Monday, 27 February 2012


A phone call. Just before the end of the year. You've got the job. Thank goodness for that. Last year wasn't good. We lost our Dad early last year, and Sandra's Mother in May.  Mimsie was finding it really hard to cope. She'd lost contact with her sister Sheila, probably because of Sheila's drinking, so no support there. Financially she couldn't cope so she had made up her mind that we were going to have to leave Minard. Ricky was now working in House of Fraser and Dave just picked up work when he could. So it was down to Sandra and me to somehow scrape together enough money to keep us in Minard and Lucy at Hutchie.  Minard had always swallowed our money, but now it was with a vengeance ! So the offer of a job running Glen Hendersons Porsche workshop in Bearsden looked pretty good. Not a lot more money at first, but I should be getting a company car and expenses so that should help.
Our Ricky around this time.

A rather subdued New Year but we had high hopes for the next year.

Well, I managed to last three months or so in Glen Hendersons. What a nightmare of a place ! My old boss, Harry Fairbairn was right, they were both Dictators, but the difference was Harry was a benevolent Dictator.
Glen Henderson, a truly dreadful man, the stories I had heard about him were all true. The final straw for me came when I was on a Porsche Training course in England and, on talking to the other guys worked out that they were being paid at least twice as much as me. So there I was that Easter, unemployed with a monster mortgage round my neck and five people depending on me for a roof over their heads.

A rare Porsche 924 GT
Sandra and I had talked a few years earlier about me opening up a workshop of my own but I couldn't really see where the money for rent and equipment was going to come from. Well now I had no choice ! Fortunately with us having the basement rooms in Minard I turned some of them into an office and tool shop. But this still meant I had to work on cars outside the door and that year ,1985, was one of the wettest on record ! But I had work lined up and friends in the trade put plenty of work my way. I'd also spoken to the Bank of Scotland and rearranged an overdraft on a business account. Still Scary though . Sandra was still working away at S&D and at this time the only regular wage earner in the household.

Around Easter, just before I really got into working for myself I had a bit of a gap in the diary. Well, I couldn't really see me getting a proper holiday for a long time yet so I packed a rucksack and a tent and took a train to Glenfinnan. The weather was of course typically West Highland, rain mist and snow on the higher ground. I walked up Glenfinnan into the mist and had one of the eeriest experiences of my life. I couldn't see any more than an arms length in any direction, but I was following a rough path so wasn't too concerned when I started to hear what sounded like voices and footsteps. They got louder but I still couldn't make out the voices, but they were definitely nearer. Next thing I knew the footsteps were all around me and I could actually hear the breathing. Christ, there was dozens of them and I couldn't see a thing ! Damn ! I bumped into something ! I was walking in the middle of a herd of deer!
The mist cleared, the deer moved off up hill then the snow started. By this time I was at the top of the glen and had to struggle down into the rising wind and increasing snow down to Glen Dessary. I got as far as I could before it got too dark and managed to pitch my tent and dug myself in for the night, well exhausted. Up at first light the next morning, filled myself with porridge and started hiking along the shore of Loch Arkaig towards Loch Lochy. It hardly rained that day and I saw absolutely no-one. Covered a good twenty five miles and camped for the night on the shoes of Loch Lochy. I'd brought a copy of Lanark by Alastair Gray with me and over the next couple of days read it from cover to cover. Three days and I hadn't seen a soul, but I'd fairly cleared out a lot of stuff from the back of my mind and apart from slight hypothermia, crippled feet and exhaustion I was in a better state now then I was when I started walking. I think that was the first time I realised the therapeutic value of hard exercise and solitude. Eventually I made my way  to Fort William and got a train home.

I started the business in earnest then but because of the weather I was glad to get some work from a good pal who had a garage, because even with waterproof overalls, working outside on cars in the rain is pretty soul destroying. But the money started coming in and I could start getting more and more equipment.

Donald McDonald, David Meechan, Charlie O'Neill and me.

Then during the so called summer we got a visit from David Meechan and his new wife Janet from Canada. It was great to see them, Mimsie always had a real soft spot for David and she rustled up a sort of welcome party for them, good fun! We didn't know at the time but it would be over twenty five years before we would be back in touch with David . Who would have thought ?

Irene Dunn's Renault 4

Just before that our good friends John and Irene Dunn and their girls Jenifer and Sasha moved to Carlisle. I missed them but was determined not to lose touch with them, hell ! Carlisle was only a hundred miles away !

Well that summer eventually fizzled out and around October it started to dry off a bit. But I was beginning to worry about working outside in the winter, so when an offer of some semi regular work in a local Leyland dealership turned up I took it to tide me over the winter. The money was quite good because it involved being on-call during the night to go out with a breakdown truck to deal with crashed cars. Bloody hard work ,but I quite enjoyed it, there was never a dull moment and I made some good business contacts in Park Automobile Company.

By now I'd scraped up enough money to actually buy myself a car. I searched long and hard but eventually tracked down just what I needed, a Citroen Dyane. This wee car was a close relative of the Citroen 2CV and cost just about nothing to run, but was so simple and uncomplicated it was totally reliable.
My Citroen Dyane.
Although I'd worked with cars for years, I never really liked them that much. Seems surprising perhaps, but I just couldn't see myself  going into debt  to have a car that was more expensive than the neighbour's. I was never taken in by the whole, so called, glamour of car ownership. The only attraction for me was when they broke down on stopped behaving as they should. I got a kick out of problem solving! Maybe buying the Dyane was a reaction to working with BMW's and Porsches. I often used the Dyane to my advantage when BMW or Porsche customers asked me what car I drove. When I told them I drove a Citroen Dyane, there was an element of psychology involved, they felt a bit superior to me when I told them I couldn't afford to own a BMW or Porsche and when I presented them with a pretty hefty bill they were reluctant to lose face and quibble. Well ....most of them !

Lucy with a Mimsie Birthday Cake.
So as this year wound down, we looked back and took stock. We were still in Minard, by the skin of our teeth, Mimsie was slowly recovering and busying herself with the odd catering job but mostly concentrating on cakes, wedding cakes, birthday cakes, you name it, she would bake a cake for the occasion ! Dave and Ricky were working but Ricky was becoming a bit of an invisible man again. I think the Jennifer affair had a deeper effect on him than anyone realised at the time. Lucy was becoming a real teenager. We didn't tell her at the time,naturally, but she was a good kid !
I certainly remember Christmas and New Year because I didn't touch a drop of alcohol as I was on Breakdown Callout duty. The sacrifice was worth it because the money was good and we needed it.
Were things looking up ?

Let's see if our collective memories can dredge up what happened next in 1986.