Thursday, 10 December 2009

Glasgow Men

McDonough was his name, but he also masqueraded under the name of Flanagan to be associated with the heroes of an earlier time. A big man he was, both in name and of stature. He had the most determined of walks, and would make a show of the defiance by way of his stride.

No working man on the docks of Glasgow had time for Flanagan. Not even when he was in the company of money, and the drink was abound.

A Catholic man he was, and loud with it. His chest bore no symbols of Ulster or the red hand. When he took to striding down the dock at the back of two, many a man would tremble behind his piece and tremble the jar of the warm Barry tea.

“Move that feckin jay-ket, can you’se no see that ah’m an important man in need of a seat?” he would cry.

If the owner of the coat was slow to move, Flanagan would reach down and toss it into the waters murky depths out of sheer spite.

“You’ll no need to be telt the twice again!” he would proclaim to all those before him.

Many eyes would flash with the anger of it all, but Flanagan was a union man and no to be crossed by those who relied on the Friday shilling to keep their families warm.

It was the Saturday after the funeral of the first born son, which saw my faither sitting alone on the bitterly cold dock with his auld mash of tea by his side. A small space had been cleared by the men, who although they could not utter the soft words of comfort to a bereaved man of Glasgow, could muster a show of respect by leaving him be.

It was then that Flanagan chose to make his imposing entrance.

He stood in front of the faither and pointed at the small brown keepsake of a shoe fae the boy who had been lost to the terrible cough. It was his only remembrance of a life taken so young.

“Move that, or fish it back oot” came Flanagan’s harrying cry. “Whit is it, a wee dolly shoe?” said the man who had little thought for anyone but his self.

The faither rose, and stood before the great bull of a man. The look of the divil came about his face, but he stood square before him, and looked into his eyes as he reached out and took the big man firmly by his haund.

“I pity you Flanagan” said my faither. The very inside of you is cold, and you will never feel the love or the warmth of a child. My first born is only just laid to rest, and yet the love he leaves inside of my soul will always stay with me."

"You have no one, and will always remain an empty shell of a man to the end. Turn away and be gone, take this heed and wear it well, for I cannae guarantee what the rage will do to a dog such as you.”

But McDonough who was also Flanagan, did not heed the warning of my faither, and was brutally pitched over the side by the very same men who could no find the words for a bereaved man of the docks.

Let no talk of religion, nor the softness of words stand between men born of poverty, and Glasgow’s proud men of the shipyards.
No a word was said between the two for more than the passing of ten years, until the morning Flanagan was cold and present at his own wake.

It was a sparse congregation that stood and watched my faither enter the chapel and approach the man who could find no happiness even under two names.

“Now I can finally forgive you” said my faither, as he placed a blackened welder’s glove atop the casket lid.

“Now you fully understand the pain of loss, but sadly it is your own. Pray that no man will ever ask you to move this glove.”

His words were vague to those who stood about the casket, but some eyes smiled. There were those in attendance who remembered back to that bitterly cold day on the dock.

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