171 Lochend Road. The last close before the hill up to the loch. I knew it well because my granny and granda and our Peter lived there. I spent many a happy day therein my pre-teens, and then even I the first days of my teens, Peter would always be talking to me about music and electronics and stuff.
From 171, you crossed the wee bridge over the burn then walked up the hill. First on the left were the cottages, Benny’s cottage (my dad’s old pal Benny Gray used to live in one of them). As you turned the bend, there was the field through the hedge with all the old, rusting but fantastically magical farm machinery. From my earliest memories, these captivated me. I was always transfixed by these otherworldly metal beasts. Tantalisingly close to my young fingers through the gaps in the hedge and the fence, but not quite close enough.
My Granada Patterson was always taking me walks up to the loch (Drumpellier) and I loved them. Call it escapism, call it what you like, but I was just a wee boy that doted on his granda, and he doted on me. He would always be teaching me stuff and talking to me. It was brilliant.
I knew granny and granda were good friends with Jimmy and Mary Fyffe, the farmers. Many times Jimmy and Mary had been up those never-ending flights of steps to the top floor tenement for a cup of tea, (or maybe another wee home-brewed drink from the kitchen cupboard).
I can still picture Jimmy and Mary’s faces. They were always so kind to granny and granda. They were nice people.
Anyway back to that field.
I will never forget the day, when, as a 10-year-old boy my granda asked me if I would like to help Jimmy on the farm. It was the summer holidays. (Actually, in retrospect I see a pattern devolving of my parents offloading me during the summer holidays, Respite” hmmmmmm).
I loved the days I would spend up there. I’d make my own way up in the bus. Off at the terminus. Around the corner looking up at granny and granda’s window and ALWAYS stopping at the bridge over the burn before continuing up the hill. Past Benny’s cottage, around the bend and up the driveway with the whitewashed wall one side and the “playfield” the other.
At the end of the drive was a 90 degree turn with a hayshed on one side at the byre on the other. I loved it.
I loved the smells I loved the work I loved Mrs Fyffes cooking. I loved how nice their daughters were to me. I loved the fields, the milking the cows, being out on the tractor and more than all of this, I loved how Jimmy treated me the way my granda did – like a man. He expected me to be responsible, to do what I was asked and to ask if I needed help or didn’t understand. No excuses accepted. Work hard and enjoy.
I did. Jimmy used to tell me stories about the farm. He was the first that talked about old bishops and Bishop Loch but I never really processed that then. I would get to go out when baling hay, sitting on the tractor and wonder how the loose stuff went in and bales came out. I loved being out on the tractor when it was pulling the dung spreader and watching (and smelling) in awe as it spread its dung all over the fields.
And I even got to walk the cattle home.
I wanted to know how the machinery for milking the cows worked; why the dung spreader; how not to upset the bull and why the cows would follow Jimmy. I loved getting sent to collect the hens’ eggs. They roamed free and you had to search the whole farm to find them. I loved being up in the grain loft, even though you had to wear a mask as the dust could be dangerous. I loved mucking out the byre – that heavy wheelbarrow full of dung (you know what dung is, right?) and then out to the dung heap just inside the whitewashed wall.
I loved it!
I think I probably spent about three summers there helping until things began to go wrong elsewhere. I always missed it though.
Those were good days that, even when I look back they make me smile. I love telling my daughters about the farm.
Fast forward ONE year. I’m up to my eyes in the early days of gang fighting and drugs. It’s the summer of 1984. I had spent a year at Lochend (Secondary School in the Drummys area) I had spent nearly the whole summer fighting them.
Mum says “Stuart will you go up tae Kay’s and get a lenny her rollers?” (Rollers were for the hair).
I know, big deal right. My mum wanted me to go to her friends and get something for her. The problem was Kay is Kay Johnston. Her and John, Wee John and David and Catherine and Lorraine were longtime family friends. They used to live beside us, but now NOW they lived in Canonbie Street which just happened to be in the hardest to reach part of the enemy territory.
So how do I deal with this? I can’t tell mum that I can’t go up there cos I was fighting the Drummy. My mum was more terrifying than them when she needed to be.
I knew there was no way out. I had to go.
I think I would have given the SAS a run for their money that day as I sneaked from back close through gable end to back close, worming my way through Den Toi, Commonhead and finally that last stretch of Lochdochart Road. But that last bit was the worst. Kay and John lived right in the middle. Of course, they did.
I managed to get up to Kay’s, find out she never had the rollers one of the other friends did. Can you believe it? I mean seriously I have risked life and limb for my mum’s perm. Obviously never told Kay of either my fear of trying to get back to Aggro alive, never mind getting back to mum empty handed.
Words cannot describe the nervousness as I worked my way down the stairs. Every hair, every skin cell on edge. Had I been spotted? Would I be? This was genuinely quite intimidating stuff.
Lochdochart Road. I made it up the first 100 yards.
“There’s that wee b@#£@+* Paddy far Aggro”
Seriously. I mean seriously.
TT and another face from the past. Not even two that would be considered hard or gangsters by any stretch. But there were two and I was in their area. I knew this would happen!!!!!
Instincts kicked in. My brain kicked into survival mode, like a sat nav calculating my options for a route. Ahead through Commonhead – well they stood in between that route. Back through Canobie and Drumlanrig – you mad that’s right through the whole of Drummy.
One option, what I knew. A route where I knew every step.
I turned and I ran. (At this point it is important to point out I never considered myself a gangster, hard man or even a competent fighter). Run Paddy run was the right.
Around the bend, over the bridge (still I glance very quickly though over it) and up the hill. For someone bit noted for their speed, I was fast that day. They are shouting at me. “Nowhere to run. We’ve got ye noo.”
But they didn’t know what I knew. I could go into Lochwood.
And I did, up the hill, past Benny’s cottage, round the bend and up the driveway. In through the turn, byre on left hayshed on right. Jimmy was in yard.
“Whits wrang with ye?”
I had to be honest. I told him that my mum had sent me for rollers and that two of the Drummy had chased me and were standing at the entrance to the driveway. They were as well.
Jimmy knew a lot of stuff, but I don’t know how aware he was of Easterhouse’s gang problem.
He took me into the kitchen. Got me a drink of water. Let me catch my breath.
When the two had gone he said I best be making tracks.
Again with the internal sat nav. No way I’m passing the bend and Benny’s cottage and the bridge over the burn.
For me. Straight over the field, heading for the back of Commonhead and Den Toi.
A few hundred yards into the field the two from Drummy spotted me. They had been waiting at the bridge. I could not believe it as they started making their way up the hill via the field. They were a distance away and I had an advantage. I had been in the field loads whilst helping on the farm. I knew the marshy bits.
Once again Run Paddy Run.
Commonhead. It had to be navigated carefully as they still considered themselves part of Drummy. The other two gave up at the first sign of marshland.
I made it. I was filthy. I was exhausted. But I made it. Back to the Quad. Up the two flights of stairs, in the door.
” Ma, Kay had already gied the rollers tae sumdy.”
“Naw she’s no” mum says. “She telt me she would hiv thum.”
Mam turned can around. Seen how filthy I was and how out of breath I was.
“Ye never even went did ye? Look at ye, ye wir away messin insteed”.
That’s gratitude for you.
The land around Lochwood has centuries-old history. Tracing back to the palatila home of the old bishops of Glasgow, the origin of the name of Bishop’s Loch. Sandy Weddell from Easterhouse Baptist Church has been praying over it for years. He has done a lot of studying on the area and is a fount of knowledge on it. The history is all part of Lochwood Farm. I’ve always been fascinated by it and prayed that one day God would move people there that would allow me to indulge my memories and make some new ones. I have driven past many times. Many more than I needed to. Sad at the disrepair and yet each time my imagination kicked in and recreated it as it was for me. I would see, once again, the look over the bridge over the burn, up the hill, past Benny’s cottage (now a newer house), around the bend, and I would be that little boy again every single time I pass the farmhouse and the “playfield” next to it.
Anyway, fast forward 34 years. It’s now 2018. Easterhouse Community Church is on the go. Tracy, the girls and I are at morning service a few weeks ago. Amongst the visitors that morning was an older Christian couple. Just moved up from England. P and C. We had a great time of praise and thanksgiving to God. Blessing Him for always being with us in the midst of our circumstances and ALWAYS His love at work in our lives. After the meeting, we all decided to hang around for tea and coffee. On Sunday mornings we normally only do this before the short sixty-minute service. I spent time chatting with Jim and Cathy Smith, AoG pastors from New Life Prestwick who had decided to join us on the first Sunday of their holiday. Then I spent some time chatting to P & C. It was fascinating. they were telling me all about why they moved to Scotland and how they had been visiting different churches in the area. They explained that they had bought an old farm in Gartcosh. On we talked, me thinking this was a farm actually on the road through Gartcosh. P was happy that their sons were going to help them renovate the farm as there was a LOT to be done on it.
As the conversation moved on it became obvious that the old farm that they were talking about – the farm they had bought – was Lochwood Farm.
Jimmy and Mary’s farm (both sadly passed away). My farm. The scene of so many happy memories, and one scary one (although there are a couple about rats, roosters, and a goat I could share).
God had moved people in. I have already shared much of my love for the place and look forward to watching Paul and Christine building their own.
Definitely to be continued…
This POST 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:
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Bethany Christian Trust
Jumping Jacks Outreach
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church
Shop through Amazon Smile and Amazon will donate 0.5% to Easterhouse Community Church, costing you nothing.