LET LET US US ACT ACT FOR FOR OUROURSELVES SELVES SELECTED WORKS OF FREDDY ANDERSON
A GLASGOW PERSON SEARCHING EVEN TODAY FOR A REAL HISTORY OF HIS OR HER CITY IS ALMOST IN THE SAME BEWILDERED STATE AS A FOSTER-CHILD LOOKING FOR ITS REAL PARENTS. IT IS SO WELL CONCEALED. THE MASTERS OF CULTURE HAVE DONE THEIR TASK EXCEEDINGLY WELL. Freddy Anderson, The Culture of Glasgow, 1988
Recollections of Freddy
In His Own Words
The Culture of Glasgow
This collection was compiled and edited by Joey Simons
Preface by Paul Anderson
his pamphlet is a great introduction to Freddy Anderson's poetry, plays and prose. Joey Simons has made a tremendous job of giving context to these works. Of course, those presented here (and we plan to produce a wider collection as interest in Freddy is mounting) were a big part of my childhood along with my brother Dermot and sister Isobel. There are so many memories here for me. Indeed an embarrassment of riches that I prize more than gemstones. The Garthamlock News, The Easterhouse Voice… Freddy was orientated towards the community and worked tirelessly for the improvement of ‘ordinary’ folk. He almost singlehandedly established the tenants association hall which eventually became the first pub in the area. He attended preliminary meetings for most of the developments in Easterhouse including the Summer Festival and The Voice. The latter I helped to collate till the Great Miners’ Strike came along. Everything we did that year was geared to supporting the miners financially and politically. The East End Support Committee’s Burns night in Shettleston was a highlight for me in particular.
Looking at Freddy is like looking at a kaleidoscope with so many patterns and colours. He also embraced the folk scene. At the age of six, I walked into the living room only to find a group of big hairy men called the ‘Dubliners’ all asleep. Freddy co-edited, with Willie Gallacher, the Scotia Folk newsletter, solidifying his role in the Scottish folk revival in which, with Hamish Henderson, he was a major partisan. There were so many individuals who brought it all to life, now household names. Matt McGinn being one outstanding example. Freddy was a polyglot and helped me through college. He was widely read and never out of the Mitchell Library. He was a storyteller and won various competitions at folk festivals. I have often thought that his major works – the novel Oiney Hoy and the play Krassivy – deserve a place in the school curriculum. Every Scottish child should at least know of his poems The Blackberry Man, Bonnymuir, and The Sunbright Flower of Peace. This pamphlet will help establish his rightful recognition in Scottish history.
Introduction by Joey Simons
his pamphlet represents a small selection from the vast and varied writings of Freddy Anderson (1922-2005). I hope it gives a sense of the passion, wit and poetic flair of the man, his connections to Easterhouse, his role in the wider left-wing culture that has long existed in working-class Glasgow, and my own admiration for his work. I’m not from Easterhouse, and I’m too young ( just about!) to have known Freddy personally. Although I’ve been involved in socialist politics for almost as long I can remember and sought out everything I could about Glasgow’s radical history, I’d never heard of him until a chance encounter with his play Krassivy several years ago. It was a bit of a jolt to the system; I thought I knew my stuff! Here was a rebel Irish poet writing plays about John MacLean from a council house in Garthamlock, a mucker of Matt McGinn’s, and one-time Unity Theatre player. How had I never come across him before? On my own at first, and then with the support of Platform, I began researching Freddy and, through various scattered references in articles and archives, his shifting outline began to take shape. Then I started to mention his name to folk, and the stories really began to flow. In chance encounters on the backs of buses, in libraries, pubs and theatres, at parties and funerals, demonstrations and political meetings, to family members, friends,
colleagues and comrades, I asked the magic question: ‘I’m looking into this guy Freddy Anderson… did you know him?’ The answers came back in a hundred different ways, from drinkers, writers, archivists, activists, actors, trade unionists, historians, books sellers, janitors, builders and poets: carefully treasured anecdotes of wild nights, razor wit, simple acts of kindness, or insults later taken back, songs and declamations, poetry and politics, moments that changed lives forever. He wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with it seemed: ‘if you didn’t fall out with Freddy, you didn’t really know him.’ But whoever said so, said it with a smile. As well as stories, people generously shared books, pamphlets, letters, notepads, manuscripts, CDs, photos, and scraps of paper bearing some connection to Freddy. Above all, they passed on the names of other people to get in touch with, tracking down phone numbers, addresses and emails that had lain aside for years, maybe decades. And then more stories would come, revealing the ‘kaleidoscopic’ dimensions of Freddy’s life and work, and his innumerable connections to so many parts of Scotland’s history of oppositional working-class culture: the Clincher and Auld Hawkie, Unity Theatre, John MacLean, Hamish Henderson, the miners’ strike, Holy Loch, the UCS work-in, Workers City, the folk revival, and on and on across time and place. 7
And that all brought me back to where I started, namely the question of how I’d never heard of Freddy Anderson in the first place. In his essay ‘The Culture of Glasgow’, Freddy describes the long-line of poets, writers, trade unionists and revolutionaries who have created the ‘real culture’ of the city, in the face of poverty, censorship, and sometimes outright repression. It is not a history learned from the pages of The Herald, school curriculums, or sanitised versions of Glasgow produced by marketing departments, but from ‘grannies and fathers and mothers, cousins and aunts.’ My own research into Freddy confirmed it: it was only through speaking to people that I really learned anything. No-one else will write this history for us. It is up to us to pass on the stories, collect material, make it available, write, publish and share it wherever we can. Otherwise it is lost. Tom Leonard’s poetry collection Radical Renfrew, the memoirs of Hugh Savage with James Kelman’s long introduction on Scotland’s left-wing tradition, and the work of Easterhouse’s Trondra community history group (and others like them across Glasgow) are all invaluable examples of what can be done. As a line from Freddy’s play The Ghost of Provanhall puts it: ‘laissez nous faire let us act for ourselves!’ It is not an academic question.
Easterhouse, where Freddy spent so much of his life, seems a good case in point. Type ‘Easterhouse’ into the catalogue computer at the Mitchell Library, and you’ll get back a dozen reports on urban crisis, area renewal and
investment strategies. Search for it on the internet, and you’ll find gangs, Frankie Vaughan and Iain Duncan Smith. But to find out about Freddy, the East End Area Action Committee on Rents, the residents from Garthamlock who picketed the City Chambers, the women who fought the ‘Dampness Monster’, the radical activities of the teenage ‘White Panthers’, the Easterhouse Summer Festivals, the thousands of pounds raised during the miners’ strike, the dozens of theatre productions that came out of the scheme… that is much harder. It’s there, but it’s not easy to find, and it doesn’t form any part of official narratives or policy plans. That sometimes means those who hold power can tell a different story, one that suits different purposes. In 2016, Frank McAveety, then Labour-leader of Glasgow City Council, announced plans to ‘transform Easterhouse into a fantastic retail, cultural and leisure destination.’ I have no idea if these plans will be successful. But any vision that fails to recognise the culture that Easterhouse itself has produced, and the ‘transformations’ that came about through the people’s own struggles, is at risk of repeating the mistakes of the past (again). If we know our history, it’s easier to keep those who ignore it on their toes. I’ve spent a while now with Freddy, and Easterhouse too, and any clear conceptions I had when I set out have now well and truly been dispelled. As William McIlvanney
once wrote: ‘The longer you are acquainted with a place, the more you don’t know it.’ Clarity is often born of ignorance. Like I said, I never knew Freddy, and I’m a couple of steps removed in time from the cultural and political world he lived and worked in. But I hope there’s some value in a view of Freddy from that vantage point. Compared to when I began, his ghost is haunting a few more places in the city. Freddy’s friends, family and comrades are continuing the vital work of collecting and preparing his innumerable writings, and preserving his memory. At Platform, in Easterhouse, talks, readings and events have taken place, reconnecting his work with old audiences, and introducing him to new ones. On January 19th, 2020, Paul Anderson unveiled a plaque commemorating Freddy outside Lynch’s bar in the Calton, just above the one of Matt McGinn. An edition of Freddy’s collected poems and prose will be published later this year by Hog’s Back, edited by Ian Spring, and supported by F.A.R.E., Glasgow Caledonian University, the Scottish Poetry Library and others. This represents a fantastic achievement, and will no doubt restore Freddy’s rightful place in Glasgow’s history and beyond. This pamphlet hopefully acts as a modest contribution to that necessary work. ‘Let us act for ourselves!’
Recollections of Freddy by Gary Lewis
reddy Anderson was a very generous man. Maybe he didn't always have the means to buy you a pint, but in so many ways he gave and gave and gave. He contributed greatly to the cultural and political life of Easterhouse, Glasgow and further afield. Many people's lives, including my own, were enhanced for having met him. I picture Freddy most clearly at political meetings. He was an uncorrupted socialist. He spoke passionately at Labour Party meetings often ending with fierce attacks against what he called â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;the toadies and creepsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;: the well-heeled careerists of the Labour Party who had left working-class folk far behind. As the top table tried to dampen his fire with patronising smiles, Freddy would rise again, angry and fearless, to embarrass them. You might not catch every word he said but you got the gist of it. The same was often true when he recited a poem in the pub: the Vicky bar or wherever. One night Mary Black and her band came into the Vicky after a gig. When Freddy was told who she was, he immediately introduced himself then delivered an epic poem interspersed with historical explanations, laughter and sips of whisky. It rose and fell and rose again. Maybe few understood that much of it, but Mary and the band and everybody else in the pub were on their feet cheering.
Many encounters with Freddy were cultural experiences. Some of them quieter. He revived the tradition of writers selling ‘Penny Sheets’ - a single page with a poem he'd written on it. At times, listening to him helped connect you with long-gone writers and radicals. He'd talk about the Calton Weavers, Burns and John MacLean as if he'd just spoken with them earlier - and here's what's going on! He did a power of research and a power of writing, linking things he'd discovered in the Glasgow Room at the Mitchell Library with issues of the day. Always exposing the hierarchies that stood behind the tragedies, suffering and pain of millions of people. In November 2018, I was asked to recite ‘The Vale Of Aberfan’, a poem Freddy wrote after the terrible deaths of children in the small mining community. The event was organised by thi wurd, an outfit publishing great new work. I got my head into the poem, but when I read it aloud the words touched my heart. It's a beautiful poem. Freddy was a radical because he cared about how so many people’s lives were brutalised and cut short by the rich and powerful. That care is in his work as an artist. Of course, coming from Garthamlock he had to be put down – by non-artists – who didn’t come from Garthamlock. When we were doing Krassivy, some clown from The Herald described Freddy as ‘a scribbler of note.’ 13
Not a writer. A ‘scribbler.’ But hey, what can you expect when a working-class writer writes a play celebrating the life of an uncompromising socialist that plays to packed venues and wins awards. I can recall Freddy's voice readily. Here's another thing he gave us – a lesson on the importance of telling your own stories in your own voice. Celebrating your own traditions. With your own humour – your own words. Even if sometimes you get so fucking angry that not all the words are clearly heard. Like I say, Freddy Anderson was a very generous man. Gary Lewis was born in Easterhouse in 1957 and has become one of Scotland’s best-known actors. His first major onstage role was playing the revolutionary schoolteacher John MacLean in Freddy Anderson’s play Krassivy. He has worked extensively with the director/actor Peter Mullan, and appeared in many films, including Billy Elliot, Gangs of New York and the TV series Outlander. He has long championed Freddy and many social justice causes.
IN HIS OWN WORDS The Voice was a community newspaper established in 1972, covering Easterhouse, Barlanark, Queenslie and Garthamlock. It was written, photographed, edited and designed entirely by local residents. It gained a fearsome reputation for campaigning on local issues and exposing corruption. The profile of Freddy Anderson was one of a series carried by the paper, many of which are collected in The writing on the wall: new images of Easterhouse, published in 1977 by one of the paper’s founders, Reverend Ron Ferguson, to celebrate The Voice’s fifth anniversary.
Profile of Freddy Anderson in The Voice Freddy Anderson is something of a literary genius. And he lives in Garthamlock. Over the last few years, the publicity surrounding the schemes had led almost everyone to believe that nothing good can come out of the area – in fact, we have writers, poets, footballers, artists, folk singers, saints, characters. The Voice intends to focus on one person each month to let the world – and ourselves – know what is going on in our midst. 16
Of Irish origin, Freddy Anderson joined the R.A.F in 1943. He served in India and Burma during the war as a Radar Operator and settled in Glasgow in 1946. He was introduced to the Unity Theatre by Roddy MacMillan, the well-known Scottish actor and playwright, and became a member of the Theatre Club. He wrote for Scots Theatre Magazine and Irish papers and did a literary and musical pageant in St. Andrews Hall.
In his writings for B.B.C and Radio Eireann, Mr. Anderson showed his considerable poetic and dramatic gifts. His publications include “Fowrsome Reel”, “Poems of a Glasgow Worker”, “The Sunbright Flower of Peace” (translated into many languages). His radio talks and stories include “The Pilgrimage”, “In the Wake of the Swans of Lir”, “The Silver Cannon”, “The Banshee in the Corn”, “The Armchair Philosopher”, “Too Many Jobs”, “Bonnymuir”.
Mr and Mrs Anderson and family have lived in Garthamlock since 1962 and now at Inchoch Street. He has involved himself deeply in the life of the community, being secretary of the Garthamlock Tenants’ Association, a member of the Easterhouse Voluntary Aftercare for Young Offenders and Garthamlock Secondary Schools’ ParentTeacher Association.
Freddy has made several records, including “The Backstreets of Glasgow” (Decca), “The Polis o’ Argyll” (Transatlantic), “The Vale of Aberfan”, “Let Glasgow Flourish” and “The Groves o’ Rowalyn” (Decca). His children’s pantomime, “Wee Willie Winkie” (about various Glasgow characters) was recently performed in the Citizen’s Theatre. 17
Here is how he answered The Voice’s questions: How did you come to Glasgow? The usual manner of Irish migration – steerage in some cattle boat. Incidentally, the accommodation for troops during the war was even worse. Packed like sardines and blacked out into the bargain. I joined the R.A.F in 1943, met a girl in Glasgow, and she invited me to her wedding in 1946. I’ve been here ever since. No. I was in Edinburgh for six months and London for three, but neither of these places compare favourably with Glasgow for warmth or colour of character. Believe it or not, Dublin is nearest for friendliness of the people. When did you start writing poetry? I liked essay writing at school. It was really a joy, not a task, to me, although the use of one’s imagination is none too easy if you are endeavouring to be realistic as well. I would say that when I was nine or ten years old, I caught the ‘literary bug’, and now forty years later I am still 18
involved. Literature, like any of the arts, can be a long apprenticeship. Except for the occasional and unique genius like Burns. He makes it seem so easy, doesn’t he? What political figures of the past and present have inspired you? There are so many I would run short of the paper to describe them. The passive resistance of Jesus Christ, and the great humanity of the Sermon on the Mount has been an inspiration to many for almost two thousand years. Unfortunately, as the great Jonathan Swift says, “there’s just enough Christianity in the world to make us hate each other, not enough to make us love each other.” That’s one reason for the dreadful state in Ulster. I think Jimmy Reid of Clydebank has a very good combination of practical politics with a humanitarian outlook. For a rich, spontaneous humour with the sharp edge of satire, a wee Paisley man had that in abundance! Willie Gallacher. He was indeed a rare person, a strict teetotaller who didn’t bore you. Another exceptional man,
the brilliant school- teacher, John MacLean, of whom Scotland will know a great deal more before this century is out. In the distant past, the first real Scot, William Wallace, and his friend Bishop Wishart of Glasgow Cathedral. In the same tradition a man for whom I have a great regard is Lord Fuinary, Rev. Dr George McLeod of the Iona Community. Literary and cultural figures? Very many! Shakespeare, Burns, Swift, Blake, Shelley, Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Tolstoy, Goya, Cervantes etc. and not forgetting ‘Anonymous’ himself. He wrote fine ballads like “The Twa Corbies” and “Waly, Waly” and was very prolific. Only for Anonymous, there would hardly have been a Shakespeare or a Burns. Of contemporary writers, I think a lot of Sean O’Casey, Jack London, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Hamish Henderson, Robert Tressel and Brecht. I think that “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” is probably the best novel in the English language in the 20th century.
How do you see the future for Garthamlock? Like many another housing scheme, we are at present at the crossroads. Garthamlock could be made into a pleasant little township, or it could, on the other hand, be allowed to degenerate into a spiritless dump. I hope the Glasgow Corporation do not proceed with their plan to build more houses here, when there are already hundreds of empty houses both in Garthamlock and in adjacent districts. It seems quite senseless to me. The new housing scheme at Craigend has taken over the green fields between Garthamlock and Ruchazie to the west of us. Surely the Corporation could leave us the bit of green belt that is left. The £300,000 improvement project will be a big benefit, but it needs to be speeded up. Auchinlea Park will be a pleasant addition, but we need more shops and amenities. Vandalism is still going to be one of our big problems, and will only be stamped out by the co-operation of the authorities and all tenants, 19
but I still think that the housing schemes could be ‘redeemed’ even at this late hour. However, it will require a major operation. What do you think of the Rent Act? I regard the Decimal Currency, The Common Market, and the Rent Act as the greatest three-card con trick of the century; and of the three, the Rent Act is the most vicious. It makes Rachmannism legal and ‘respectable’. It is supposed to ‘assist’ the poor and underpaid. Ask any old age pensioner how he or she has benefited from it! Apart from the odd exception, I am certain the nation would gain if we swapped Barlinnie or Brixton for Westminster. There are times when I feel real sorry for Guy Fawkes, and not just his poor effigy! What is your greatest wish? To see World Peace accomplished on earth. I see sense in Bertrand Russell’s fear of nuclear war arising by sheer accident, owing to the great number of missiles 20
already in existence; and these numbers will greatly increase, as the industrialisation of the world continues. I do not believe that the nuclear bomb is a deterrent. I think the only real deterrent is disarmament, and surely the lead in this should come from countries which regard themselves as Christian. Think on this! Ten minutes of nuclear war would destroy Mankind’s ingenuity. It would destroy all the advances in medicine, science, and art made since Time began, and there would be no winners! Politics? I don’t belong to any particular party, but I am far left of centre. I wouldn’t care to walk the distance. I am also something of a Nationalist. When the Germans built the Irish Electricity Scheme on the Shannon, it didn’t entitle them to free electricity. Surely the fact the Americans use Scottish labour for drilling in the North Sea does not entitle them to all the profits of our oil? And I believe that the Scots, like the Irish, the English and the Welsh are a nation.
THE CULTURE OF GLASGOW The following essay appeared in The Reckoning, a collection of writings from the Workers City group published in 1990. Workers City was formed in 1988 in response to Glasgow’s nomination as European City of Culture. A loose collection of political activists, writers and artists all agreed that ‘the city belongs to its people and not to the political gangsters and big-money men whose only interest in Glasgow is what they can milk it for’. Freddy was a key part of the group, and this essay sets out his vision of an oppositional, working-class culture that has long been suppressed, and the importance of keeping that history alive.
Generally speaking, and with some few exceptions, it is obvious that indigenous Culture in Glasgow is finding it a very difficult struggle to make its way. Why should this be when there is a wealth of literary and theatrical talent in Glasgow, including its huge peripheral housing-schemes? It is my opinion that the authorities, for all their lipservice to Culture, are very wary lest they open the 22
flood-gates in Glasgow to an immense popular Culture, not Hollywood, Broadway or London-based, that will sweep away within a very few years the hackneyed, time-worn ideas that have been foisted on the people by a servile, manipulated media-machine for decades. I also contend that this suppression and distortion of truth began in Glasgow at the end of the eighteenth century with the appearance of Robert Burns’ works in the Kilmarnock Edition.
These poems of Robert Burns were such a powerful exposure of the wickedness of the Establishment that it sent them scurrying for ways to undo the damage Burns was causing. Burns received not a single review in any Glasgow paper for his Kilmarnock Edition, but two mealymouthed letters that might have come from Holy Willie’s pen appeared in The Mercury, signed Amicus by an obvious denigrator of Burns. Such is how the authorities in Glasgow hailed Scotland's greatest literary genius ever. I would not choose to mention this had, after the great Edinburgh Edition of 1787, the City Fathers and Chamber of Commerce tycoons repented. They never did. Burns presented such a challenge to their philistinism, hypocrisy and ‘North British’ servitude that they erected the highest monument in George Square to the loyalist minion, Sir
Walter Scott, decades before the pennies of the Glasgow people paid for the much lower plinth of Rabbie Burns on the grass verge. And despite their sustained verbal accolades to Burns every January, they are still unrepentant. There is scarcely a plaque in the entire city to acknowledge the twenty or so links Burns had with Glasgow. However, the Glasgow Establishment’s treatment of genius and truth extended far beyond Burns to include anyone who challenged their domination by wealth and power. It banned the local radical paper, The Spirit of the Union, and transported its editor in the hulks, in 1819. They gaoled Sandy Rodger, the best satirist in Scotland. His excellent work is still excluded from the school curriculum. James Macfarlan, whose gifts were recognised both by Thackary and Dickens, lived in poverty in a Glasgow attic, 23
died of T.B. when he was only thirty years old and was buried in a pauper’s grave. Thus the Rodgers and Macfarlans were neglected and, in their stead throughout the whole of Victorian Glasgow, a lickspittle, sentimental, pseudoreligious trash was foisted on the people of Glasgow in the name of poetry. Poetry was emasculated of its substance and strength and the rubbish published in Glasgow was a mere mockery of the real thing. All this happened at a time when Glasgow was rapidly becoming the greatest slum city in Europe. What you might ask is the connection between poetry and slums? Well, poetry is the seminal source of all literature and can evoke a powerful protest against injustice. But the purpose of a Culture controlled by the upper classes, who were prospering at the expense of the masses in 19th century Glasgow, was to stifle the literature of protest and 24
encourage a petty literature, a literature of escape from reality. It did not enhance reality, it worsened it. The other ‘escapes’ were the wine and spirit ‘palaces’ and the music halls: there were churches aplenty to comfort the pious. Schools and churches and newspapers combined to hide the facts and the real history of Glasgow from the people. A Glasgow person searching even today for a real history of his or her city is almost in the same bewildered state of a fosterchild looking for its real parents. It is so well concealed. The ‘masters’ of Culture have done their task exceedingly well. Hugh MacDiarmid (Christopher Grieve), the greatest Scottish poet in the two centuries since Burns, saw through the ‘Culture Game’ and called for a new alertness among the people both in politics and creativity.
It was in the 1930s along with his literary friend, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, that the best Scottish novelist of this century matured. Neither of these exceptional authors had a smooth passage among the philistines of Glasgow; MacDiarmid’s worldly circumstances were never very high and Gibbon’s widow (Gibbon died in his thirties) was refused by a Glasgow publisher her offer of the second edition of that marvellous novel, A Scots Quair. On the other hand trash like No Mean City, a slur on Glasgow, was being peddled in England in tens of thousands of copies without a chirp of protest from our City Fathers or our elevated Chamber of Commerce. This ‘book’created the false image that Glasgow was a city of thugs, whereas in fact it was a city of radicals and trade unions fighting for elementary rights.
The real Culture of Glasgow has existed not in the upper echelons but in the heart of Glasgow among the tenement dwellers. These created the bands to lead the unemployed during the Hunger Marches of the ‘30s. It lay in people like John MacLean and the Clydeside Workers’ Committee who defied both the Glasgow and the London bosses in the fight against War and the exploitation of the poor. This is the real Culture; though suppressed and hidden by the authorities it survived underground and was orally transmitted from parents to children from the early 19th century in the Glasgow tenements. It was not from the teachers in the schools or the Glasgow Herald journalists that folk learned to seek out the Calton Weavers’ grave of 1787 in Abercrombie Street, or the Sighthill Monument of 1820. It was from their grannies and fathers and mothers, cousins and aunts. 25
The real culture of Glasgow lay in the poets and writers like Sandy Rodger, James Macfarlan, William Miller, Joe Corrie; in artists like Harry Keir and Tom MacDonald etc., in agitprop theatres like Unity Theatre Workshop and Wildcat. In recent days it has existed in the great rallies against the Poll Tax for culture too is politics. It exists in the proud defiant songs of Matt McGinn and Hamish Henderson and dozens of others. It lies in the growing fight against injustice imposed by a Tory-elected English Government in London whose laws are administered by a pseudo-socialist gang in the City Chambers and India Street. They have shrunk the noble Red Banner into a diminutive rose, as puny as their brains, and are hell-bent on shrinking socialism to the same size. Both the City Chambers and the Chamber of Commerce join together to perpetuate a capitalism that for all its braying over Eastern 26
Europeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dilemmas is quite moribund itself. All of you lot will easily afford to see Pavarotti & Co but in spite of your ringside seats you are still on the periphery of real culture and you will ever remain so. For the simple reason that you have always regarded culture, and still do, as a commodity that money can buy. It cannot, no more than love or friendship.
Freddy Anderson was perhaps best known for his work as a poet. In his lifetime, he wrote hundreds of poems, some published in collections, others in community newspapers like Easterhouse’s The Voice, the Workers City group’s ‘scandal-mongering’ newssheet The Glasgow Keelie, folk-scene publications like Chapbook, and many socialist and Scottish republican newspapers. Many more were written in letters, on scraps of paper, for comrades and family members, friends and enemies, delivered at poetry readings, folk gatherings, festivals, political meetings or spontaneously in flats, pubs or the street. I have spoken to many whose eyes still light up at recalling Freddy recite. His principal collections of poetry were the 1949 Clyde Group collection Fowrsom Reel; Poems of a Glasgow Worker, published in 1952 and now very rare; Poems of an Irish Rebel (even rarer!); and At Glasgow Cross and other poems, published in 1987 and the most popular of his collections. An article in The Herald which appeared on August 25th, 1978 served notice of the first Easterhouse Summer Festival, with artists such as ‘singing school teacher Adam McNaughton from Rutherglen and Garthamlock poet Freddy Anderson’. The Festival co-ordinator Graham Forshaw commented that ‘we felt that at least one of the events should appeal to the whole of Glasgow and decided that folk and poetry were the most appropriate.’ Changed days! For better or worse, they are long gone. New forms, new voices emerge, and new struggles too, although they’re often continuations of the old ones. 28
This is just a small selection of poems that I have personally enjoyed, and seem to illustrate some different aspects of Freddy’s poetic skill, his interests and concerns, his many decades of writing, and his connections to the East End. A scholarly Collected Poetry and Prose is due to be published by Hogsback Press under the editorship of Ian Spring in 2020, which is a great step in securing Freddy’s rightful place amongst Scotland’s radical poets.
Fowrsom Reel: A collection of new poetry was published in 1949, and featured four poets known as the Clyde Group – John Kincaid, George Todd, Thurso Berwick, and Freddy Anderson. Hamish Henderson, in his introduction to another of Freddy’s collections, wrote that the Clyde Group ‘represented a genuine innovatory poetic movement, inspired by the memory and political heritage of John MacLean…’. While the other poems in the collection were largely written in Scots, Freddy’s poems ‘were magical atmospheric evocations of his Irish childhood, written in a distinctive Monaghanaccented English’. “Mr Michael Byrne, of the Scottish Dockers’ Union, has recently said that our young Scottish poets should go out among the people, and read their poems at work-gates and to Trade Union meetings etc. I agree with him entirely. But that is just what these young poets have been doing.” Hugh MacDiarmid, introduction to Fowrsom Reel, Glasgow, March 1949
Come gather round me, town bred folk and listen to my tale I was born in Monaghan of the little hills and vales. My mother kept a fruit shop, my father he ran wild and I became in the village street an anxious daring child. With little boats I one day played upon the silver lake; I saw the otter in the reeds chasing the screaming drake I heard the banshee howling â&#x20AC;&#x201C; oh what a howl had she when the high wind whispered to the ford among the dark beech trees. I arose when the night wind whispered over the shallow stream and screaming now was the child in me alone in the woods and wild: here I bide on the mountainside, my cheek on the cheek of the grass while you said you were my love riding my sky may pass. God give her wings to fly through stone for such is the heart of me and in days to come if she thinks at all may she think of me tenderly.
Poems of a Glasgow Worker by Freddy Anderson is a slim volume of thirteen poems published in 1952, although no publisher’s information is included. It is extremely rare, and the copy I managed to track down from Canada arrived loose-leafed and falling apart. The collection is dedicated to the Red Clydesider and Communist MP William Gallacher ‘in his 70th year’, and displays Freddy’s commitment to peace, socialism and the working class. “If my writing arouses conflict in the minds of some readers and hope and courage in the minds of others, it is because they and I are part of the same great struggle towards a Dawn, where honest labour will be rewarded, and the people, having freed themselves, will sing in triumph.” Introduction by Freddy Anderson, Glasgow, April 20th, 1952
THE SPIRIT OF ROBERT BURNS
Would that I lived this day to raise this poem into the ears of Scotland, into every home, out in the fields of Ayr, through hill and through glen The streets and country stretches, I’d move to wisdom with my pen! A bonny sight is Scotland as the sun shines bright! – but brighter far than heaven’s skies are Scotland’s sons upright! Let my song lift in the heather! Let it ring in town and glen, for the morn on earth is dawning soon for none but working men!
‘TIS NOT MY LOVE IS FADING All year at work, come sun or frost, her spirit they can’t kill! For though they hold the moneybags my lassie holds the Will! Their chivalry long buried in annals of the past, ‘tis not my Love is fading, ‘tis they are dying fast!
At Glasgow Cross and other poems, Fat Cat Publications, Glasgow, 1987, is by far Freddy’s best-known volume of verse, although sadly out of print today. Introduced by the great poet, scholar and folk musician Hamish Henderson, it collects poems from across Freddy’s career. I’ve chosen a few of my favourites. For reasons of space, two of his longer and most popular poems – ‘Bonnymuir’ and ‘The Sunbright Flower of Peace’ – couldn’t be included, but I urge readers to seek them out! ‘…in his hatred of cant, hypocrisy and craven self-interest he belongs to a long line of courageous radical poets whose most famous members include Byron and Burns – not forgetting Woody Guthrie. In this long rebellious line Freddy has earned an honourable place.’ Hamish Henderson, introduction to At Glasgow Cross
AT GLASGOW CROSS
At Glasgow Cross on a dreich, cold evening, I watched some pleasured people pass, Doctor, tailor, saint and sailor, True love and his lass, But each sweetened taste was tainted there By a lone-some river cry, And kind folk said it was a child The world was passing by. At Partick Cross, my heart was sickened In a one-side, shadowed street, The world’s distress and loneliness In the imprint of men’s feet; Hastened I to the river-side, I held that child as mine, More meaningful than miracles Of water into wine. And I raised him in the night-sky there With the stars above his head, And shone those eyes, oh, brighter far Than anything I said, “This city, child, your fathers built! This city’s yours to own And never bow to any man, The pulpit or throne!
Bring down the tints of rainbow And raise the tone of earth! Sing gladness that our base Age dies! Be proud of Mankind’s birth! In every land across the globe, A glorious Dawn you’ll see, And live in days that usher in The end of Poverty!” In old George Square, as the night wore on, I heard poor beggars moan; The marble effigies are not The only hearts of stone. In lieu of the pillared men I’d raise A monument to Pity – Two tiny hands that battered on The conscience of the city.
IN COMEDIE LANE, GARTHAMLOCK - TO NANCY (A decade before the housing scheme)
I came unto this land to-day With lonesome heart for my lost love, And underneath these sun-capped trees, I softly sing of memories â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Music these fields once held, Though unaware I walked, Filling my heart with still vague dreams. By my unheeding side she walked, A queen in her own soft domain, Drinking the beauty with her eyes The grass of the earth And the swift skies gave, And all the wonders that she saw She added to with child-like awe, That in its innocence was born A kinship with the morning dew. Her heart was glad that it should be This realm was here For other eyes to see. And as I walked, My castles turning to stone, My young loved passed Into the greenness of the grass And I was left alone. Solitary I search the lane, And seek in furrows in the field And beg the tender earth to yield The secret of her hiding place.
THE BLACKBERRY MAN
All the lanes of Monaghan are heavy with black-berries, And the children carry cans: They fill them in the Summer sun And sell them to the blackberry man. The blackberry man has beady eyes That ripen with the bee: He packs the fruit to the brim in barrels And sends it oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;er the sea. Now the blackberry man is a happy man With his house upon the hill, With his pony and trap and bright tweed cap, And men to run the mill. But happier far are the children there Whose laughter greets the morning air In the dew-grass lanes of Monaghan, Who fearing neither God nor man, Find the world in the rim of a blackberry can.
A framed illustrated copy of this poem hangs in The Scotia, Stockwell Street, Glasgow
THE ORRA MAN
When Adam oot’ o heaven was hounded for his sin, he knew not where on this wide earth his labours to begin; to leave him thus bewildered was never in God’s plan, so He took a pickle wad o’ dirt and made the orra man. O the orra man’s a marvel, the blessing o’ mankind he serves the needs o’ ane and a’ in every race and clime. O the orra man’s essential to fill and bile the can, to sweep and brush and muck the byre we need the orra man. Your poor oul’ maw is wearied oot, she’s never off her feet, wi’ making beds an’ grub for all she seldom gets a seat; she cleans the shoes, she polishes, she scours the pots and pans, she’ll tell you what’s it like to be the poor old orra man.
Man launches into outer space and robots multiply fantastic whigmalerie gigs now sail the starry sky; wonders great we will create, but try the best we can, there’s nae machine we’ll make to match, the good auld orra man. When climbers conquered Everest, they made that grand ascension, with sturdy will on hearts of oak and an orra man called Tensing. I’ll praise the independent soul yet show me him who can sincerely say, he did it all, without the orra man.
The clouds of grief roll down the vale To the town of Aberfan, And silent are the narrow streets Where bright-eyed children ran In play and mirth the live-long day Of many a summer span, Heard songs and tales of ancient Wales In the vale of Aberfan. O brave, courageous mining-folk, What cruel sacrifice! In lowly homes amid the hills, You pay a bitter-price – Disaster’s roll at Pontypridd, Newport and Brynamann, But we little dreamed how the tears would stream In the vale of Aberfan. ‘Twas in the year of sixty-six, The children were at school, When suddenly the mountain slag Became a raging pool; It blotted out the sun and sky, The school-house over-ran And our children fair lay buried there In the vale of Aberfan.
The ghost of Tonypandy looms High over Rhonnda Vale, And from the midnight of the mine Ascends an anguished wail; By Aberdare and Mountain Ash, It echoes o’er the land, O the coal’s black silt made the flowers wilt In the vale of Aberfan. Curse the cruel hand of Greed No gold can satisfy, Nor innocence nor laughter spare, It heeds not children’s cries; The lily of the valley’s crushed By callous profit’s plan, And mothers weep as their young ones sleep In the vale of Aberfan.
VIA DOLOROSA (The path of sorrow)
I made this little poem last night, Spindrift while the city slept â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Was it for a man like me Christ in the Garden wept? I would gather his tears from the soil I would toil all my years and long Urged on like a monk with a sanctified song Again and again I would rise as he rose Thoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wildly the wind blows a storm In my face, And glowing with grace In sun, street, and shadow, Uphill and down, I would carry his cross And my own through the town.
Auld Hawkie and other Glasgow Characters (Glasgow District Libraries, 1988) featured illustrations by Dorothy Whitaker, brief biographies by Joe Fisher, and poems by Freddy Anderson on various 19th century street characters. In his introduction to Fowrsom Reel, Hugh MacDiarmid dismissed most Glasgow writers as ‘nonentities of no consequence whatsoever’, with the exception of the poet James MacFarlan, and that ‘other Villon-like character – hawker, beggar, author, street orator, and wit – William Cameron (“Hawkie” as he was called) who died in Glasgow City Poorhouse in September 1851.’ Auld Hawkie regularly makes his appearance in Freddy’s writings.
O’ gather round till I tell you my tale O’ the times I was jovial an’ hearty an’ hale, But this prick-the-louse tailor’s attention was such That I limp ‘round the town on this tattered auld crutch. At Glasgow Cross fairings or doon by the Green, That’s where the bold Hawkie’s aye tae be seen, Wi’ hundreds around him an’ mony a fool Come to learn what he should have been taught at the School. They ask me conundrums about this, about that, What are the stars, an’ who belled the cat? The craziest questions an’ that sort o’ kind Would drive a Feelosopher out of his mind. But they can’t stump Auld Hawkie, not one little bit, To answer their riddles I’m able an’ fit; If ye want, come an’ try me, I’m aye to be seen Doon by Airn’s Well at the foot o’ the Green.
SALE OF THE CENTURY! Freddy published many poems, articles and cartoons in Easterhouseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s community newspaper The Voice. The following piece appeared on the front page in the VOL VI No.6 Summer Issue, alongside one of his cartoons. Here Freddy comments on the council house sale debate in Glasgow:
THE POSSIBLE SALE OF COUNCIL HOUSES?
My God, but that’s a rare, a brilliant thought! Just look at the bargain to be bought – A draughty close with windows broke and scribbling on the wall, With G.Y.T and Fleet and Tongs and language to appal; wee scunners hoot you up the street, the shops all buzz with flies, the prices and the dole queues here are the only things that rise. We have what’s called a one-man bus to serve this one-hoss place – I’ve seen much faster travelling in a three-legged kiddies race; We might have had a doctor, But he went before he came – Oh, I wish I’d stayed wi’ Granny in her wee bit Hieland hame, for there’s not a snowball’s gamble of moving west or south, for every application in, there’s a thousand to get out. So my wooly-headed Councillors, do you get the message clear? ‘No sale’, we say – in fact we should be paid for living here.
THE SONG OF THE SPUD
I once was a common-or-garden wee bloke, But Fortune smiled on me, and then in a stroke, I was lifted quite literally out of the mud To become over-night, the Omnipotent spud, In the past bitter tears would fall from my eyes, For even the cabbages used to despise Such a lowly born fellow without royal blood And they nick-named me Murphy and tattie and spud I wasn’t worth tuppence, I was down at the heels, Poor tramps of the road will know how it feels To be trampled and scoffed at and misunderstood, But look at me now – the magnificent spud. Of morals in this, there’s surely no dearth, The meek and the poor shall inherit the earth, If I can aspire, then surely they could – Take heart and take hope from the song of the spud. Published in The Writing on the Wall: New images of Easterhouse along with a number of Freddy’s other poems.
Freddy’s career as an actor and playwright was long and varied. Not long after his arrival in Glasgow in 1945, he had a chance encounter with the actor Roddy McMillan, bestknown for his work in the BBC comedy series Parahandy but at that time a player in Unity Theatre, the ground-breaking radical working-class theatre company. Freddy joined Unity as a player, and in 1950, his play Thirty Three Years, ‘a pageant of the Russian Revolution’, was performed to an audience of thousands in St Andrews Hall on Granville Street, Glasgow. Freddy’s connection with Easterhouse is perhaps best seen through his work with the Easterhouse Summer Festival Drama Company (ESFDC). His major work is undoubtedly Krassivy: A play about the great socialist, John MacLean, written as part of the centenary celebrations for the Clydeside revolutionary. The play was first performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1979, with a cast of actors from Easterhouse, including a young Gary Lewis in the title role, and Freddy himself playing Lenin. The play was a great success and won a prestigious Fringe First award. A picture from the ceremony shows the various award winners lined up, with a young Rowan Atkinson peeking out from behind Freddy. The Fringe program that year described the ESFDC as ‘the talented offspring of a community arts festival in one of the most deprived areas of Britain. Its shows are brash, committed and built to stand the test of playing to enthusiastic audiences normally deprived of theatre as well as most other social and cultural activities.’ The Glasgow Evening News declared that 52
‘Easterhouse could quite easily take over the world the way they’re going.’ Funnily enough, a couple of pages later in the Fringe programme, my dad appeared, as a musician for Café Graffiti. After Edinburgh, the company returned to perform at the Easterhouse Community Centre (Adults 50p, children and OAPs 30p). There was also a memorable performance of the play at the Special Unit in Barlinnie in September 1979: ‘[It] filled the Unit to such an extent that even with the pool table dismantled there was barely room for the actors to perform. The back hallway became the buffet area with a fine, colourful spread prepared by the staff…the meeting room became a gallery, and the Governor’s room was used as a dressing room for performers.’ The Special Unit, Barlinnie Prison, Third Eye Centre, Glasgow, 1982
Researching the play in the Special Collections department of Glasgow University, I was approached by a member of staff in a white lab coat, who asked if she could have a word outside. I duly followed, terrified I’d accidentally destroyed an ancient John Knox manuscript or a first-edition Burns. ‘Why are you interested in Freddy Anderson?’ she asked. I gave my spiel, still unsure what was happening. In the event, she herself was from Easterhouse and had known Freddy. Smiles all round. Her father was a folk musician and had sometimes provided music for Freddy’s plays too, and she even mentioned an illicit VHS of Krassivy that was passed round back in the day – another thing I’ve never been able to find! 53
But the episode was characteristic of my whole experience of finding out more about Freddy – every mention of his name would reveal an unexpected connection, a story, a moment where Freddy had inspired (or sometimes harangued!). Through his work with the ESDFC, young people, housewives, folk stuck on the dole and given not a chance in hell were drawn in, to become directors, producers, actors, lighting designers. One former resident I spoke to told of nipping into the Easterhouse Summer Festival centre to secretly photocopy leaflets for the Miners’ Strike and the next minute being drawn into a leading role in one of Freddy’s plays, never having acted before! A review of another of Freddy’s plays, Oiney Hoy, gives a sense of what the productions involved: The director, M Harris, conveyed an enthusiasm which gives yet another meaning to the Fringe: the spirit of joyous cooperation which resulted in a production of so much laughter and generosity from one of the most deprived communities in Scotland. The play represents the spirit of popular participation and creativity for which ALL theatre should stand strong. BBC Radio Ireland – Review
Krassivy was republished by the Research Collections department of Glasgow Caledonian University in 2005, with introductions from Jeanette McGinn and Freddy’s son Paul, a script put together with the help of Gary Lewis, and bibliographical and editorial notes from the GCU researchers. A performed reading of the play, with Gary Lewis, took place that same year and was a great success. I’ve spent many years trying to hunt down scripts from Freddy’s many other plays. These include Oiney Hoy (adapted from his novel of the same name) and The Calton Weavers, which both appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to great success, as well as Wee Willie Winkie, performed at the Close Theatre in Glasgow. Other plays produced with the ESFDC include A Parcel O’ Rogues and The Ghost of Provanhall. A poster for the latter sums up well the anarchic energy of Freddy’s productions and the man himself: Garthamlock tenants beware! The man with the sword is Freddy Anderson, Inchoch Street, Garthamlock pictured during his part as a Covenanter in ‘The Ghost of Provanhall’ presented by Easterhouse Summer Festival. Freddy not only acted in the play, he wrote it. He also played the part of Ghenghis Pedro, the prince with the Golden Sword, who fights a duel with a birch-wielding Sir Ted the Tailor.
KRASSIVY Act Two Scene One A Glasgow man, wearing a bonnet and scarf, walking along the Trongate singing. He has a slight drink in him, not too much. GLASGOW MAN:
I belang tae Glasgow, dear old Glesga toon Sure whit’s the matter wi’ Glesga It’s going roon an’ roon’
Sae the cap-it-a-lists took us tae court. So what? Big shots? Eh? An’ whit did we dae? Tell me whit did we dae! WE fought them an’ won. We won hauns doon. They dropped the charges against the 18 munitions workers an’ mair than that we made the Government bring in the Rent Act. Ony southern billy amang ye I’d like ye tae put that in yer pipe an’ smoke it. Oh they run Glasgow doon in the English papers. We’re no’ cultured enough for their Lordships, nae smooth enough liars, chancers an’ creeps they mean, but when it comes tae fightin’ for oor rights we could teach them a trick or two. The fact o’ the matter is Glesga’s fight has kept the rents doon for every man, woman and child in Britain. An noo whit’s their latest trick? The dirty yellow press unable to beat MacLean in a clean fight, are noo calling him a German agent, ma God, if that’s the case we must aw be German agents. 57
A hunner thousan’ German agents in the
Glesga tenements! The mind boggles! But never mind, never mind! Glesga’s on the mairch an’…an’…
I belang tae Glesga, dear old Glesga toon Whit’s the matter wi’ Glesga That things are upside doon I’m only a common old working chap And why then all the fuss? We’ll straighten things oot And wan day make sure That Glesga belangs tae us!
Come on now, get a move on!
GLESGA MAN: Who dae ye thin ye’re pushin’ ya teuchter… I’m no’ the poor old Clincher, ye cannae muck me aboot… See Tim Doran an’ Bill Renton at the corner yonder! You get a move on, constable! It’s you’s on the beat, no’ me, so you get a move on before I get John MacLean and the Clyde Workers Committee on tae ye fur intimidation, provocation and a multitudinous lot of scurrilous inferences… (Goes off singing ‘I belang tae Glesga’. Policeman scratches his head and stares after him with blank bewilderment.) End of scene 58
A play about the great socialist John MacLean
Act Two Scene Four Peterhead prison. John, alone pacing up and down his cell. He has been ill. JOHN: Brave lads! Brave lads! The Dublin boys had a go at Kitchener’s great John Bull, the mighty British Empire! Good for them! Held them for a week ‘til the gun boats shelled the streets. James Connolly dead! Brave, gallant comrade, wounded in the fight, they bound him in an arm-chair and murdered him. Oh brave John Bull, protector of small nations. Courageous Johnny! Freedom’s Champion! Upholder of human rights. WARDER: Prisoner! JOHN: (Ignoring him)… and Patrick Pearse, the poet, the dreamer, and his brother murdered too. Their great heroic mother. She gave two lovely sons for Ireland’s cause…not just Ireland’s, the cause of humanity. WARDER:
Prisoner, there’s a visitor (exit warder)
(Agnes MacLean comes in. She stands for a moment, shocked by John’s appearance. Then rushes to him.)
AGNES: My God, John, what have they done to you? JOHN: Never mind about me for the moment, Nan. Tell me about yourself and the two wee lassies Jean and Nan! How are you keeping? AGNES: We miss you, oh heaven knows how we miss you. Nine long months since they took you to Peterhead and so far away from Glasgow. JOHN: Aye they were afraid. Barlinnie was too near with the mood of the Clydeside. They want a hostage. If I had been in Ireland they’d have shot me as well. In this sham democracy they murder people more subtly. AGNES: (Nodding towards the wings) Shh! He’s listening John. JOHN: 60
Let him listen! He knows it’s true. When this dirty war is over and they free the conscientious objectors, such as survive, the truth will come out. Some have died, some have committed suicide, others have been knocked off their heads and in this way got into asylums.
A play about the great socialist John MacLean
I saw these men around me in a horrible
plight. Through numerous expedients I was able to hold my own.
AGNES: (putting her hand tenderly in his) But at some price John, Jimmy told me all and I see it myself. My God what callous brutes to harm my good and gentle man. Your eyes are sunken and you’ve lost weight. That hunger strike… JOHN: They fed me forcibly. But tell me, Nan, there isn’t long to go. About yourself? AGNES:
(trying to shrug off her own worries) Oh I’m all right, John, just fine and the girls grow more bonny each day. You should see them in their new straw hats, and ribbons in their hair, red ribbons in their hair.
Come on Nan, I know you’re holding back. Tell me everything.
You know it anyway. It’s desperate hard. We just survive from day to day. The wee girls miss their Dad. He gives them strength and confidence and love. 61
I miss them even more. Not an hour passes but I think of them and you.
Not able to fight you fair and square, the Boss class spreads the rumour that you’re a traitor, spy and German agent. They say we’ve got German gold. They say much worse, anonymous letters. Last week I caught this crank, a spinster in Langside, outside our door. She just dropped a note. ‘My three sons are dead in Flanders because of John MacLean. If I had my way I’d put him in the rack. I’d tear his eyeballs out.’
JOHN: (nodding towards the wings). She has plenty of friends in this establishment. I’ll tell you that much, Nan.
Last week they took the poor daft creature to Gartnavel and kept her in. My God but it’s hard, John. A hard, hard struggle. A world of lies and slander. Even them that go to Kirk and dream of heaven. What kind of heaven? To crown their evil they want a halo.
My poor fond lass. Nine years ago I took her in from Hawick’s green and lovely fields, its gentle murmuring brooks and hawthorns wild. I took her into this,
A play about the great socialist John MacLean
the sordid tenements, this dirty wretched prison, this brutal bitter struggle. I lost my steady job. I could have been a well paid Labour hack official or MP. AGNES:
When you get out of here, John, is there… is there any other way of managing? I don’t want… I don’t want to see my husband crucified. I don’t want it John…
Listen, Nan… every night in this wee cell, I see upon the white washed ceiling, I see the crucified of Europe… This cell becomes a battlefield… There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to save the working class from the dreadful consequence of their masters’ greed. I can’t escape my mission, Nan. See how the poor, courageous people of Glasgow have defied the bosses. It gives me hope. It gives me hope… and, listen… I’ve had news from Russia… the most brilliant Marxist in Europe has crossed the German frontier and is now leading the Russian workers and peasants against the Czar and the landlords… I’ll tell you, Nan… I don’t know how long it will take the West, but the East is going Red… a beautiful red like the great sunset of Capitalism, and the red dawn of Freedom. End of scene 63
John MacLean 64
“Freddy,” one of his old comrades told me, “was a lot of things to many different people.” My notes on Freddy are full of lists, such was the sheer variety of the man and his interests: poet, playwright, cartoonist, storyteller, singer, and a dozen more. He was also a historian and a novelist. Freddy’s prose was characterised by the same humour, anger and broad learning which shone through in all his writing. He was a scholar of Robert Burns, the Calton weavers strike of 1787, Irish author and navvie Patrick McGill, and the many strange and ancient stories that surrounded The Scotia on Stockwell Street, where he edited the local pub newssheet Scotia Folk alongside his friend Willie Gallacher. Freddy’s only novel, Oiney Hoy, was published by Polygon in 1987. A glowing review at the time read: Oiney Hoy is a satirical novel in which the sacred mysteries of the Holy Faith are ventilated by a wonderfully unholy spirit, the inflated balloons of literary pretentiousness are pricked and swept away with the mists and myths of Irish history in great gales of laughter. Freddy Anderson’s pen tickles the reader and he is not light-fingered. He has written a book which roars. As with everything Freddy wrote, there’s never a dull moment!
The following piece is an excerpt from Freddy Anderson’s (unfinished) biography of Matt McGinn (1928 – 1977), the legendary Calton-born singer, songwriter, humourist, novelist, and playwright, an ever-present fixture of the socialist movement and known throughout the world for his songs. The biography was published in an edition of Chapbook, Scotland’s Folk-Life Magazine dedicated to ‘McGinn of the Calton.’ As well as displaying Freddy’s typical sense of humour, and encyclopaedic knowledge of working-class Glasgow, and the East End in particular.
MY FRIEND MATT McGINN by Freddy Anderson
This is a synopsis of the opening stages of a biography of Matt McGinn being written by Freddy Anderson, the extremely talented Glasgow poet and writer. Matt says of Freddy: “Several people have approached me about doing biography, but I felt if anyone was to do it, it should be Freddy. I consider him a brilliant writer, a friend close to me for 16 - 17 years, and yet a man sufficiently criticallyminded not to make it just a eulogy. Freddy himself I consider to be a brilliant poet!” The Gallowgate and Matt McGinn are inseparable – to the annoyance of some of its publicans. Indeed the astute students of Oxford seemed to sense this association when, after a breach of college etiquette, they sentenced him to be hung, drawn and quartered – making it apparent that what ever literary fame he might acquire he could not, as they say, “escape his origins.”* *[At the age of 31, Matt McGinn won a trade union scholarship to study economics and politics at Ruskin College, an affiliate of Oxford University.]
Born in January 1928, in Ross Street, a stone’s throw from the old Saracen Head Inn, memorable for its Punch Bowl and Dr. Johnson’s ill humour, Matt reflects many of the characteristics of this rather bizarre part of Old Glasgow, where the citizens, to a man, troop on a Saturday and Sunday to do their rounds of the famous “Barrows” – I met Matt’s brother Gus there once selling overgrown one pound notes for a modest sixpence! South of Ross Street, across the London Road and towards Glasgow Green, a distance of not more than a hundred yards, was the home of David Dale, the philanthropist, father-in-law of Robert Owen, the pioneer Socialist from Lancashire, so that, coupled with the intrepid and intelligent weavers of Calton, this gave the district of Matt’s birth a radical complexion, which Jimmy Maxton and others helped to maintain into our own times. There is nothing mystical therefore in the clannishness of the Calton folk; it springs from many, many decades of hard struggle in the old dark tenements, and from the need as well of a mutual song and joke, not merely to reveal the thralldom of their circumstances but to help to end the same. The humour of the Gallowgate therefore has a salty tang and is admirably adaptable for modern Scottish folk on at least two scores. It is in direct continuation of that earthy ingredient in the best folk tradition of Scotland, and it carries a sharp, satirical comment essential towards ending the terrible follies of our own times, when: 68
“Once more the drums of warlords beat, once more the sound of marching feet; once more sad mothers hold their breath – they hear the mournful cry of death!” Poems of a Working Man, Matt McGinn, 1953 Since the days of the old Tobacco Dons, the Gallowgate has never been a particularly affluent part of town, but born there two years after the great betrayal of the General Strike in 1926 – and his entire childhood spent in the slump days of the Thirties, which ended not in prosperity but in the bloodiest war mankind has known to date – it is not surprising that Matt at first found himself one of another “lost generation” – “Ye reid-heided sinner come up for your dinner – cold tatties an’ herrin’!” The great wonder and credit was that he could emerge from it, and among the familiar haunts of petty but exciting crime he would one day, not too distant either, agitate for a society where the energies and ambitions of youth would be fostered… … [later] I met Matt McGinn for the first time; I had been deeply impressed by the poem which he had published in “Challenge”; its boldness and clarity appealed to me, and as I climbed the stairway to his “single-end”, I wondered what manner of man he would be. My mind was full of the rich 69
lore of old Ireland and already I was under the spell of this city in which so many of my fellow countrymen had found a home. Here along this very thoroughfare, the Gallowgate, the Tyrone peddler’s son, [Sandy] MacFarlane without any education at any school in the city, but wise from the thorny road of adversity, had shot head and shoulders above the literary men of the College in High Street; here Norval with his marvellous humour (read “The North Wind”) survived the dunny draughts; here William Millar (“Wee Willie Winkie”) dwelt before his removal to more prosperous George Street; and it was here that the incomparable Old Hawkie cried his ballads and broadsheets with Satanic comment. If once, why not again. I knocked on the door of the singleend in Little Dovehill [in the Calton]. A warm, welcome handshake, and in those earnest, unwavering eyes a rich depth of humour, flecked by a “wisdom beyond his years.” One day it would overspill into the life of the city. The remainder has become part of the familiar Glasgow folk scene. Chapbook: Scotland’s Folk-Life Magazine, Vol. 4 no. 4 [n.d]
The story ‘The Bargee Man and the Goose’ first appeared in a special edition of the Cencrastus: the magazine for Scottish & International affairs in literature, arts and affairs. The issue featured a selection of his articles and stories and an extensive overview of his life and work. A fitting tribute and proof, if any was needed, of the high regard he was held in.
THE BARGEE-MAN AND THE GOOSE Now that November had come, the sun, a faint replica of its summer brilliance, shone weakly on the oily waters of the river. It was early morning on the Clyde. Into the quiet scene, a prancing, little tug-boat came, dispersing the reflection of cranes and gantries in a long succession of rolling waves; in a few minutes, the shop-yards themselves came to life, with Brown’s riveters over-powering all other sounds in an ear-splitting din, staccato and persistent. The skipper of the tug-boat made his voice heard above the noise. “Look there towards the bend of the river! Just keep your eyes skimmed, and watch the barge afloat in midstream! He’ll be there all right!” The newcomer to the river sat on an upturned box and wearing a look of quiet amusement, peered over the water towards the barge, where he could now distinguish more clearly a hut in its centre and beside the hut the lone figure of a man. The noise of the ship-yards were now faint and distant sounds behind them. A broad expanse of the river beyond the bend opened before them, down past the little towns of Old Kilpatrick and Bowling on the shore towards Dumbarton Rock, while to the left of them, the low-lying meadows of Renfrewshire stretched out to the horizon. Quite suddenly, across the calm of this stretch of the river, the clear sound of a bell came to join the chugging of the tug-boat’s engine. The skipper gave a sharp blast of reply on his horn, and waved a 72
THE BARGEE-MAN AND THE GOOSE friendly arm of recognition to the man on the barge. Then smiling with satisfaction, as though the day for him had really begun, he turned his head towards his course on the open river. “Does he always ring it then?” asked his companion, taking his pipe from his mouth and still wearing his amused expression. “Never known him to fail and I’ve been twenty years on the river.” “But he doesn’t need to,” said the newcomer, somewhat puzzled by it all. “Not for small craft anyhow! Isn’t it a warning bell for liners and tankers, and the like adrift in the main channel?” “Oh admittedly, he doesn’t need to,” agreed the other. “It’s just a gesture or something like that. His duties don’t require him to bother with us at all. But still and all he does it. Like lifting your hat, I suppose, to an acquaintance on the other side of the street. A bit old-world but for all that friendly and polite. I never met him faceto-face in my life, but I feel as if I knew him. That’s a man I’d say you could trust with your life!” As soon as the tug-boat had passed, the bargee man went into the hut. With the wash from the tug, it was swaying up and down, but he walked quite steadily and put a shovel-full of coke into a shining stove near the door. Then humming a little Gaelic tune, “Ho-ro, ho-ro, fal de la lay,” he took from the wall a cluster of tea-cans, tied together by a curious knot of his own contrivance, and began to polish them until they were as shining bright as the day their owners had purchased them. All of them, he polished, with one exception. This can, blackened with soot and dented beyond recognition almost, he glanced at with great disdain before throwing it gruffly to one side. 73
THE BARGEE-MAN AND THE GOOSE “Frank ‘the Goose’ can clean his own tin. I’m not here to skivvy after an old reprobate that won’t even change his shirt. My God, the times have changed! The Company isn’t fussy these days when they take on the likes of him…” His soliloquy continued in this vein, addressed to the unfortunate tea-can, which sat on the table, isolated, like the ugly duckling, from its fellows, until at last, aroused by a low whistle from the shore, he hurriedly bundled the cans together and replaced them on the wall hook. He went out of the hut and unloosening a boat tied to the barge, he began to scull the craft over the waters. A group of workmen stood patiently on the jetty. Lifting his eyes from the river, he saw his old enemy, ‘The Goose’, among them, a little to the rear, but there all right with his pallid, puffy face and his greasy bonnet, a sight which never failed to make the bargee-man feel squeamish. ‘The Goose’ was looking at an imaginary watch. “Two seconds off, Hamish,” he called to the approaching bargeeman. “By Jove, lad! If you keep it up, the Olympics is ours.” “When I solicit your opinion, Goose,” retorted Hamish, “it will be time enough then for you to give it.” “Solicit! There’s a rare word for you now, and at this time o’ day. Where did you pick that one up, Hamish?” “It wasn’t in Bowling anyway, Goose, if you’re a sample of what that place produces.” The workers listened in silent amusement. It was like this almost every morning, as though both ‘The Goose’ and Hamish spent their nights awake planning taunts and repartees. Sculling the 74
THE BARGEE-MAN AND THE GOOSE boat against the stream was an arduous task for Hamish, but his tormentor gave him no respite. When they boarded the barge and went into the hut, the Goose looked up at the cans. “Thanks, Hamish, for me can. You made a lovely job of it, but actually you shouldn’t have bothered.” “Pigs swill from troughs,” said the bargee-man viciously. The ganger came downstream in a motorboat and relegated the men to different tasks along the waterfront. He was alone now in the hut with Hamish. “I understand that you and Frank don’t pull together?” “Oh, I’ve nothing against him, if he keeps his distance. I must say, though, that you’ve a genius for recruiting them. Where on earth did you pick him up?” “Beggars can’t be choosers,” said the ganger with a smile. “Anyway he’s not such a bad fellow at heart. I thought maybe you’d train him for the job, Hamish, when you were thinking of retiring. He could take over…” The bargee-man look at the other to see if was serious. “Him take over?” “Yes, he’s quite nifty with the oars, you know. In fact, that’s how I met him. He was rowing around Bowling harbour in a small boat…” “He must have stolen it!” 75
THE BARGEE-MAN AND THE GOOSE “He was doing a job for Scott’s shipyard, picking up bits of wood that floated from the pile into the river. He certainly seemed to be at home on the river.” “But not with soap and water,” interjected the bargee-man maliciously. “That would kill him outright!” The ganger pretended he had not heard. “Indeed, he was that much at home in it,” he continued, “I believe he collected a nickname in the process. I believe they call him ‘The Duck.’” “Goose,” corrected Hamish. “Well, I drew the motorboat close to him to take stock of his performance. You know the way a man handy with the oars is useful to the Company. I leaned over the side and called out to him, ‘Hey there, you! Would you be interested in a job?’ And do you now his reply, Hamish? You’ll never guess it in a month of Sundays. ‘Is there any work involved?’ That’s what he shouted back. Did you ever hear the like? ‘Is there any work involved?’ It nearly had me flummoxed. But it’s what decided me. There’s good in a man that can give you back an answer like that, Hamish. Oh, there’s thousands don’t want to work. But how many of them will tell you outright just like that…” “The Goose and his kind will neither work nor want,” said Hamish gruffly. “Well, the long and the short of it, Hamish,” continued the ganger, 76
THE BARGEE-MAN AND THE GOOSE “was that I told him that the job in mind wouldn’t kill him for thirty or forty years at least. And then I took him on.” The bargee-man shook his head despairingly. “And that’s all you had to go on?” “You don’t think, Hamish?” “I’m saying nothing.” “Ah well,” said the ganger, shrugging his shoulders. “I was a bit optimistic on other scores as well in Bowling that day. In fact Hamish, when the dyke here is complete up to the gates of Erskine Hospital at the ferry, there’s likely to be a lay-off of the men, including our friend, unless, Hamish…” “Unless what?” “Unless now that you’re intending to retire, Hamish, some of these days, you made way for him. Unless maybe you could give him a few hints on the job?” The bargee-man had his answer ready, just waiting on the ganger to finish his sentence. “The Goose will indeed lay a golden egg,” he said, “the day that he’s allowed to mess about this hut.” The bell on the barge tolled the lunch hour. Picks and shovels were downed on the dyke, and there was a wild scramble for the boat. 77
THE BARGEE-MAN AND THE GOOSE In the hut, Hamish stared at the one can left on the string, the unmistakable one, dented and sooty. “Where’s the Goose?” he asked, not realising that such a question at lunch hour would cause quite an uproar. When the laughter had subsided, one of the men said he had seen the Goose disappear among the trees at Erskine. “I thought he’d go back to the camp,” said Hamish drily. “What camp, Hamish?” “What camp do you think? The gypsy camp. Once it’s in the blood, that’s it.” “Come to think of it,” said another worker, “when I asked The Goose where he lived, he asked me in turn, did I ever hear of a place called ‘No fixed abode’. ‘I did,’ said I. ‘Well,’ said the Goose, ‘I live one up, just above it.’” In this kind of banter the lunch hour passed and the men returned to the shore to find The Goose already on the dyke, though not his old talkative self but someone wrapped up in a faraway dream. He was staring towards the hills above Old Kilpatrick. He failed to turn up for work the next day, and the day after that again, he was not on the jetty. Friday night came, pay night, with nearly all of the men converging on ‘The Grapes,’ the local inn near the Ferry. Here one could hear all the gossip of the neighbourhood for the price of a pint. A few of Erskine’s patients chatted with the ferry-men and welders from 78
THE BARGEE-MAN AND THE GOOSE Scotts yard, but as yet the pub was not too crowded. The bargeeman took his customary stool near the door. “Poor trade tonight, Tom.” “They’ll be in by-and-by,” said the barman. “There was a funeral this afternoon.” “One of the locals?” “In a way you could call it that, I suppose. One of the lads up at Erskine and longer here than some of the residents. Maybe he’s better out of it! Lying up there since the end of the war, with paralysis of the spine. The boys had a whip round for him every Christmas. I’m sure you contributed…” “You’ve had that many raffle tickets, boxes and God knows what,” said the bargee-man with a smile, “that I don’t know half the time what I’m contributing to. A lot of the lads up there have no relatives to attend to them though. I don’t begrudge a penny.” “Oh, this one had. A brother that came up from a farm in Dumfries, left a good job there three years ago to be near the lad in hospital. You know there’s not much work going in Bowling. By jingo, he’s had to rough it.” The bargee-man listened. “There’s not many,” he remarked, “will put themselves out that much for a brother even.”
THE BARGEE-MAN AND THE GOOSE “Catch them indeed,” exclaimed the barman, “but this fellow was one in a million. The chap in Erskine could hardly hold a cigarette for himself, but what the brother could do for him, he did. I often heard the orderlies themselves remark on it. But what am I talking about? You should know one of them yourself. Isn’t he working with your crowd now – a small, puffy-faced fellow with a greasy bonnet…” The barman ceased speaking, astonished by the other’s reaction. On Monday morning, the bargee-man, with a silence that was unusual for him, sculled the boatload of workmen across the river. The strange calm seemed to disturb his old enemy, for the latter was seeking even now for the old familiarity – abusive though it was. “Well, Hamish,” he said, “you’ll be the one man’ll miss my gracious presence on the river. D’you know I’d like to take you back to Dumfries with me, only my folk back there are fussy – terribly fussy – about the company I keep! And tell the truth, Hamish, wouldn’t you like to come with your old pal? Isn’t the parting killing you?” Yet even this could not arouse the bargee-man’s ire, and still maintaining his silence, he held the rope at the stern, while the men disembarked. They moved into the hut to await the arrival of the ganger, but suddenly The Goose stopped at the door as though a thunderbolt had struck him. He was staring with astonishment at the wall, where his battered, old tea-can hung among the others but shining now with outstanding brilliance. Cencrastus: The magazine for Scottish & international literature, arts and affairs Freddy Anderson Special Issue, Summer 1990 80
My mother, she raised seven kids in Easterhouse and that’s creditability to me, that isn’t easy, that’s a real struggle. We were always clean, we were always fed, we always lived in a clean house. She survived on nothing. She’s a very capable lady and she’s really, really strong. So she’s really, really powerful. She would fight tooth and nail for her family. And she would face Goliath, she would face absolutely anybody in battle for her family but only at her level. Where the stopping point comes for her is…authority. Probably because of her, my attitude is totally different. It’s not enough for me to know local politics. I’m no politically aligned to any particular party. I don’t think! I didnae know what the word socialism meant , y’know, till I wis late teenager. But I want to know and I want to learn, I want to know about these people that are controlling my life and I want to take that control off them and I want to have it. And I want my children to have it. But the one thing that I can teach them that I think parents didnae teach me was the history of my area and why I’m here. And about how I am a member of the working class and my children are working class and they’ve gottae learn, through learning about their area, the structure of their area, the history of their area, why it was built and learning more about, y’know, where the buck actually stops. When you learn about where the buck actually stops you can start changing it. And I’ve gottae bring my children up to want to change the people that are in control of their lives... 82
Whose Town is it Anyway? Easterhouse People and Power Dir. Tony Freeth, 1984, Channel Four (30 mins)
The work of Freddy Anderson appears in this publication thanks to the kind permission of Paul Anderson and family. For more information please contact Platform 1000 Westerhouse Road Glasgow, G34 9JW
platform-online.co.uk email@example.com 0141 276 9670
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Innumerable people have helped me know more about Freddy, and a hundred other things, over the past few years. In particular I’d like to thank Matt Addicott and Platform for their continued support, Willie Gallagher, co-editor (with Freddy) of Scotia Folk, Paul Anderson and Jim Friel, for their generosity. Also Tom Leonard and Janette McGinn, who have now both sadly passed away.
FURTHER READING The following works of Freddy’s are available at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow: Fowrsom Reel: a collection of new poetry, by John Kincaid, George Todd, F.J. Anderson, Thurso Berwick (Caledonian Press, 1949) The Sunbright Flower of Peace and other socialist poems (1984) At Glasgow Cross: poems (Fat Cat, 1987) Robert Burns in Glasgow (Garthamlock Publications, 1987) Auld Hawkie and other Glasgow characters, with Dorothy Whitaker and Joe Fisher (Glasgow District Library, 1988) Oiney Hoy: a satirical Irish novel, (Polygon, 1989) Krassivy: a play about the great Socialist, John MacLean (GCU Research Collections, 2005). This also includes a bibliography of Freddy’s works. 84
The following works on Easterhouse are also available at the Mitchell: Ferguson, Ron (Ed.), The Writing on the Wall, new images of Easterhouse (1977) Wellhouse Women’s Art Group, Easterhouse Women (1990) Donaldson, Julia (Ed.), All write: an Easterhouse collection, written and illustrated by residents of Greater Easterhouse (Easterhouse Library, 2002) Trondra History Group, Hidden histories, greater Easterhouse, more than just a scheme (2005) McCormack, Cathy, The Wee Yellow Butterfly (Argyll, 2009) The Annual General Notes (AGN) folder 809, in the City Archives at the Mitchell, contains an extensive ‘Easterhouse Reference List’ of books, articles, surveys, photos and maps related to Easterhouse. Useful archive collections: The archives of Freddy Anderson are based at the Archive Centre of Glasgow Caledonian University, which is open to the public: gcu.ac.uk/archives The archives of Workers City and the Keelie can be found online: workerscity.org The Spirit of Revolt archive, based at the Mitchell Library, is another key resource to be supported and used: spiritofrevolt.info Whose Town is it Anyway? Easterhouse People and Power youtube.com/watch?v=E-qtcVzvNZQ
Publication designed by Valerie Reid 85