming for him. 

We did a lot of touring around, round the Lochs and down the coast in the years 1930, '31, and into '32, and did trips to Edinburgh or down through Ayrshire or over to Lochearn and Killin.  I knocked the life out of my "prosthesis" which was a name I never heard until I came to the United States.  Before that, it was just a "limb."  I had a lot of fun and had a lot of good pals during my cycling days.    

Around 1931, I was down the Ayrshire coast one Sunday with our little group, and in Stevenson, I met Tony Ventilla for the first time.  Tony had cycled down from Clydebank with his boss, Mr. Stefano, and had been gathering shellfish.  They were riding big, upright bikes, but when Tony saw our sleek lightweight racing frames, he decided he was going in for our style of cycling.  He was a couple of years younger than me, but we really hit it off, and for a year or two, we were as close as brothers.  My mother had a very soft spot for Tony which eventually resulted in a very close relationship with our families.

Sometime in 1932 or '33, my father's father, whom I hadn't seen since the early twenties, came to Dalmuir to live with us.  At one time, they lived at 300 Westmuir Street in Parkhead, in the East End of Glasgow and I have a hazy recollection of visiting there when I was very young.   I think, but can't be sure, that the Murdoch's lived at that address too, before the old man went to live with the Dale's in Kirn.  He had been widowed in December 1915 and from all accounts, hit the bottle hard in the following years, before going to Kirn.  At any rate, he went to Kirn, and in his retirement, worked as a gardener for a Monsignor of the Catholic Church, which may have helped him to stay sober. 

Eventually, in failing health and deteriorating mind, his daughter, Mary, packed him off to live with us.   He could not do much for himself, and eventually, my dad had to nurse him almost like a child.  He slept in a hospital bed on the other side of my room, and, in his condition, barely knew night from day, so that I would often hear him having imaginary conversations with people he knew in his past.  He used to chat with "Isabella Moneypenny," one name I remember among others, and on other occasions, he would recite passages he remembered from the Bible or parts of hymns.  One of these was "Lead kindly light," and he used to really orate when he came to the bit -- "O grave, where is thy victory, O death, where is thy Sting."