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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 18/10/2010 | 3 Comments

I've been talking to a lot of people about my Glasgow book recently, both individually and at meetings of various kinds. One of the things which I find simultaneously heartening and dispiriting is how many people corroborate my analysis.

For example, the Hunter Centre asked me to talk about my book to a smallish business audience. Councillor Archie Graham, the Deputy Leader of Glasgow Council, got to his feet to speak after me on the topic of the Commonwealth Games as he has responsibility for this. Before he turned his attention to  the subject however he said: "Well I want to tell you that I'm from Glasgow. From the Gorbals in fact.' Perhaps I'm showing my paranoia here because as he said this my heart sank. I saw this as code for saying: This woman doesn't even live in the city. She isn't one of us. What does she know about Glasgow?' But I was mistaken. Cllr Graham then went on to say that there wasn't a single thing in my talk on Glasgow that he disagreed with. Indeed he said: 'I was that wee boy sitting outside the pub to try and get of my da's wages so that we could eat. I was the boy watching his ma getting beat up and getting belted myself from time to time. And there was nothing special about my family in the Gorbals. That's what everybody's life was like.'

At other talks, men and women have said that they too sat outside pubs waiting for fathers. One said to me recently that although he was an avid music lover he had never watched Top of the Pops. Looking back he couldn't understand why until it dawned on him: it was a Thursday night – the night the telly often had to get pawned and he was sent to stand outside the pub.  Another guy from Maryhill (a red sandstone tenement, no less) said that one of his strongest memories was of his dad coming in drunk every payday and his mum going through his trousers trying to retrieve some money. He also said he collapsed as a wee boy with appendicitis and his mum took him down to the pub to find the father and get money for the bus fare to the hospital. His dad handed over a few pennies and went back inside. "I can just imagine him going back to his pint and saying to his mates – aye that's the wean in agony away up to the hospital.'

After one talk, a  woman from Fife  came up to me and said "I want to thank you for your comment that a good Glasgow man gave his wife and family half his paypacket. That's what my  grandfather did and I never saw him as a good man – though in the light of what you said was common he could have been a lot worse. " She then went on to tell me that her mother was the daughter of a Fife coalminer and one of three sisters. The other two married Fife miners who dutifully handed over the pay packet, unbroken, on pay day, and were given some pocket money for themselves. Her mother had the misfortune to marry a Glasgow man who died an alcoholic.

One man I know who grew up in Glasgow, and who hadn't read my book, was a wee bit sceptical when I explained some of my argument to him. 'Surely women didn't permit this type of behaviour. After all it is was common for men to say of some women  "I wouldn't like to go back to her with a burst pay packet."'   But in places like Fife men wouldn't evaluate women in these terms. They would in Glasgow for the simple reason that bursting paypackets was indeed the done thing. Obviously it was easier to get away with it with some women rather than others.

I've never argued that this type of behaviour is exclusive to Glasgow. Read Angela's Ashes and you see how drink obsessed Irish men treated their wives. I'm sure that all industrial cultures generated this type of behaviour. However, surely it matters to the evolution of a culture if it is 10 per cent of men who keep their pay packets to themselves and routinely get drunk with money that should go to the family or whether it is 30 per cent.

Of course, I couldn't estimate just how common this type of behaviour was but judging from the reaction of random folk at some of the events I've been speaking at the antics of drunken, self-focused fathers have left a scar not only on a large number of individuals who grew up in Glasgow but also tragically on the city's culture and values.
 

Comment By Comment
Alex Smith

Comment Posted: 21/10/2010 22:22
As Carol knows, because we talked about this as she was writing 'The Tears', my father took his pay home unopened - a very unusual action for a coal miner. I'm not sure if he did it because he was good man or because my mother terrified him. She's 4'11' and still scares me sometimes.

However I worked in a factory in my late teens/early 20s and I remember one man in particular. His name was Bob. He was Big Bob and I was Wee Alex in one of those strange Glasgow ways. We were exactly the same height but there was another Bob who was quite short and there was storeman called Alex who was well over 6', hence the names.

We were paid monthly and Bob used to go to the bank at lunchtime on payday so that, when we finished, he could go straight to the pub. In those days pubs closed at 10.00 and Bob would catch a train home from Dalmuir and often sleep all the way to the terminus in Coatbridge or Airdrie. Then he might have to walk home across fields. He used to boast about it the next day! This happened every month. The other thing I rememer about Bob, who incidentally was lovely man to work with - charming, witty and very kind - was that when he came back with his pay, he had to visit various people in the factory to repay the money he'd borrowed to see him through the month. Every month. God knows how his wife and kids survived and I have no idea what happened to Bob but I don't remember anyone ever criticising his behaviour. It was the way West of Scotland working men did things. How did we survive?
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gordonpeters
Joined: 03/11/2010

Comment Posted: 03/11/2010 11:34
I was at the Radical Bookfair in Edinburgh and heard you Carol, and talked briefly.
I think your analysis is spot on in various ways. I spent a lot of time in my own childhood waiting in a car outside a pub mostly Paisleyfor my father who later became a publican himself. There is a distinct west of Scotland behaviour -- and it crosses classes. The gender roles do indeed do bad things to people, including the men.
Mind you Edinburgh has its social pathology too.
I lived away from Scotland for several decades, and have been somewhat dismayed on returning to see how this stuff carries on.
I was also keen to see you using Ken Wilber's different quadrants of how knowledge and experience work, to help explain things, as far too often people get stuck in their one explanation, be it political economy alone, or personalised traits etc.
I was social services director in Hackney in London during the Thatcher period, and saw the damage which attacks on welfare can do, so it is really important that your approach is understood in Scotland and hopefully inform what is probably going to be quite a struggle to defend and re-envisage a better welfare ystem.
Gordon
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