Dear Auld Glesca, (and Edinburgh)
hY IAIN HAMILTON N a blue and white day once I saw Glasgow from the port side of an aircraft and Edinburgh from the starboard, and I realised then for the first time how miraculous it is that such extreme contrast should be contained In such small compass. They are only forty-odd miles apart, tiled, although admittedly they would be a deal more comfort- at five hundred, it is stimulating to think of those two poles discharging their crackling energy at one another across we narrow lowland plain. No wonder the happy few who make the journey daily should seem to be energised into a State of constant exhilaration : life for them is a rapid alternation of hot and cold showers. " Feet ! Feet ! " as they c‘trY at Murrayfield, and " Ca' the flamin' feet frae him ! " as they bawl at Hampden Park. They have the best and the Worst of both worlds. " You'll be having your tea," says the .adY of the house in Glasgow, while her counterpart in cainburgh more shrewdly observes, " You'll have had your !ea." (But that Iasi is an old slander of the Glasgow music- halls, and is not pursued further.) The Scot who lives abroad, in London especially, must needs sjeP cautiously if he sets foot on the tightrope between Arthur's 'ear and Queen's Park. According to the more ferocious of the Renaissance Boys, or Lallans Brigade, he has sold out to the mongers.' His status is that of renegade. If he praises his native land he is a sentimental ilobberer. If he ventures a word of reasonable criticism he is a treacherous crocodile. ` th nee I did both, like the slobbering crocodile I am, in an fRePlint of a most magnificently monstrous fiasco in Edinburgh ■ tuteen hundred bagpipers and drummers failing to blast a Path through a crowd of half-a-million), and drew upon my 011111d head the public wrath of a clutter of Lallans bards and wer patriots. I heard the gluck of the what dubh and the swish of the dirk, but I survived to tell the tale. And now I shall tell another, coming by way of Edinburgh tr, the e point in Glasgow. I am myself from the smoky side of ;:totland. a 'straight cross-breed of Argyll and Lanark who was rll and brought up in Renfrew, equidistant from Glasgow and paisley (on which one must-keep one's eye, according to lib, inexplicable Scottish saying). So it says something for fo'r Edinburgh, that I have come to conceive an affection a„_,42'dinburgh, a certain understanding of its ways of thought, ‘,"01, a. considerable affection for many of its natives. Some toffreral)egged and whiskered Lowland anti-monger will no doubt me that this is because Edinburgh is closer than Glasgow ngland in more senses than the topographical. And it is ti;leI admit, that once out of the London train at Waverley, tray 11„rst visual shock absorbed, one does not seem to have ande!'ed quite four hundred miles. Certainly not in restaurants ROJ' and Shops and among one's friends. Romae ut ani, but no great adjustment is demanded of the visitor. from the south. Not here the slack-jawed, ironical, humorous, abusive, affectionate demotic speech. Not here the bowier- hatted businessmen downing their coffee in basements bright with Impressionist paintings (French and of the Glasgow School). Not here the Rangers, the Orangemen's delight. Not here the Celtic, flaunters of the Irish flag, defenders of the faith.
History informs the local stones of Edinburgh. But Glasgow is the: boom town still. The train from Waverley flicks you out of the rock-pool of well-mannered calm that is Edinburgh and pitches you in an hour past Linlithgow and Falkirk into the acrid-aired city that Scotsmen sing of in their cups with such pleasurable melancholy. (" Dear old Edinburgh town," would be more than metrically wrong.) The flat cadence floods the ear, tramcars clang and the citizens rush them, a fine rain sets in and gently bedews the skippit bunnet, the narrow-brimmed bowler, and the matron's monster fur coat, and this equalising mist reminds the native returnin that nowhere in Europe does the spirit of social democrac have a more congenial home. There's no coming it in Glasgow where men go up or down fast but put no barriers betwee them in the process. Money may talk, but it talks in an hones Glasgow accent in high place and low. Dear auld Glesca toon, a kindly jungle, a barely suppressed riot that is always good to come back to. May all its matrons have finer fur coats and all its men the fattest of bank balances; may they keep women out of pubs and resist all attempts to lower the level of . conversation; may Rangers and Celtic ding-dong for evermore like the lion and the unicorn; and may Glasgow never envy Edinburgh anything—such are my prayers.
But Edinburgh's a long way off. I thought on Sunday in the lounge of Glasgow's biggest hotel, really as far away as London. (Alas, too. I will praise Glasgow but not its fear- some purgatorial Sunday.) As my Sabbath thoughts took a gloomy turn, a faint murmuration filled the air and grew in • strength until all looked about in wild surmise. From a window overlooking Hope Street (that ironically named canyon) I saw a multitude of children laying siege. From another, overlooking the concourse of Central Station, I saw a similar horde. The crush barriers were up; the polis were out, on foot and mounted. Somebody opened a window and the sound of seven thousand small throats chanting " We want Roy Rogers" made the glasses ring. Roy Rogers is a film - star, a Hollywood cowboy. He came, complete with white suit and stetson. He saw. He conquered. Then he went of to-a theatre to make some arrangements about his act. A troop of mounted policemen preceded the limousine, marching policemen covered the flanks, and seven thousand capering infants provided the main escort. (Edinburgh should have sent through its fifteen hundred bagpipers and drummers, and then the procession really would have drowned the noise of the loud-hailer van summoning the populace to come to the Odeon Cinema and hear, for free, the latest American evangelist.) Soon they were all back again and the children still chanting, this time for Trigger. Trigger is a horse. Fresh from America, he obliged. He came, saw, conquered. Then he joined his master in the hotel lobby, made his mark in the . register with a silver pencil, and walked upstairs to the first floor where a room was ready with blankets and a pink quilt.
And this is dear auld Glesca too. One of the infants who had had a touch of Mr. Rogers's hand said, it was reliably reported, " He's smashin, so he is." Lying that night under the same honoured roof, I hoped that Mr. Rogers and Trigger would say as much for Glasgow. It's a smashin city, so it is, and my last thought that night was that if ever I were to seek real fame and fortune I should set up in Glasgow as a publicity man. There's gold on them thar streets, as Mr. Rogers might say. The thought kept me cheerful next day during a stiff conversation with a plaided bard (a canny Lowlander for all the tartan trimmings) all the way back to Edinburgh. I was so exhilarated I very nearly ca'd the flamin feet frae Luckily, the sight of Jenners' Depository put me in my place i and Edinburgh took me in the nick of time into its cool, well- bred embrace once more.