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Jack Boyd memoirs

by Jack Boyd

edited by Gary Fuhrman and Jonah Winters.
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Chapter 3

Pat Younger and Other Friends:
Some of young Jack's friends and adventures in Scotland (1953-57)

(see also Boyd's The Road: Reflections on Scottish history)

I first met Pat about 1953 when I was 18 years old. I was a member of Clydesdale Harriers at the time, one of only a few members, and we were very glad to have him join us. To look at Pat we could see that he was too big and heavy to be a good runner. How wrong we were. Pat was eventually to show us all just what determination, training and heart could accomplish, even if he did not have the physique of a greyhound. Yet what Pat brought to the club was a lot more than his running ability.

The top runners at the time were my brother Bobbie, who was also the coach, and George White. Pat was very good natured, easy to get along with, and trained hard, so he fit right in. Pretty soon he made a good addition to our first team for road and cross country races. Shortly after Pat joined the club, he transferred into the department where I was serving an apprenticeship as a press tool maker with the Singer Manufacturing Company. Pat was a sheet metal worker and his work bench was tucked away behind a tool room, very secluded. This was a mistake that Singer's made because although the supervisors seemed to appreciate Pat's skills and dedication, he always had some home project on the go.

Singers was a huge factory. It had fences and guard gates on three sides and was bounded by the Forth and Clyde Canal on the other. Every night Pat went home from work, he was a different shape, with things he had built smuggled under his coat or coveralls. Perhaps it helped that the father of his best pal, Lachie Turner, was a security guard. I don't know if old Mr Turner turned a blind eye, or if Pat was just lucky, but he was never apprehended. Pat was interested in photography and always had old cars and boats which constantly needed parts for repairs. One time he built a bulky enlarger which had to be brought out. Pat built a fender for one of his old cars, and being too big to tuck under his coveralls, he attached it to an oil drum and floated it right across the canal.

I have to say a few words about Lachie Turner, a childhood friend of Pat's. Lachie was a very large man, overweight( about 19 stone -- 266 pounds), powerful, and surprisingly athletic. He was a draftsman at Singer and I had the -- I'm looking for a word -- honour? privilege? experience? -- maybe all of the above -- of working with him for six months during my apprenticeship.

Lachie was a most devious practical joker who loved to tease and challenge the younger fellows around him. One fellow, whose name I forget, owned a motorcycle and had parked it in an off limit spot, near where he worked. Lachie phoned him pretending to be security and told him that he had to move his bike. The young guy came into the office grumbling about officious security and Lachie said "You're not going to let them tell you what to do, are you? Don't be a mouse!" The guy thought that Lachie was right and be damned if he was going to move it. Then he got another call from "security" escalating the threat and saying that his bike would be towed away. He came back very nervous still bitching about security, and Lachie told him "They're just bluffing. They would never tow your bike away. Don't let them push you around. Bloody Gestapo!" This went on for a few more encounters until the guy was a nervous wreck and left to move his motorbike, to Lachie's loud jeers.

Lachie had us all measuring our chests one day and I still remember his measurements, 50 inches normal, 55 inches expanded. Then he challenged a young fellow to say to a buxom young lady in the office "We have all been measuring our chests and we wondered what your measurements are." When he did, she burst into tears and we all felt bad. Lachie could jump straight in the air for surprising heights, onto drafting tables and such, and many a youngster, myself included, barked his shins trying to do what Lachie could so easily do.

Lachie and Pat were fishing buddies and I heard a sorry tale from Pat one Monday morning. The two of them had gone on a fishing trip, drove to Rannoch Moor and hiked, in pouring rain, twenty miles across the roughest country, to a favourite Loch. They pitched their tent and Pat said to Lachie "Where's the matches?" Lachie said "I thought you were bringing the matches." They ate a can of cold beans, packed up and trudged back across the Moor, not speaking to each other. Pat tells me that Lachie got married, slimmed down a lot, and became civilized. I find that very hard to believe.

In those days the club members socialized with each other much more than today. I suspect the main reason for that was that nobody had an automobile; nobody, that is, except Pat Younger. Today when someone goes to the club for a run he just pops in his car and goes home afterwards. Being the generous guy that he is, Pat always shared his good fortune by giving rides to all the others, so we were still doing things together. This sometimes proved very exciting.

Pat had just bought an old car, a 1936 Singer, and had not yet had time to work on it. He offered a ride to a bunch of us from Mount Blow track, back home towards Duntocher and Parkhall, and six of us jammed in this tiny car. We headed up the steep hill towards the Boulevard then found that the car could not make it to the top. Singer's workers were pouring out in their hundreds, walking up the hill, and it started to rain hard. As Pat backed the car around, we found that the windshield wipers did not work, than as we started down the hill we found that the brakes did not work. The horn did not work either. As the car went faster and faster, we rolled down the windows and shouted at the oncoming workers "Get out of the bloody way". These tired men had to jump with alacrity, cursing at us as a threat to humanity. A later car that Pat owned had something wrong with the steering mechanism and I remember him driving it with a wrench for a steering wheel.

The word was out that Pat had bought a wooden houseboat with an inboard engine! It was moored at Balloch in the South end of Loch Lomond, and pretty soon Pat invited us for a day on the Loch. It was a perfect day, one that you seldom see in Scotland. We were amazed when we got there to find that the boat was on the bottom of the riverbed, in eight feet of fast flowing water. "That's so the planks can 'take up' and the boat won't leak " Pat told us. He fetched the small engine from a shed and we raised the boat, emptied it out, and before long Pat had the engine installed and we were underway.

There was supposed to be eight of us that day but fortunately somebody, I think it was Charlie Rowan, couldn't make it, or we would have sunk. As it was, we were right down to the gunnels as we headed out of the river into the Loch. Always tactless, John Hume shouted "OK, Pat, open her up!" Mortally offended, Pat growled "She is bloody opened up!" Under a cloudless blue sky we could see the beautiful mountains ahead as we sailed to an uninhabited island. We spent a perfect day lounging about, eating, swimming and playing soccer with a tennis ball. When it was time to head home, Frank Keilty, Pat's other best pal, always a free spirit, suggested that we all just stay there and not go to work the next day. That was typical of Frank but, fortunately or unfortunately, he was overruled and a perfect day came to a close, except in memory.

That brings up dear departed friend, Frank Keilty. As I said, Frank was a free spirit. He loved to do the unusual, taking on strange challenges. Frank it was, who left his good paying job as a plate worker in John Brown's Shipyard to go north and work for a time with the Forestry Commission. While there he found out about the Ben Nevis race and he and an Australian coworker entered it; fourteen miles up and down the highest mountain in the British Isles.

Frank came back and enthusiastically told us about it and next year it was our marathon runners, Davie Bowman and Willie Howie that ventured to try the mountain. The following year, 1955, all of the middle distance runners had a go and the team included John Hume, Frank, Davie Bowman, Willie Howie, my brother Bobby, me, and Pat. I am sure there were others too, but I cannot remember them now. There was a set of scales in the dressing room and I know that although I only weighed 11 ½ stone (160 pounds), I lost ten pounds during that race. Running alongside my brother, Frank offered him a glucose tablet which we used for energy. After Bobby ate it Bobby asked if he had a pocket in his shorts. Frank claimed that he carried them in his jock strap. Frank, Pat and Bobby ran the Ben Nevis race many times, but I only ran one more time, 1956, before leaving for Canada.

A bunch of us used to get together every Sunday evening, meet at the corner of Kilbowie Road and Dumbarton Road, and walk to a café near the Botanical Gardens in Glasgow. Frank was a bit of an intellectual and read very unusual things. He loved to be controversial, often making outlandish statements which we would all debate with him. One time he claimed to have read that worms were very intelligent, in fact a worm was smarter than a dog. Duncan Stewart said "That is stupid. Look at sheepdogs and what they can do. Don't tell me that worms are as smart as that." Frank said "Worms could do that too. They just don't have the speed to round up sheep."

Frank worked in construction for a while, helping to build houses in Faifley. In one housing scheme a lady told Frank that her toilet was plugged. Always obliging, Frank offered to clear it. He disconnected the sewer pipe and taking an air hose, he gave a little too much air, and blasted the toilet's contents all over her new bathroom, then made a hasty retreat. Always wanting to avoid responsibility, Frank found in latter life what seemed the perfect job for him: he worked collecting fares on the Erskine Bridge. No responsibility, and he could run home over the Old Kilpatrick Hills at night, keeping up his training. Sadly, Frank developed cancer, which he fought bravely, but died, much too young. His ashes were scattered by his friends on the mountaintops near Glencoe. He was one of a kind and is sorely missed.

In 1954 John Hume, always upwardly mobile, took up mountain climbing and the rest of us went camping and hill walking. [See a photo of John Hume in The Road.] Later on Jack Higginson and I got the bug and took up mountain climbing too. A group of us including Pat, went to Glen Nevis camping and Davie Panton was to provide the tent. He brought along a Bell Tent from some scout troop he was associated with, but when he unpacked it, he cursed loud and long. He said "We don't have the crown piece and the main guy ropes." We thought that this was a disaster, and all of us insisted that John Hume cut up his hemp climbing rope to use as our main guys. John grumbled, but gave in very reluctantly, and we cut up his rope. It was a few days later that we found out that a Bell Tent does not have a crown piece and main guy ropes. It is supported by all the little guys all around the bottom of the tent. What a bunch of dummies we were.

John Hume ended up with a nylon rope which was safer, as he was a very talented climber. John was a pretty talented athlete in running, singing, and rugby as well, but what I remember most about him was the time we were camping in the Cairngorms and, packing up to leave, we had four eggs left over. John said we shouldn't throw them away, and one by one cracked the raw eggs into his mouth and gulped them down, pretending enjoyment.

Another time we went to Glen Rosa in Arran, and Pat brought along a mouth organ. All he could play was a few bars from something that started with the words "When the moon comes over the Cumbrae." He drove us nearly daft, playing it over and over all weekend. Being poor planners, we brought along what looked like enough food for all of us, but went very hungry, since we consumed it on the first day and all the stores were shut on Sunday. I vaguely remember a stew with everything we had left in it, eggs, pies, bread etc. We started a big bonfire the first night we were there, but it got out of hand with huge flames, much bigger than we wanted, and the sparks flew, carried by the strong wind. The woods were very dry, but fortunately nothing caught fire. I read in the newspaper that the next weekend somebody did start a bush fire in the very same place, in the very same way.

When young, Pat lost an eye. His brother Alex threw a dart which bounced off the dartboard, striking Pat. This handicap did not seem to bother him much, but he used to tease the rest of us with the artificial eye. One time he came out of the showers at Mount Blow (always cold water) covered in soap suds, turned out the lights and jumped into the change room, naked, soapy, and with his eye in backwards. Another time Pat had a classy, somewhat newer car, an Armstrong Sidley. Davie Panton had a car too, and we went in style to St Andrews, where we had rented a caravan (a trailer) with eight bunk beds. Pat ran ahead of us and, throwing his eye on a bed, shouted "I've got my eye on that bed!"

Pat went into the obstacle race at Singers Sports one year, and was leading when he dived under the tarpaulin, but came out the other side without his shorts, and had to dive back under to find them. Pat was a bit of a philosopher. He has a fine voice now, but it used to be terrible. Walking home from work with him one day he was singing, then stopped and observed "When somebody is singing, they are hearing Frank Sinatra, but they are the only buggers hearing Frank Sinatra."

In 1955, Pat finished ninth in the prestigious Scottish Senior Cross Country Championships, making him first reserve for the team to represent Scotland at the International Championships. This came as a surprise to many athletes in Scotland, who had not noticed just how Pat was improving. Ian Binnie, a world class athlete with an ego to match, said "If that clodhopper Pat Younger can make the team, I quit." Maybe he should have. Pat was the right up there with the best Clydesdale Harriers of that decade, Bobby Boyd and George White.

Pat was the best man at our wedding in 1957 and we have stayed in touch ever since. In the wedding pictures I look a bit strange with my buttonhole flower pinned on the wrong side. Pat has his on the proper way. I can now tell everyone -- it was me that pinned on Pat's and he that pinned mine ...

Pat has always been a gentleman, easy to be around, and trustworthy, adding a lot to each life that he came in contact with. A good man with a wrench. I am very proud that he is my friend.

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