KIT AND ALBERT
In 1965, the first break in my generation of the family took place and it was a shock to us all. On the first Saturday of the New Year, Bessie and I were downtown in Clydebank in the afternoon, when someone met us -- I think it was Robert -- and told us there was a telegram waiting for us at the house. We went home immediately to find that it was from Oban telling us Albert had died suddenly. He and Kit lived in Knightwood, but on most holidays, they went up to Oban to be with Catherine, their daughter, and her husband, Donald McGregor. Donald and Albert enjoyed going fishing and the camaraderie of the local taverns. They had been there celebrating the New Year, which was the previous Monday. Albert had a heart condition and had been treated for angina for some time, but he was taken to the hospital for pneumonia, and with his weakened heart, he could not resist it and died. I drove 90 miles to Oban by myself that Saturday night and arrived around 8 or 9 p.m. They were proposing to take Albert to Glasgow for cremation, but I talked it over with them, pointing out how much Albert had enjoyed Oban. I prevailed on them to have the funeral in Oban and they all agreed it was a better plan and would be a lot simpler. Later, Kit went to live there.
Albert's funeral was at a beautifully laid-out cemetery on the banks of the Sound of Lorne at the north end of Oban and the sound of water lapping on the shore was very peaceful. I drove the Courtenay's, Kit's old neighbours in Knightswood. Albert's brothers and sisters were all there. It is a beautiful cemetery in beautiful surroundings.
Kit and Albert were married on Hogmanay -- New Years Eve -- on December 31, 1929 and went to live at 4 Bouverie Street, Yoker. Kit had a very unhappy time in her early married years, with at least two miscarriages and the death of their first two sons in infancy. It was a source of happiness for them when Catherine came along and grew up into a very wonderful daughter. Later, Gordon came along and completed their family. Gordon went to New Zealand and married a girl there whose roots were in Milngavie. I understand from Kit they have broken up now. The mother has the one son of this union.
I was still working at Harland & Wolff's and I was driving a Humber by then. It was a big car with a genuine leather interior and a walnut dash, and I think I can safely say that was the car I'd wanted all my life and the one I wish I still owned.
Rumors were starting to float that Harland & Wolff was going to phase out the four plants they had in Glasgow and while it didn't seem likely to us in 1966, the amount of work in hand suggesting we were safe for four or five years at least, the axe started to fall. First, they closed down the Clyde Foundry where all the iron and steel castings were made. The next thing that went was the Govan Shipyard on which they had spent more than a million pounds in modernization just the year before, and they still had two ships to build. Finnieston Engine Works was next on the agenda, which left our establishment, still known as the Gun Work.
Early in 1967, they started on our place, shipping work in progress to Belfast in Northern Ireland and laying off people every week until finally, we were all gone. I got my last paycheck, plus a fair amount of severance pay one Friday night, and the next day, Saturday, Bessie and I were out doing some shopping. On the way home, on a side road, another car barrelled through a stop sign right across the front of us. Our car hit him on the back half of his car, but his momentum carried him a good 100 yards past us. Our car ran into a garden over a low wall and the front was ruined. So the following week, I had to get another car and I bought another Humber. It was a newer model, and not nearly so good as the old one, nor so well appointed.
While I was looking for a job, I was offered a deal to use my car for private hire by a local hirer and I did this for a month or two full-time. After I got another job, I continued with it at week-ends. I got a job on Quality Control with the Singer Company in their Industrial Division. When I went for an interview, the department manager turned out to be a man I'd known for more than 30 years and whose family had been neighbors of my mother in Dalmuir. His name was Archie Law, and he didn't hesitate to offer me a job as an inspector. The work in Singers was somewhat different to my previous experience, because even the heaviest part was light enough to be picked up by hand. The main parts we were handling were the arms and beds of industrial sewing machines, and the operations were to bore the shaft bores, and to make sure they were parallel or at the correct angle to each other. The tolerances were tight, mostly to within +/- .0002 of an inch. Since the cast iron parts were made in their own foundry, we could trace any variation from start to finish. In our department, there was a bed line and an arm line and on each line, the operators had to operate anything from four to six machines. The line was so timed that when a part came out fully machined and bored, the first rough part was being loaded at the first machine in line. My job was to keep a check on each operation and at the end of the line, check the parts on the surface table or on a master gauge. We had about four different models running at any given time, so you can be sure there was no wasted time. I had been there about 3 months when there was a shuffle in supervisory personnel and we all got a move up. I went right up to Q. C. Manager for the entire department, jumping past a couple of positions on the way. This put me on a monthly staff, but I still got paid for overtime, and had a card which I turned in every week recording any extra time I did. The extra time was a fair amount because they worked late two or three nights a week and most Sundays. The overtime was paid a month in arrears, and altogether, it was a very nice amount. We had three weeks' vacation in summer, plus a week in winter, in addition to seasonal holidays which added another seven or eight days. This, plus the little side line of driving hires, was a good time for me.
My week-end work of driving hires provided some diversion and some rather bizarre experiences. One Saturday morning, I had a registry Office wedding to do. This would be like going before a judge in the U.S., except that the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths performed the ceremony. My first call was in Dalmuir, in the west end of Clydebank, to pick up the best man who appeared in a tuxedo at 9 a.m. He directed me to the opposite end of town to pick up the bridegroom who, also in a tuxedo, diverted us to another address to pick up boutonnieres for the two of them. I then asked, "Where to now?" and they directed me to the Registry Office, which lay about halfway between my first two calls. Since it was windy and raining heavily, I asked them, "What about the bride and her attendant?" They replied, "Oh, don't worry about them, they are going down on the bus!" Sure enough, they were waiting in the door-way when we arrived, as wet and bedraggled as you'd expect. I parked outside, but 10 minutes later, the best man came running out saying, "I forgot the ring," so we had to go pick it up, return to the office and get the wedding over. Finally, I dropped them off at a house in Clydebank.
Another Saturday, I went to pick up a bridegroom and when I arrived, he had a nice jacket and tie, button hole, etc., but his trousers looked like an old pair of baggy work pants. He wanted me to drive him down Clydebank to buy a pair of trousers, because his girlfriend had been pressing his suit trousers and burnt a hole in them with the iron! On another occasion, we were doing a big church wedding. I was driving the bridal car, and after dropping the groom and his best man at the church, my next pickup was the bride and her father. For the bride, we covered the back seat of the car with immaculate white sheets, placed flowers all along the rear window ledge, and two silk ribbons from the front of the roof to the front grill, where we had a wreath of flowers. Our practice was to pull into a side street and "dress" the car before going for the bride, and, as usual, I did that. I arrived at the house about 4:45 p.m. The wedding was in a church about 10 or 12 minutes away, so my timing was perfect. I went up the path and knocked on the door. The bride's father said, "She's doing her hair, she won't be long." So I went back to the car and waited, and waited and waited. At 5:15 p.m., I went back, knocked on the door and her father came out again and said, "She's nearly ready, she'll be out in a minute." So I waited some more. I went back to the door at 5:30 p.m. to get the same answer. Another car came from the church to see if I'd had a breakdown. Finally, at about 5:55 p.m., the bride appeared. She had a little, flat, white hat with veil attached, and the hair she had taken so long to do was one of these arrangements where long, shoulder-length hair is brushed straight down with a plain centre parting. Frankly, I expected something different.
I suppose every wedding has its strange happenings, but I saw a lot of things, not all of them funny. Like the time I was driving the bride to an 8 a.m. wedding in the Catholic Church. This was a common custom and the participants were supposed to fast before nuptial mass with communion. But another custom was when a death took place, the body would be taken to the church the night before the funeral to lie before the altar.
On this occasion, as I was approaching the church, I saw they were bringing out a coffin, so I immediately diverted round the block to make sure the funeral party was clear. I am sure, on some occasions, weddings must have taken place with a coffin right there on the altar. It doesn't seem like an auspicious start to a wedding. Once in a while, the local undertaker would get our cars to help when a big funeral was scheduled. On some occasions, I went to funerals with 20 or 30 cars in line. The record I counted was 44 cars. And if it was going to the Western Crematorium in Glasgow, it was a bit hectic getting through the traffic lights. In Clydebank, the undertaker called on the local police to direct traffic when we had a big one. In doing this kind of work, I suppose it was educational to see how things were done, and it sure gave us plenty to talk about and sometimes to laugh about.