Rebel

By Maureen Simpson

Oh! I know where to begin. The minute I saw the word rebel I thought ‘not me’ but then, after a while, I thought ‘yes me’.  I’m a wee bit of one of them.


But it goes back to last century, when I was young, say about ten or eleven-ish.


‘In them thar days’ we played ‘roon the doors in wee gangs.’


We didnae hae many toys – if ony – so we made oor ain entertainment.


An’ ken whit? Yin o’ the gemes we played wis ‘Kick Door Run Fast’.


Noo, ye kinda hae tae bide whaur there’s buildins. That’s Boness’s wurd fer tenements, ken – Glasgie’s tae fer that matter.


So whit happened wis yin o’ the gang wis picked tae kick somebody’s door while the rest hid further doon the stair. See, ye alwais picked the door furthest awa’ fae yer escape route. That made it mair excitin’.


Noo, yin night in particular a wis picked an’ a’ didnae go smoothly.


How, ye ask? Well read oan an’ see.


There a wis, top story, three flights up, whit door dae a pick, right or left? Well it was yin o’ them.


Noo, am no’ saying ma eyesight’s bad, bit a didnae notice the ash bucket sittin’ sumewhaur oan the landin’. So a kicked the door an’ ran tae mak ma get away. A fell o’er the bucket, landed oan ma chest an’ belly, hands an’ knees slapped hard oan the concrete. Jings! It was sair. A couldnae git up quick enough an’ the wifie cum tae the door, saw the situation, grabbed me an’ hauled me up, dragged me tae her door, an shouted fur her man tae bring the sweepin’ brush an’ shovel.


Well, she made me clean every speck o’ ash up an’ then she gied me a kick oan the bum an’ said “Next time, a’ll tell yer maw!” Well that wid hae been anither doin’ a goat, if she'd foond oot!


Adventure 1 over. No harm done. A just never went kicking doors again.


Next naughty hing’ wis dismantlin’ the pit prop piles oan the foreshore o’ the River Forth.


Bo’ness haein’ mines needed them pit props tae haud up the roofs underground. The props, which came fae Scandanavia, were stacked neatly in braw piles fer maximum use o’ land, an’ easiness o’ access.


Noo, we felt that wis oor playground an’ so we juist yased them pit props as an’ when we fancied a geme o’ wee hooses. Well the props wurny fenced in an’ there was no notice sayin’ “Dinnie Touch”. So whit dae folk expect bairns tae dae in sic a situation? Aye, yer right. Hoose building wi’ the best o’ gear wis the order o’ the day. Whit a great geme we hud. 


They wur great shelters in the wind that blew up the river fae Siberia when there wis an easterly. An’ in the summer they wur wur wee holiday hames in whitever place we could imagine. Like Ayr, or maybe Dunbar.


Great fun – oh aye! We’d pit them back so the firms didnae find oot aboot wur geme.


Noo, naughty no. 3 wis the maist darin’. Jumpin’ the dock gates when they wur openin’.


Noo this, a’budy hid tae dae. If ye didnae, we wur ca’d a ‘Feardy Cat’ fer evermore. An’ naebdae wanted to be ca’d that.


Kin ye imagine yer pals evictin’ ye fae the gang and forever shoutin’ “Feardy Cat” as ye passed?


Naw! Onyway, the gates didnae flee open, they opened a wee bit as the tide came in an’ the water wis level oan baith sides o’ the gates.


But the gap wis big enough tae mak ye hink o’ the consequences if ye fell in.


Rescue by the dockers wid hae been the order o’ the day. Us weans couldnae hae dun it. But wurst o’ a’ wid hae been the row fae Mither fer getting’ yer claes wet. It wouldnae matter if ye split yer heid open, ye only hid yin set o’ claes tae wear. A ken ye’ve only yin heid, but it’s hard as iron…or so we thought.


Mind ye, a tell a lie aboot wan set o’ claes; we hid twa. We had wur Sunday gear fur the Sunday skule. Really guid in them days o’ the Forties, whit wi’ claes rationin’ in a’.


Onyway, back tae the dock gates.


A mind shakin’ like a leaf, ma heart poundin’, ma heid bummin’ wi fear. Bit a kept saying tae maself “Ye only hae tae dae it wance, then it’ll be a piece o’ cake” – mair like a jammie piece in them days.


An’ so it wis. The song then cood hae been: 'The Dock Gates That Furst Time'.


Well that’s ma rebellious past oan paper noo. A mean jumpin’ the dock gates cood hae been dangerous, ‘cause they werenie patrolled – nae health and safety in them days.


Bit in a’ ma time in that era, naebidy fell in the dock aff the gates.


Many’s a time, ye wur shuved in by yer pals intae the dock (when it wisnae busy wi’ boats o’ coorse). Because we cood climb up the iron rundgs oan the side o’ the dock wa’s.


Ken whit else? Wi’ that nonsense, ye learned tae swim right quick.


Them wur the days! High adventure, indeed. Or maybe a shood say we wur Rebels of a bygone era.   


childhood rebellion, scots, community