I grew up in Howat Street in Govan in the 60s and 70s. My da was a welder in the shipyards and my ma took on a job as a cleaner in the hospital when he was too unwell to work.
We started off at 11 Howat Street, in the shadow of Fairfields shipyards, where we had an outside toilet. When I was eight, we moved across the road to number 18, where we had the luxury of an inside toilet. We got our hot water from a geyser and washed in a basin as we had no bath. We had good neighbours back then and I was always getting shouted on to run to the shops for “messages”.
Howat Street and the surrounding tenements were one big playground. My pals and I used to play football all day against the big orange wall. We used lampposts or jumpers for goals. You would leave the game to go in for something to eat and when you came out the same game was still going on. At times you would end up with holes in your “sannies” and if your family couldn’t afford a new pair, we’d use cardboard as insoles.
At other times, we would play two-man hunt where two boys would chase the rest all over Govan – across the crumbling back-courts and even into long derelict shipyards. Often my pals and I would finish the day at St. Anthony’s primary school and head over on the Govan Ferry to Partick and then up to the Art Gallery. I never told my ma I was wandering about Glasgow after school. Often, we would get a chase back to the ferry by gangs of Partick boys and would catch a departing ferry by the skin of our teeth.
My da was a great reader and would take my sister, brother, and me to the Elder Park library. I loved going back there on my own and never forget the joy of finding great books. Learning to read and enjoying books early on set me up for the rest of my life. A lot of my pals were not encouraged to read and never did as well at school.
Growing up in Govan, there were a lot of people who drank or gambled too much. The saving grace for kids like me was having a wee ma who sacrificed, was there for you no matter what, and you always knew you were loved. Whatever path you took in life, that love gave you a basis for believing you were of value and could be a good person.
At Action for Children, the minimum we want for the children we work with is to be loved and supported and to get an opportunity to succeed in life. Although we have made great advances in Scotland, one in four children living in poverty is unacceptable. Family and community are the greatest assets we have in tackling poverty and improving children’s life chances.”
A middle bit away from childhood
Would you like to contribute a childhood memory? We are collecting stories to better understand what helps children flourish. Submit your story here: childrensparliament.org.uk/yoc-childhood-stories/
Photo courtesy Nick Hedges nickhedgesphotography.co.uk