31 – Sixteen today (part 1) (1986)

YTS not a success
It gave me less and less
Magnified my inner stress
Kept me hopeless

Just part of your chess
With the youth in a mess
You cut to excess
For party correctness
Your answer to the jobless
Who’s futures you did possess
Was to be gutless
In your intolerableness
And scandalousness
So thoughtless
And merciless
You made it your business

In denying us access
To keep us in darkness
Living a lifeless
In a scheme that was baseless
So us you could oppress
Through your utterly hopeless
Completely useless

Thirty years later
Its been part of my fate, eh
To remember that day
Your scheme came my way
Robbed my destiny
By taking away
My right to a pay
And some dignity
Worth my working day
All I’ve got to say

© Stuart Patterson 2018

“Sixteen today, my feet are sore trying to earn some pay
They close their doors and say
“I can’t exploit you, try another day”
Youth opportunities Slave labour
Fight for proper jobs
Jobs not bombs we say
Youth in plight for brighter days”
From “Sixteen today” SchemeSongs

January 1986. I was a man. I no longer went to school, after deciding just before Christmas, halfway through the fifth year that I was leaving. Spur of the moment. Annoyed in Geography. I had had enough and I was gone. As I was due to turn sixteen that February I could.

So I did!

I did my first job interview in the Employment Training offices in December for a position in Fine Fare (now B&M). The morning I was to go I had woken up covered in chickenpox. As the interviewer asked me if I had ever had any serious skin conditions, I looked him straight in the eyes and said “no”. I did not know I was covered in spots. I didn’t get the job.

Alex Munro.jpg

I had got the “job” after a successful interview with the district manager. I cannot for the life of me remember his name, but I remember his handlebar moustache. He was a pretty decent guy. The job was in Alex Munro. My friend from Westwood, Gary Crawford, who had left school in the summer of 1985, was already serving his apprenticeship there. The Alex Munro interview came about because the broo said I had to go for it, OR ELSE I WOULD NOT GET ANY BROO MONEY.

So I did. I started not long after it. My mum took £12.30 a week from my £27.30 a week training allowance, (well they could not really call it a wage). I remember our John (JP), Yvonne and even my dad saying that taking it off my first wage was bit much. In fairness, she probably already knew my cash was already going on drugs so thought she might minimise what I had.

Every Friday all the staff got a £5 parcel of meat as a bonus. I didn’t as I was a YTS. This was my introduction to the working world of Britain in the 1980’s. The manager, Alan Vine, was a pretty decent guy. He said he wasn’t allowed to give me the parcel. So, out of a staff of around twenty, the poorest paid was the only one that never got the Friday bonus. The assistant manager, Graham Deeprose, was an even better guy and sort of took me under his wing and looked after me in there as much as he could. I will maybe talk more about Graham another time.

I was good at my job. I did all the training modules that the YTS course involved. I worked all the extra hours I could. Obviously, I was not allowed to get paid for them, but I thought if I stick in there is a better chance I would get kept on. I thought this because the district manager told me this. The staff told me they had never retained either a YTS or a YOPper. I thought I would try anyway.

In the six months that the scheme lasted, I had to go away on two courses. Alex Munro was owned by Dewhurst Butcher’s and the first one was in England. I had only ever been to England as a young boy on a Butlin’s holiday.

It was the end of January 1986. I was going out with MS. Diana Ross was number 1 in the charts with “Chain Reaction”. Jon’s men’s clothes shop was part of the recently renamed Shandwick Square. I know because I bought myself my first jacket out of there for going to Northampton. I got my hair cut in the Big Windae, and on Monday, I and three other Scottish guys made our way together via train to Northampton. I had some hash with me, and some tablets, but the plan was to go there and do as well as I could.

We joined with four English guys and very quickly a sort of friendly rivalry started between us. Our first day in the training centre, us Scottish guys were shocked to discover that the English cut their beef forequarters different from us. It meant we were already at a disadvantage. We have been sent on a certified training course to cut meat in a way we had never been shown, and that we would never use when we went back.


The week away involved lots of classroom stuff as well. I even went to a Northampton Town vs Hartlepool local derby. Memorable because at one point during the game, a supporter, in disagreeing with a refereeing decision, called out “Away ref, that’s Scottish football” to which my new friend from Airdrie replied, “There nuffin wrang wae Scottish fitba!” All the surrounding supporters and the ref and the players burst out laughing. There were not many supporters there so you could hear everything.

Our group aced the presentation. (Our group being the four Scottish guys). Our b&b also had senior managers staying in it. We annoyed them, but not half as much as their pompousness annoyed us. We drank beer in there, much to the annoyance of the landlady, who was sure as we were YTS trainees we must be too young to drink.

“No”, we said, “we are managers as well.”

It was a great week. It was different, and it was one of only two good “flashbulb” memories from my sixteenth year here on God’s earth.

On the train back up to Glasgow< I did not want to be on the train back up to Glasgow. I had tasted life outside of the drugs, gangs and scheme and I really enjoyed it. What’s more, I was actually quite good at all the training stuff and actually excelled over the other guys.

I did not want to go back to my life.

(to be cont…)

This blog is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.

Alternatively, you can visit the Media Links page and see a short visit done by BBC Radio Scotland for an interview I did there.

If you or someone you love, needs help with the Christian response to addiction, or if you would just like to know more or need hope, please click on one of the following:

The Haven
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Street Connect
Bethany Christian Trust
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church
Stuart Patterson