December 2017, I began doing a blog on my life story. I did the blog because I was too lazy, or maybe thought myself incapable, of writing it as a book. Overtime I felt the challenge, normally through some friends, to actually write the book. (I heard you guys).
Using my blogs, organised into a chronological order as a starting point, I have been working away at it furiously.
It has meant covering ground and filling gaps not included in any blog posts, but really needed to be there.
I am going to resist writing anymore about the process and how it made me face up to stuff etc, other than the title.
For years, those that have known me have always joked and laughed about what I would call my book.
The blog is called Completing the tenner and it refers to my heroin addiction, and the need for ten pounds to buy some. Tracy and I mostly believed (other than some fleeting ideas) that Completing the tenner would, therefore, be the title.
The book is not quite finished yet, nearly, but not quite.
After having another look over my post entitled We don’t need no education , the name became obvious to me. I have the reworked post below, with a some re edits and a new ending. The ending is important, because it gave me the title for my story, and it surprised me.
The title will only make clear sense to those who have been guests in Castle Huntly when it was a Young Offenders Institution. But, for me it is right.
Read on and see what you think.
At four and a half years old I had my first day at school.
I went to Blairtummock Primary School in Glasgow’s Easterhouse housing scheme.
Four and a half years old and I was being abandoned by mum and dad whilst my wee brother Darrin stayed at home.
This was not on.
I carried on through Primary School, uneventful for the most part, but Secondary School (High School to the post-millennials) brought with it many, many challenges. Some of which I am pretty sure I still enjoy the fruit of even today.
After doing a tour of secondary schools, (Hutchesons Grammar, Lochend SECONDARY and Westwood Secondary) I left School December 1985, halfway through the fifth year.
I was fifteen years old. I was already drinking and smoking hash. (Hold on to that thought of me leaving school at fifteen, this is called foreshadowing and it is important).
Only a short time before, whilst in Hutchesons at the age of fourteen, I was going to be a lawyer.
Instead, within weeks of leaving Westwood, at the age of fifteen I was a YTS butcher.
It wasn’t long before I had taken my first acid tab.
By the summer I had my own council flat, ingesting copious amounts of speed, and had nearly overdosed, on paracetomol.
My sixteenth year also saw my first, second and third criminal convictions. I also began eleven years of hitting up (intravenous drug injection).
I spent most of my time hanging on street corners and in other gang members (we were really just a collection of locals) houses taking drugs. That quick.
At eighteen I was arrested and charged with being concerned with the intention to supply drugs, (I know long winded but that’s what it was).
I also spent some time (only a couple of weeks mind you) in Polmont Young Offenders Institution. I was on remand but owed fines so I did my time there.
By the age of nineteen I had been on probation twice and I went to prison – again. Well, I say prison but it was Castle Huntly YOI (540 / 89) I was a number.
It was full of teenage guys who, for the most part, wanted to be gangsters. We were in an open prison – but it was still a prison.
I was released in August 1990. Dropped off at a train station and let go. Within hours I had another injection.
Between twenty and twenty seven life really is a blur. A lot of trauma happened, I think. I nearly lost my hand to a Temazepam injection.
At twenty seven I had the privilege of my real boss pointing a real gun at me and wanting to really shoot me.
At twenty seven I went to Teen Challenge and met Jesus, and, for the first time really understood love and forgiveness.
At thirty I met Tracy and understood real love in a different way. We married shortly after that and have three daughters.
December 2002, my eldest brother, JP died, weeks before his thirty eighth birthday.
2007 Tracy, my three beautiful daughters Alisha, Zoe and Naomi moved to Ballymena in Northern Ireland. We met some beautiful people that sustained us through a difficult time.
In 2009 we moved home, (back to Scotland).
Mum passed away in 2010.
Easterhouse Community Church started February 20 2011.
Tracy’s dad Leo passed away in 2012.
My dad passed away in 2014.
2017 after much harassing and bullying from Tracy I started the Scottish Wider Access Programme in Glasgow Kelvin College’s Easterhouse campus. It stands on the grounds of the former Westwood Secondary School.
My first day was in a class overlooking the building where the class I had walked out of thirty two years before stood.
September 2018 I walked through the doors of the University of Strathclyde, beginning a BA in Humanities.
February 2019 – thirty three years after that sixteenth year I got seventy eight per cent, (an A) in an essay for Understanding Education in university. I have done other essays (not got such great grades but have passed them all). But this A, in Understanding Education – a module I only added to make up my credits but yet love.
This A and the timing of it!
The only thing lacking was being able to call my mum, as I always did, since a conversation with Jay Fallon. Good news, bad news indifferent news Tracy and I always called my mum.
I love my wife Tracy, but that day I would have just once more been able to pick up the phone and call my mum. “Mum, I just got an A in my Understanding Education module.
The next day, in the Royal College Building in UoS, a group of friends (all around 18- 21 years old) and I, did some basic Physics experiments with primary school kids. It was my placement for Placement and Curriculum Education module. I am grateful to God for this bunch. They care and are kind. (I passed this module as well).
April 2019, I accompanied the UoS Deputy Head of Education, who is also a friend, (Amanda Corrigan), to Polmont Young Offenders Institution. I have been blessed with the opportunity to speak in many prisons in my role as a pastor and as a Christian. My Return to Polmont though, was as a student and a representative of the University of Strathclyde.
It was to speak to some young men imprisoned there about my experiences and my journey.
I chatted about being heard. Of how many had assumed they knew the core issues affecting me, but no one really HEARD ME, until the day I walked into The Haven Kilmacolm, and Fin Moffat the then manager spoke to me, and listened.
My Return to Polmont felt like a homecoming; an arrival, just as my entry into the Teen Challenge men’s centre in Wales had been.
That day, after hiding from my academic journey for decades, I got it. I saw and understood education. I saw the need for the individual to be heard, even if they are wrong, and to be assisted in their next steps in their journey.
My long walk to education has been arduous and it is far from over. But the mess I made in my sixteenth year, Jesus has stepped in and redeemed. He has offered a second chance at so many lost dreams. He has taken me by the hand and guided me to this moment.
I am grateful.
The purpose of my book is to give a look at some of the moments that have made up that journey, and through it maybe some others will KNOW they have been heard, and maybe trust those doing the hearing for some guidance.
This is my story arc.
Many people have shared with me, helped me and challenged me on this walk. I am thankful for every one of you. Even those at the time I hoped and prayed would go away.
Today I am thankful.
It’s never too late.
Return to Polmont was a technical term used in my Castle Huntly days of imprisonment. It referred to a serious disciplinary procedure, and normally meant your inmate category had been changed from a ‘D’ to a ‘C’ and so you were returned to Polmont. I never did return in any capacity – until I rejoined my academic journey.
Therefore, to me it makes sense, I have to call the book of my life:
Return to Polmont
Please note that it will be available for preorder very soon,
I have also published two poem books:
Five Weeks in May
You can purchase these direct from Amazon (please use Amazon Smile link below and Amazon will contribute to ECC at no cost to you)
or directly from me.
Email me directly to arrange this.
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
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