The Bootlace Saga. Author, George Cuthbert
(Edited, Ron Culley)
In his early twenties and frustrated by the routine of working in the shipyards of the Clyde in Glasgow, George Cuthbert donned his kilt and decided to leave work to see something of the world. Heading first to the fjords and forests of Norway, he set sail for the Arctic Circle and then hitched his way through Europe to the Middle East, finding himself in Czechoslovakia just as the Russian tanks invaded. A rollocking tale of a be-kilted Scotsman with wanderlust.
The Bootlace Saga. Author, George Cuthbert
(Edited, Ron Culley)
Shovelling shit and strewing sawdust in Kåre Hoye’s big red byre at Salmonrud in Østfold wasn’t the kind of adventure I was looking for when I'd left London en route for Harwich; a ferry to Netherlands, hitch-hiking through Germany and Denmark to board another ferry to Norway to seek adventure and a new life.
So when a guy in a pub in Mysen said he could fix me up with a forestry job in East Norway I jumped at the chance, staggered home, packed my rucksack and bid old Kåre farewell first thing next morning.
I turned and looked blankly at the one who spoke. “Nicht verstehend,” I said, in my best German.
“Kom mit os”, or something like that was the reply and a badge was flashed as arms grabbed me and huckled me off down the street.
I don't know why I felt compelled to shout for Helen, but I did, much to her surprise and it also slowed down my apprehenders, who stopped to look around to see who I was shouting at.
Helen came running up squawking like the old hen she was and the two police officers calmed down and asked us both to go with them up to their office which fortunately was only meters from where we stood.
They took us up to a small office, furnished in Holywood Eastern bloc style; a table and four upright wooden chairs. Two untidy uniformed men slouched at the table smoking, all lit by a single, bare light bulb.
One of my apprehenders spoke to one of the untidy men, who looked at me and said in quite good English, but with a very thick accent, “Where do you come from?”
”Scotland” I replied.
“Why do you wear a skirt?”
“It's my national dress”.
He laughed at the two who had arrested me and said something to them and they all laughed.
“That's good.” he said to me. “Go now.”
And that was it; they just wanted to know why I was wearing a skirt.
Behind was the National Museum of Czechoslovakia showing signs of the shooting that took place when the tanks first rolled into the Square. All the columns and statues decorating the front face of the building had been shot up but not one window was broken.
We found the Esplinad Hotel just off the square and we were almost back at the railway station but going up past the Museum we found evidence of the resistance a couple of days before.
There were burned out buses and some crushed cars all over the road, trees had been flattened and lamp posts stood at crazy angles. This had been the scene of the battle for the radio building on the 21st.Three bus drivers had driven their buses up the street and parked them in an attempt to block the road. The Army had come up in their tanks and simply shelled them, setting them on fire and then continued to shell the buildings setting them on fire as well. The Czechs had retaliated by throwing a few Molotov cocktails and I saw one burned out tank up a side street.
‘A great read. It must have taken a lot of gumption to set off alone and travel through cold war Europe in a kilt. Engrossing!'
‘I found the part about Mr. Cuthbert walking around on an ice floe fascinating. I learned a lot about the seal industry. An excellent book!’
‘A very interesting book. To read a first hand account of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was terrifically absorbing.’
‘As I read this book, it made me want to don my kilt and set off for a Norwegian forest. Great writing about an eventful time in this young man’s life.’
The Never-Ending Story. Author Campbell Culley
(Edited, Ron Culley)
The Never-Ending Story is a genealogical piece of work that records the family history of the author going back to the birth in 1690 of Daniel Culley. In the process, the author delves into the equally fascinating histories of McLeods, McTavishes, Carrolls, Pollocks, Fergusons, Ronalds, Duffs, Donagheys, Higgins, Armours, Farrah-Hockleys and many others who make up the time line that produced him, his ancestors and descendants.
The Never-Ending Story. Author Campbell Culley
(Edited, Ron Culley)
In the main, beyond the many anecdotal family stories I incorporate with these pages, my research relies upon official birth, marriage, death certificates and census returns but for the sake of the story, I am not above borrowing research undertaken by others, although not blindly; they have to fit the facts as I know them. That said, I do have problems with the dominance of the Mormon faith in all aspects of genealogy. Mormons trace their family trees to find the names of ancestors who died without learning about the restored Mormon Gospel so that these relatives from past generations can be baptised by proxy in the temple. For Latter-day Saints, genealogy is a way to save more souls and strengthen the eternal family unit. However, surreptitiously, they have bought up many of the open book genealogy sites and work to claim the souls of the deceased as belonging to the Mormon faith – no matter that their name was Seamus Patrick O’Flaherty from Dublin or Hardeep Singh from New Delhi. They have also commercialised the process, making a tidy buck in the process. I research widely but don’t post my findings on-line as they would just be hoovered up by other sites which would then charge others to access my hard work.
Other than these holiday periods, it was not until my teens that I began really to connect to my brothers. My gran was always affectionate, but only if she could catch me. It was she to whom I had to report daily, on my way to school to ensure that I had washed myself and had my hair combed. If dissatisfied, she’d apply some green gunk that immediately turned my hair into cardboard and she always seemed to know what was happening in my life through her network of spies.
In 1957 Ronnie and his family moved back into Glasgow, to 268 Househillwood Road, Craigbank - a new development intended to address Glasgow’s slum problem, It was a three bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living room accommodation with central heating and hot and cold water on tap, well most of the time; luxury when compared to Donaldson Street. Kirkintilloch’s two bedroomed, two up, two down, ageing miner’s house with an outside toilet was medieval by comparison although I was of an age when I could ignore such contrasts.
‘I suspect this will fascinate generations of this man’s family.’
‘A very interesting and well-researched book. I enjoyed reading it even though it was about the lives of people long since departed this earth.’
‘A well presented account of people growing up in Glasgow and wider Scotland.’
‘I am an amateur genealogist and this book has revitalised my interest in my own family tree. I would love to write something as authoritative as this author sometime. Completely consuming. Well done that man!’
‘My favourite parts were the social history and the research into the illnesses that people died from. Great piece of research.’
A photographic companion book to ‘Odyssey’, an opportunity is taken here by Culley to incorporate some of the thousands of photographs he shot whilst on his world travels. New narrative aids an understanding of the problems and joy experienced by people living in cities and societies across the globe.
However, the amazing mingled with the manky. Pollution was astonishing. Those waterways that flowed through the city were completely clogged with rubbish of all kinds. I visited the Shree Pashupatinath Temple where Kathmandu’s Hindu population is cremated. Bodies are brought to the temple beside the Bagmati River and placed atop one of several plinths constructed of logs. The family see to the layering of wooden batons accompanied by personnel in white gloves and mourning is held in full view of the temple-goers. Some scream and lament. I was told it can take four hours for a body to be cremated before the remaining ashes are swept into the Bagmati River - a sluggish, polluted stream. The bodies that are burned here are presented to the hereafter in their finery; rings, necklaces, pins, and brooches. To the indigent poor who use the crematoria area as shelter, these are valuable spoils indeed. They wade knee-deep, unceremoniously sifting the polluted Bagmati mud as bodies burn only feet away.
Despite the flurry of evening obligations, Steve and I managed to slip away one night as we were determined to visit a bar called El Floridita given its fame as a preferred hostelry of Ernest Hemingway who transported himself to Havana from the USA to write and drink. Local folklore also insists that it was there that Hemingway invented his recipe for the daiquiri cocktail. El Floridita was amazing, mainly because it's such a strange place. It's a shrine to Hemingway, with a life-sized bronze statue of the great man and enthusiastic toper propping up the left-hand end of the bar. Every few minutes the door opened and a gaggle of tourists were ushered in, each one nervously glancing round for directions from their guides. We ourselves being foreigners couldn’t complain too much so after one of Hemingway’s daiquiris, we headed for the door. A tourist Mecca rather than a bar to write home about. Indeed, Hemingway wrote most of two novels here, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ and ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ before shooting himself in 1961, doubtless because of the increasing numbers of tourists visiting his local pub.
My hotel, the Smarthotel in Vestregatta, just off Tromsø’s main street, was very green, very inexpensive but very practical. A single bed, a wall TV and a chair and desk , a small lavvy, no bins - they were in the hallway and everything was to be recycled. It was sufficient for my needs. Night had fallen and I decided to head out for something to eat. The mounds of snow were impressive. Initially, I couldn’t understand great, eight feet high hummocks of snow and figured they’d earlier been deposited at the side of the road by snow-clearing machines until I noticed the regularity of these mounds and realised that they were parked cars. Snow was knee-deep despite constant attention by ploughs and pavement scrapers. Underfoot it wasn’t particularly treacherous as I’d worn decent footwear. I entered a well-lit bistro advertising pizza and found it very busy with an obvious student population. It seemed exactly like a west end eatery in Glasgow. Surprisingly, everyone wore light tops, and T-shirts although I did notice that everyone wore heavy boots and all had warm parkas behind them on the chair. I had a very pleasant meal but did notice that the myth of Nordic beer being very expensive at £10 a pint was just that - a myth. It was £7.35. At that time in Glasgow it’d have been about £3.00.
‘The photographs brought the author’s tales of foreign places to life.’
‘I found myself smiling on most pages’
‘Snow, sea or sand, Culley writes about each beautifully.’
‘I read this book during the pandemic and it was a real pick me up. Reading about far-away places was a real boost when I couldn’t leave my house. I simply loved the book.’
Following in the hallowed footsteps of Bill Bryson, Stephen Fry and Michael Palin, Ron Culley has produced a travel book that is at once fascinating, delightful and very funny. Writing about America’s Route 66, the Arctic Circle, European rail journeys, African Equator countries and over sixty destinations between, Culley entertains hugely. A must read!
I took my leave of the bus at the Polish Army Museum where I was greeted in reception by a woman with a five o'clock shadow on her chin and the scowling demeanour of a Les Dawson in drag. Towering above me, she'd obviously been allocated the job by Stalin once she'd completed her deployment as a tank commander during the period when Poland was an associate member of the Red Army. She was completely frightening and insisted that I buy a ticket (I was going to buy a ticket) and deposit my small rucksack in return for a token lest I smuggle one of their WW2 machine guns out in a side pocket. Other similarly crabbit women sat in silence in each of the rooms, arms folded, eyeing me suspiciously when I entered. I almost apologised for the noise of my footsteps so reverential was the atmosphere. I couldn't leave quickly enough.
I was reminded that in the Battle of Britain in 1940, twenty per cent of the airmen were Polish, flying in out-of-date aeroplanes, a fact I knew. That they also shot down fifty per cent of the enemy aircraft during that battle? Well, that I didn't know. Now, UKIP and the Tories would have their countrymen and women return home to Poland. How soon they forget! And these nationals have great skills in the plumbing and associated wet trades’ areas in addition to aerial combat.
David introduced me to Richard, a cadaverous man, a fellow guide and one who had lived in Kibera all of his thirty-odd years. Disconcertingly he had a mild ocular condition, strabismus (one eye going to the shops, one coming back with the change) so I was never sure if he was addressing me or David. He explained that even though the shanty-town was comprised of makeshift huts, they had never had running water, sewerage, electricity.
Anything they had they had had to establish themselves - but the government still charged them rent; significant amounts of rent that required many families to sub-let to others causing considerable overcrowding, disease and violence. Most people lived on less than one pound sterling a day and could easily go for three or four days without eating. “Can you wonder people are so angry? The Kenyan government promise much but do nothing then expect us to vote for them in an election.”
I wondered why people then decide to vote for incumbent government politicians given their predicament.
“You can't understand, Mister Ron. (He pronounced it Meeestaron) It is about tribalism. There are five tribes that have influenced who is elected owing to their population; the Kikuyu, the Luhya, the Kalenjin, the Luo and the Kamba.” David interjected, “My tribe, the Masai are sensible. They don't vote tribally! The Kikuyu are most involved. They are stupid!”
Richard nodded as if in agreement and said, “You see, Meeestaron, this must be a puzzle to you. You are from the mother of parliaments and vote on a logical basis. You would not vote against your own best interests only because of some tribe you belong to.” I hesitated and decided not to interrupt his flow by directing him to examples of Northern Irish and indeed, Scottish politics where sectarianism still plays its role in political life.
There are two things that Saigon (and Hanoi) people handle with one hundred percent obedience. First, they all wear a crash helmet on their motorcycle (if but a small cap-sized arrangement) and secondly, they all obey the traffic lights. In the urban heart of both cities, important intersections are monitored by police and to assist them, there's a timer attached to every set of lights which count down from forty to zero. Everyone kind of goes along with it but I noticed that they all start to move off some five seconds before the red light goes to green and stop some five seconds after the light has turned red. They also turn right on red. However, there's a sweet spot between these timings and you're perfectly safe to cross if you presume it's a green light between those points and if you're not knocked down by a motorcyclist travelling against the flow of traffic on the wrong side of the road.
Most of the young women who ride scooters do so wearing a hoodie (pulled up over their head), gloves, a mask covering their mouth and nose, and full length denims. I presumed it was to beat the pollution. "Partly", I was told. "But they're hiding from the sun. They want to be white like Michael Jackson." Influence, even from beyond the grave...
The jockey-styled motorcycle helmets they wear are usually adorned with pretty meaningless slogans in English. 'Pretty Polly; Hello Kitty'. My favourite...and the one I saw most commonly is, 'Catch Me If You Can.' To be honest, the traffic crawls so slowly sometimes you'd just require to walk up and tap them on the shoulder!
‘I laughed until I wet myself - but I am a very old man!
The Dalai Lama
‘I preferred the Kindle version.’
‘Just the funniest and most informative book I’ve read.’
The twelve month period from September 2014 was a momentous time in Scotland. A closely fought Referendum on Scottish Independence and a General Election that saw 56 out of 59 seats taken by the SNP left each of the main Unionist parties with a single-seat toe-hold on Scotland and placed the future unity of the United Kingdom in some considerable doubt. This book chronicles some of the events that marked a twelve month period that divided families, communities and the nation. In addition, it explores the proper way to pour a pint of Guinness, the problems associated with witnessing the Aurora Borealis and visiting Lourdes in the misplaced hope of curing ailments.
Wednesday 10th December 2014
The BBC informed us that today we were to expect a 'weather bomb'. Whatever that means, it didn't sound like I should drag the sun lounger into the back garden; and so it proved. Three years ago to the day, Scotland had been assaulted by 'Hurricane Bawbag' - a title that became so popular on social media that a po-faced BBC newsreader had to use the term on air, much to my hilarity.
Saturday 13th December 2014
I arrived home to the news that Jim Murphy, our local MP, had, as predicted, been elected as leader of the Labour Party in Scotland - or as the Scottish Branch Manager as his predecessor Johan Lamont; hardly a political ingénue, described the post when quitting it. At first glance it appears that the party have selected a talented but remorseless right winger. It seems inevitable that his NINE years as a taxpayer supported student at the University of Strathclyde (without passing his exams and leaving without a degree) will be contrasted with his consistent vote in Westminster to impose fees and levies on today's students. He backed Blair's wars and voted for the benefits cap but did not bother to turn up to vote against the bedroom tax and then was absent for nine out of thirteen crucial votes on further devolution to Scotland in 2011. Now he takes the microphone having won the election and calls himself a socialist who wants more power for Scotland. It's a simply jaw-dropping mangling of the English language. As he blethered on, dissembling about how he'd take no instruction from Westminster as the Labour Party in Scotland was much better placed to make policies which better reflected the needs and opportunities of the people of Scotland, it did occur to me that if it was good enough for the Scottish Labour Party, why not for Scotland? And we wonder why politicians are viewed with such mistrust and disdain. I was reminded of a line I used paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, in some of my earlier after-dinner speeches...."You can fool all of the people some of the time...and some of the people all of the time....and those are the people the Labour Party needs to concentrate on!"
Sunday 4th January 2015
On a crisp, dry morning, I decided to return to the Barras and attempt to negotiate the purchase of the police truncheon I'd had my eye on. As ever it was a delight walking slowly through the four large warehouses that house the stalls selling a continuum of goods from genuine antiques, collectables, bric-a-brac and junk - sometimes all on the same stall. As much as the items on sale, it's the characters who rent the stalls (for between £40 to £60 a weekend as was advertised) who provide most amusement. I entered an old building to the sound of 1970s' band Mud playing 'Tiger Feet' and almost tripped over two pensioners, one of whom had one hand on a Zimmer frame to steady herself, attempting to jive to the music in the Palais de Danse that was the aisle! Other stall holders cheered them to the echo
‘And what a year it was. I enjoyed the book very much. It not only recounted the political traumas of 2014 but was very moving about the sad death of a good friend. Touching, sad, but also exhilarating.’
‘I remember 2014 as if it was yesterday - but Ron Culley added a flavour to my memories that I found tremendously poignant.’
‘This book is a diary and will be of interest to people who lived through the Scottish Referendum as I did. I loved it and it brought back a lot of memories.’
Douglas T. Strachan
Substantial amounts of ‘dark money’ is awash in Scotland. Provided to British Unionists from unknown sources and used for illegal purposes, it is used to subvert the right of Scots to choose their own future democratically.
A Scottish Islander from Benbecula finds himself immersed in a series of criminal plots to defeat the Scots’ drive for independence. Facing the might of the British security services and the concerted efforts of those financing corruption, the future of democracy in Scotland looks bleak.
The inhabitants of the island of Benbecula in the Western Isles of Scotland prepared themselves for a storm. Formed from Lewisian Gneiss, the oldest rocks in Britain, the island is characterised by its flat land mass, pock-marked by small lochans. That evening, its sky was slate-coloured reminding local inhabitants of its nickname, ‘The Dark Island’.
Old Archie Dempster had been a road sweeper and general handyman on the island for over twenty years. He sniffed the still air, noticing as he did that the smooth pebbles on the beach near the island’s small airport were hardly troubled by the gentle swell. Renowned as someone who was ever ready to help those in need, he’d popped in to Mrs. McCrae’s somewhat run-down cottage to ask after her health, fix her tap and to give her a filleted trout he’d caught the evening before.
“Here, Effie, the radio says they’re naming the storm. That means it’ll blaw about fifty miles an hour. The radio says it,” he repeated, underlining the significance he attributed to the weather forecasts of Isles FM, the community radio that served the Outer Hebrides.”
Effie McCrae tugged gingerly at the curtain of her front room window and looked out.
“Seems okay at the minute, Archie.”
“Aye, well the radio says it’s an Irish storm called Ciaran. It’ll no’ be long till it’s here. Five o’clock they’re sayin’.”
“How’s it an Irish storm, Archie?”
“It’s no’ Irish as such, Effie. They just get to name this one. The next one’s named by the English. They’ll call it Marmaduke or Rupert or somethin’ ‘cause they’re English names. Ciaran’s an Irish name.”
“Have we no Scottish storms, Archie? God alone knows I’ve experienced a few of these over the years.”
“Aye, we’ve plenty of these but Scottish storms all belong to the English these days. Anyway, will you be okay? Have you plenty in?”
Effie nodded. “I’ll be fine so long as we don’t lose the telly wi’ the storm. Saturday night’s a good night on the telly.”
Archie signalled his agreement. “Aye, well, your auld tap’s no’ drippin’ any more, and you’ve a wee bit of fish for your supper so I’m walkin’ away before I’m blown away.” “You’re a saint, Archie. I was just tellin’ Constable Campbell that when he stopped for a wee chat this afternoon.”
“I’ll look in the morn to see if you’ve still a roof.”
“Fingers crossed, Archie.”
Morrison acknowledged both the humour and the truth in her statement. “Scottish Independence means a lot to you, doesn’t it?”
“My work at the hospital, my health, family, friends and Scottish Independence are the complete focus of my life. I don’t care for more money than I need to live, I don’t care about life’s fripperies but I am passionate about Scotland being able to make its own decisions.”
“Is it a romantic thing, Iona? Like saluting the Saltire or singing Scots Wha Hae instead of the god-awful dirge they sing down south?”
“Nah...it’s about creating a fairer society. In London the politicians are mostly spivs trying to make further millions on the backs of the poor. I’d like to think Scotland can do better. Presently there’s every hope we can do so. Our Parliament in Edinburgh does us proud. Trust me, I’m absolutely committed to Scottish independence. I’ll fight the Unionists until Hell freezes over, and then I’ll fight them on the ice.”
“So, it’s not about ‘Bruce and loyal Wallace’?”
Iona responded by placing her right fist over her heart.
“But pith and power, till my last hour,
I'll mak this declaration;
We're bought and sold for English gold,
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.”
“Well, Morrison’s shown that he’s no fool. He’s an outlier. Joined us from Agriculture And Fisheries...”
“And Food,” reminded Ashton, smiling.
“Indeed. He’s an islander as you know. Educated at Edinburgh, not Oxford or Cambridge. A recent recruit from an outlying department...and most unlikely to be involved in any way with this mole we appear to have spending dark money on our behalf. I guess my attitude is somewhat coloured by the fact of several of our agents in the past; Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, John Cairncross, Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt were all recruited as Soviet spies while at Cambridge University in the 1930s. Sir Roger Hollis, the Director General who sat at your desk in the sixties, was also accused of being a double agent and his appointed ‘Witchfinder- General’, Peter Wright, were both members of MI5 educated at Oxford. Over the piece, we’ve not done too well when we’ve used Oxbridge toffs to investigate other Oxbridge toffs within the agency. You and I at least were spared the elite education of many of the patrician popinjays who still inhabit our organisation in senior roles.”
Ashton indicated ‘no contest’ to Kemp’s assertion by a low guttural murmur before continuing.
“And Morrison could help how?”
‘Completely believable and partly based upon a true story.’
‘This is a scary premise. Brilliantly written.’
‘This story requires to be told. A great read.’
‘A real page-turner. Ron Culley is a gifted story-teller.
‘A marvellous Scots’ story of political intrigue. Donald John Morrison follows dark money to its corrupt destination - undermining a nation.’
Scotland is Britain’s last colony but as the world entered the twenty-first century, Scottish Independence was on the rise. It threatened the status quo of the Establishment, the economy and the resources available to the United Kingdom. It had to be put down…hard! MI5 were instructed to act to save the Union and retain Scotland, the last British colony as a servile nation shackled to Westminster.
Pennington interrupted. “I forget myself, Henry. If I’m being denied lunch, I won’t be denied a lunchtime Glenmorangie…especially if we’re discussing its country of provenance. Might you join me?”
“A small one. No water.”
Cavendish continued as two large whiskies were poured.
“Brigadier, our chat today is off the record. I’m requested to invite your participation in a highly confidential…and when I say ‘highly confidential’ I mean almost certainly wildly illegal exercise to help maintain the integrity of the United Kingdom.” He accepted a glass and grimaced his mock disapproval at the generous measure. “It’s been made clear to us in the Home Office from the very top that all efforts are to be made to thwart the democratic rights of the Scots in securing independence. It’s also been made clear that the gloves are off. If and when there are transgressions, the preference is that they be covert but if they come to light there must be deniability…which is why I would very much like the assistance of your people in the Counterterrorism Unit.”
The breeze had stiffened slightly causing the sea of Saltire flags to flap more briskly in the wind as the long march of supporters of Scottish Independence made their way noisily down the city’s Saltmarket towards Glasgow’s famous sward of grassed parkland abutting the River Clyde. At the head of the marchers, somewhat incongruously, a cadre of Sikh Dhol drummers thumped out a Punjabi Bhangra rhythm supported by three men in full Highland dress each playing the war-pipe. Occasional Esteladas, the unofficial flag of Catalonian independence, bobbed in the midst of Saltires and at intervals, marchers pushed prams within which had been placed battery-powered amplifiers belting out Scottish songs favoured by the marchers who sang along noisily. Whistles, airhorns and shouted slogans intensified the cacophony.
The sun dipped perfectly behind the mountainous volcanic plug of Alisa Craig, darkening its profile and bathing its halo in a rich, red glow as it headed into the Irish Sea for the night. Sitting on a rotting wooden bench outside a small remote cottage in the Carrick Hills above the Ayrshire coast watching this phenomenon, Jack Bryson sucked on the remnant of a cigarette he’d rolled only minutes before. Satisfied that there was no more tar, nicotine or acetaldehyde to be inhaled, he coughed and wiped the tears from his bloodshot eyes. A further bout of quiet weeping developed into a coughing fit compounded by an aching, shoulder-wrenching, mute wail. In contrast to his dark and sombre mood, a nearby stream burbled, leapt and sparkled in the evening sunshine as a consequence of heavy rain earlier in the day.
‘A superb piece of work’
‘Just finished ‘The Last Colony’. Recommended.’
‘A very important read for those interested in the independence of Scotland.’
‘An exciting tale of the battle for a small country’s freedom.’
‘Excellent plot line, well written. A good read.’
In 1985, as he prepared to release information that could have brought down the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, solicitor and senior Scottish Nationalist politician Willie McRae was found in a remote Highland glen. He had been under surveillance by officers of the Special Branch who had followed him from Glasgow.
He had been shot in the head.
Suicide or state-sponsored murder?
Brittan ran his tongue over the bottom of his upper lip, always a tell that he was anxious. "He alleges sexual impropriety by some Members of Parliament with people below the age of legal consent."
"Yeah, we get stories like that from time to time. Usually groundless. Any others?" Relieved at Newman's reaction, Brittan continued.
"Perhaps one. A Scottish radical. His name's William McRae. Like myself, he's a legal man... and he's been the main intellectual energy in Scotland opposing the safeguarding of nuclear waste. In 1980, he opposed the proposals by the Atomic Energy Authority to bury nuclear waste in a place called Mullwharchar in Ayrshire in Scotland. He won and it provided a major setback to plans for having nuclear waste buried, not only in Scotland but in the rest of the UK. I've been asking around. What little I know of him is that he's reputed to be mentally unstable, an alcoholic and a homosexual. Of some interest to you might be that he was both a lieutenant commander in the Royal Indian Navy following a commission with the Seaforth Highlanders and subsequently the aide-de-camp to Admiral Lord Mountbatten in India so he's used to dealing with senior people. Perhaps unsurprisingly given his Scottish separatist beliefs, he supported the Indian independence movement and speaks Urdu and Hindi fluently. He was also the legal brains behind the enactment of the maritime law of Israel. He was Vice President of the Scottish National Party, is their legal adviser, runs a law firm in Glasgow and, frankly, we're concerned that he's being manipulated from Israel. We have no proof but thought it prudent to invite you to keep an eye on him, particularly given the fact that in a few months there's another enquiry, into the prospect of a nuclear facility in Dounreay in the north of Scotland. I'm advised he's already girding his loins for that fight. Another subversive. Now he also seems to have his hands on a list of senior people in and around Parliament whom he intends alleging are paedophiles."
Macmillan returned to Tennents pub in Glasgow's Byres Road. Elbowing the swing-door open, he entered to the instant and noisy thrum of conversation. Immediately he knew the smell of it. It took him back to student pints in Edinburgh's Rose Street and to the Clachan Bar of his youth in Stornoway when he'd drink his full on a Saturday night before the Sunday Observance Society ensured that all enjoyment ceased in pursuit of collective Godliness. He made his way through drinkers to the busy bar, removed a ten pounds note and leaned forward, seeking service.
"What's your Guinness like in here?" he asked affably.
A barman hard-pressed and unused to anything but basic orders involving precise numbers of pints or whiskies, placed both hands on the counter, palms down and looked at his shoes before raising his gaze to someone he clearly viewed as a troublemaker or a poseur. He found it hard to conceal his scorn. "Fair to middlin'."
"Hardly a ringing endorsement," said Macmillan.
With a sigh of irritation, the barman growled, "Do you want a ringin' endorsement or a pint of Guinness, pal?"
Recognising that the bartender was unlikely to place customer primacy above customer throughput that evening, he returned a thin smile and ordered a Guinness along with a Pale Ale in anticipation of McLeod's arrival.
Rees interrupted. "You are Detective Sergeant Anderson Carnegie, Special Branch. You were most recently involved in surveilling one William McRae until you made a complete cod of it and fell foul of your superiors," she said extemporising, hoping her empathic assessment wasn't too far off the mark. "You're now up here out of the way of the able cops on a manufactured assignment. You're in a bar at five o'clock drinking pints, as you've been doing for too many years." She noticed his wedding ring and placed a bet with herself. "You've long ago pissed off your wife and kids and your best pal is your compadre Detective Sergeant Robert Gall. You don't just work together, you socialise together and he understands you far more than your wife. Your diet's shite. You have boils on your neck that look like bullet wounds. Look at your paunch...you've gone to seed, your life has gone to seed and your career has gone to seed. And now the only thing that stands between you being hounded ignominiously from the force is...me!"
‘A brilliant book. You won’t be able to stop reading’.
‘A great read’.
‘A controversial story brilliantly told’.
‘Fast-moving, gripping and a must, must read.’
‘One of the best books I have read.’
Doctor Liam Brannigan, a Dublin-born economist working in the white hot political atmosphere of Capitol Hill in Washington, USA, follows his boss, a newly retired Senator, to Las Vegas to assist in a straightforward business project. Unknown to him, his quiet life of cool research and calm persuasion is to be turned upside down, when he becomes involved - inadvertently - in witnessing the slaughter of a group of priests waiting at a taxi rank. He is drawn into a murky world of violence and confusion - not knowing whether to trust the Vegas police, the FBI or the Mafia - while his relationship with the beautiful Susan Lattanzi deepens. Brannigan's life is endangered as he tries to survive the attempts of Posse Commitatus - an undercover right wing group dedicated to the protection of their version of the American way - who are intent upon assassination
Ron Culley has produced an exciting and fast-paced romantic thriller as a first novel.
Las Vegas had suggested itself as a gradual golden glow in the night sky when the plane was still some ten minutes flying time from McCarran Airport. Liam Brannigan shifted uncomfortably in his seat and folded the in-flight magazine he'd already read disinterestedly on the outward leg of what had proved to be a relatively productive visit to Washington. His lazy gaze fell on a shapely stewardess making final landing arrangements before being drawn back to the diamond bright cluster of light emanating upwards from the city in which he had lived for the past two years.
Brother Patrick had admonished himself in the past for enjoying a good drink but Father Michael had once counseled him that in the priesthood generally and that in the Dublin priesthood in particular, concern should only set in when he began to enjoy a "fierce drink." No one had ever managed to define the increments by which "good" became "fierce" became "terrible" and had not old Father McLaughlin, one of the most beloved and respected of men, been referred to only last week as a "terrible man for the drink?" He'd also heard of a well-known priest in Cork who'd developed a taste for a "terrible fierce drink." He obviously had nothing to worry about yet.
Patrick was confused, but in the meantime he'd see his young parishioners off the premises then join them again later down at the Liffey Bar for a jar and a blether. He stepped back into the shadow of the arched doorway and re-entered the chapel where he noticed a celebrant, head bowed, still seated in a rear pew. Pausing only to pick up a hymn book which had fallen to the floor, Patrick didn't even hear the muffled thwack of the silenced bullet which tore a hole in his throat and sent him reeling backwards through the doorway he'd just entered.
Las Vegas Police Lieutenant John Regan enunciated his words with a staccato growl.
"Your problem is your attitude stinks, son. Now why don't you pick your things up off my desk and get out of my face?" Regan glared at the back of the already departing, embarrassed cop. "I hear you been dealin' with the public like that again, I'll have you directing the goddamn traffic, you sonofabitch".
"He already directs the traffic, boss", corrected Sergeant Bilk, known ubiquitously and for obvious reasons as 'Bilko'.
Regan shouted after the disappearing cop. "I'll have you directing traffic with this night-stick shoved up your ass, you sonofabitch."
"Some of the guys figure he's gay as well, but I guess he'll get the point," said Bilko.
The roe deer lapped at the spring water, raising its head every once in a while to permit visual and scent confirmation that no danger existed. Dappled sunlight fell on the small brook and made the water sparkle like crystal. A few dusty paths between the pine trees on its banks signaled the importance of the water hole to the local wildlife.
A noise startled the deer just sufficiently for it to straighten its forelegs, bringing its body round to investigate further. Almost simultaneously, the crack of a rifle sped a bullet towards the animal, burying itself in its rear quarters and causing it to crash helplessly into the shallow pool.
"Jesus Christ, Edson, you are for sure the worst godamn shot in this man's army."
"I hit it, didn't I?" growled the hunter, knowing the ridicule he could expect upon his return to the collection of log cabins they called base camp.
"Yeah, right in the ass. Three feet from a kill shot."
"You sonofabitch. You snapped a twig deliberately. I had that deer right in my sights but you're just trying to make me look stupid in front of the guys. I've a good mind to…" Edson grabbed angrily for the lapel of his partner's camouflage jacket with his left hand only to stop short with a yelp as the twelve inch blade of a hunting knife threatened to separate his nose from his upper lip.
I read this book while travelling and it really helped to pass the time with its fast action. It is an exciting book with intrigue, suspense, and is contemporary in its subject matter. I enjoyed the way Mr. Culley brings the reader directly into the lives of the well meaning Lattanzi family, then into the world of the radical Posse Commitatus and the Las Vegas Police in a way which you know will bring them all together at some point. The finale is exciting and surprising and you just want to get there to see how it all unfolds. For the romantic reader, the innocent relationship between the main characters Liam Brannigan and Susan Lattanzi is warm and cleverly woven into the story. Although it is a novel, it has a ring of truth and reality to it.
I highly recommend this book.
I really enjoyed this book. I picked it up at the Airport and finished it by my return home from America. it was fast-paced but I also enjoyed the romance between the two lead characters - very believable. The interplay between the mafioso and the IRA was great fun and I found the book a real page turner. The conclusion was suspenseful and had a twist in the tail that caught me unawares. I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes thrillers-especially where there is a good deal of humor in play. This novel is as good as anything thats out there on the bookshelves riight now.
Peggy Williams (Prescott, Arizona, USA)
... unemployed but I just wanted to write and thank you for a real page turning thriller. I was completely swept up in the book's plot, loved the humor and characters. When I was a child my mom and I used to vacation in and around the Kaibab National Park and it was this that first drew me to the book. So glad it did. Hope you write more about Liam Brannigan and about Kaibab National Park...
Anton (Kildare, Ireland)
...so much interest but I loved your book about the IRA and the American right wing. Keep up the good work.
...Hampstead in London but thanks for a great read. I just loved your book and can't wait for the next one.
Hello Mr. Author. ...very funny but there were funny bits and pieces throughout the book but they didn't detract from the pace of the action. You should write more stuff like this.
Melony Freeman (Taree, NSW)
The Kaibab Resolution is one of the best thrillers I've read. A great novel. I've recommended it to my reading group so I look forward to having the chance of discussing it with them.
Please feel free to use this email on your web site.
I just love my new hero, Liam Brannigan. It's a hoot that he's an all action, all conquering economist! Seriously though I just loved the book. I'm a sucker for subtle romance and I just fell in love with the male and female leads. Excellent.
Al (McMurdo Station, Ross Island, Antarctica)
Wow, what a great find. Bought this on line and took it with me to my posting here in McMurdo in Antarctica. I have already been asked to pass it to three other colleagues because of my enthusiastic comments at meal times (sorry about the missed royalties but it's not easy to get easy access to mail out here). I have to say that I really enjoyed the book. Good, good, good.
This book was given to me for my birthday as a gift and I finished it in one weekend I thought you would like to know this.
I loved the humour in this thriller. It's so unusual these days. Usually they're so po faced. I laughed a lot at some of the quips but also enjoyed the suspense.
Amelia Bron (Ottawa, Canada)
I enjoyed this book more than other similar novels I've read recently as it was more action orientated but had just as many twists and turns. I have the sense that Liam Brannigan is about to become the latest hero although he's a bit more vulnerable and therefore a bit more credible than other action heroes who seem impervious to pain.
During the Second World War, fearful of a German occupation of the Republic of Ireland, Winston Churchill offered the Irish Taoiseach Éamon de Valera the realisation of his dream of reuniting Ireland by returning the six counties of Northern Ireland if the Republic joined the war on the side of the Allies. He was immediately rebuffed by de Valera who had no love of Churchill or of the British Army after his searing memories of the Easter Rising which heralded Ireland's independence.
As the war in continental Europe continued to its bloody close in 1945, many senior Nazis plotted their escape. Although some estimates suggest that 10,000 eventually made their way to South America, others noted de Valera's attitude to the Axis Powers and when it became known that he was the only head of state to present his condolences personally to the German representative in Ireland, Dr. Eduard Hempel on the death of Hitler, many senior members of the Nazi Party and other high ranking officers decided that Ireland held more prospect of safety as word travelled across Europe that de Valera would not close the door on those accused of war crimes.
At the highest levels of the Nazi Party, a plan was called for...not just to exfiltrate senior officers to the safety of the Irish Republic, but to provide them with the resources necessary to continue the survival and rebirth of the Third Reich in the uncertain years that lay ahead.
The Patriot Game is a fast moving historical fiction that brings these facts alive.
Sinéad O'Grady, a young and inexperienced Volunteer serving in the IRA during Ireland's Emergency period throughout World War Two is tasked with finding an informer and with assisting a German diplomat in organising an arms drop in rural Kerry. But with a traitor in the ranks, British Intelligence and de Valera's Gardai on her heels, falling in love has got to be a distraction. As an assassination campaign begins, mistrust deepens and Sinéad's life and that of those she loves hang by a thread.
The Patriot Game . Published Spring 2013.
In her farmhouse just outside the Kerry village of Castlemaine, Sinéad O'Grady finished drying the plate she'd used for a meal of herring and potatoes, placing it on top of four others, none of which were of the same size or design. Placing the drying cloth over the rear of a chair in the small kitchen, she took a damp towel and opened the heavy metallic door of the cooking range within which, golden and crusted brown now, was a rhubarb pie. The old, blackened range was the centerpiece of the kitchen and also provided warmth. It was adorned with copper pans, empty bottles and dried flowers. It was a most efficient cooking and heating system; maintenance free, other than the soot which it produced in surprising quantities and on a daily basis.
She lifted the baking tray at each end using the cloth as protection and hoisted it up onto the table. Looks perfect, she thought. The boys'll enjoy this when they arrive. A sharp tug on the pantry door opened it permitting her to stand on tip-toe and reach up to the top shelf, bringing down an almost full bottle of Paddy's Whiskey which she dusted casually with one hand before placing it next to the sink. Returning to the top shelf she removed a large tub of oats with some difficulty and placed it on the kitchen table. Pulling over a metal basin, Sinéad poured the contents of the box into it removing a length of fabric which she unwrapped to reveal a Webley Break-Top Revolver and a second pouch with a dozen .455 caliber bullets. The barrel offered little resistance when she held the gun by the handle and opened it, placing six bullets, one in each chamber. A satisfactory clicking whirr resulting from her testing the free movement of the chamber indicated the readiness of the revolver for use. Opening the drawer in which she kept her cutlery, she placed the now loaded weapon towards its rear.
Rising from his desk, Mencken lifted a file from a cabinet and returned to his chair, signaling to Weber that he should sit as well.
"How long have you been a member of the Waffen Schutzstaffel...the SS?"
"For four years, Herr Mencken."
"And before that, a professor of history at Heidelberg University?"
"Yes, Obergruppenführer. But for only two years before I joined the Waffen SS."
Mencken studied the file as if for the first time although he'd poured over it on numerous occasions.
"I'm being asked to nominate a member of the Waffen SS for a mission. One that requires intelligence, an excellent command of the English language and someone who has seen battle." He closed the file. "You meet all requirements Sturmbannführer."
"I am at your service, Obergruppenführer Mencken."
"You lost your toes to frostbite on the Russian Front?"
"Two on each foot. Many others lost their lives."
"Quite." He consulted the file again. "And as a result of your bravery in battle you have been awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class, the Wound Badge in Silver and the Eastern Front Medal. You have been promoted three times. On the last occasion to Major? "
"Yes, Obergruppenführer Mencken."
The General rose and poured himself a second glass of schnapps, this time pouring one for Weber as well. He placed one of the glasses before him and continued...
Dragging the body over to the dying embers of the fire, he picked up the remains of the can of petrol and poured it over the dead man. He lifted a piece of lit kindling and paused as if to remember the face of the sadistic beast he'd just killed before casually throwing the stick on to his corpse. After a momentary pause, during which it appeared that the gasoline vapour was making up its mind about whether or not to ignite, it exploded in a crump and engulfed the dead Obersturmführer in flames.
He took out and lit a cigarette, placing it in an ivory cigarette holder as a prelude to drinking his coffee before continuing.
"What I tell you now is top secret. At the start of the war, we developed a plan called Plan Green which involved a full German invasion of Ireland in support of the invasion of Britain, which we called Operation Sea Lion. This plan had two purposes. Firstly, we needed to prepare adequately for the possibility of invading Ireland. England's back door. This was only sensible. Secondly, it was used as a credible threat, a feint that would tie up British forces on their west coast and in Ulster, away from the coastal counties of the south."
Today he was to be fitted for a suit and other clothes befitting a German General who might well meet with Taoiseach Eamon de Valera, the political leader of the Republic of Ireland. A case was provided him as well as documents showing him to be a member of the German Legation in Dublin. Just in case of problems, he was shown how he could access a hidden compartment in his case and retrieve a small Walther P38 side-arm, a knife and two small capsules. The Doctor who instructed him on their use was quite matter-of-fact when describing their effect.
"These capsules, as you can see, are approximately the size of a small kidney bean. They consist of a thin-walled glass ampoule covered in a black rubber coating to protect against accidental breakage and are filled with a concentrated solution of potassium cyanide. It is important for you to note, however, that they are never swallowed whole. Instead, they are first crushed between your molars to release the fast-acting poison contained within. Brain death occurs within minutes and the heartbeat stops immediately thereafter. A suicide pill swallowed without first being crushed in this way would pass through your digestive tract and do no harm."
He could be describing how most effectively to take a cough medicine, thought Weber.
"Thank you doctor. Most helpful."
Éamon de Valera stopped cleaning his spectacles with a light cloth and pulled gently at the curtain in his office to reveal a day whose weather showed promise. It was still early but a weak sun heralded a quiet, still morning. A knock on his door had him turn and his long-serving private secretary, Miss Kathleen O'Connell joined him with a tray full of papers.
"Good morning Taoiseach. I have the overnight correspondence."
"Thanks, Miss O'Connell. Has it arrived?"
"On the top, sir."
De Valera moved round behind his large oak desk and sitting, placed his round spectacles back on the bridge of his nose, fiddling with the wire earpiece. He narrowed his eyes, the better to focus his failing vision on the paper in front of him.
"So, another epistle from that wind-bag, Mr. Churchill. He's a terrible man for his euphuistic and ostentatious letters. Let's hope he didn't write this note with the help of several large brandies as he has done in the past... let's just see what he's on about this time."
I was asked to read an advance copy of this book and found it utterly compelling. The true story of Nazis locating in Ireland after the war was new to me but by all accounts is verifiable. Historical fiction can be a difficult medium but Culley has mastered it in this novel. He manages to introduce flinty characters who are rounded and the reader soon cares deeply about their fate. This is a really good book and a most enjoyable read.
This book entertained me thoroughly. It was an easy read and the plot was sufficiently complex to intrigue but not too complicated so as to confuse. Couldn’t believe the ending! Most entertaining.
I read everything I can get my hands on in respect of WW2 but found this to be new information. I checked out Culley’s assertions and found them all to be true. This book makes an important contribution to understanding aspects of the second world war and should be found interesting by all history buffs as well as those who just want a damn good read.
A Russia emerging from its Communist past is still trying to come to terms with a new role for its security services. Its economy is still far from capitalist but oil oligarchs are beginning to emerge and many are not enamoured of ethical international business practices. Internal friction within the security services provides an opportunity which sees a plot hatched to use agents to act against OPEC and Western oil interests in order to raise the price of Russia's black gold.
Kyle and Bryson, two dishonourably discharged SAS soldiers are hired by British Intelligence and find themselves caught up in a manhunt as they pursue an Iranian terrorist who aims to use a lethal consignment of ricin in a mix with explosives in a plan to decimate Western and OPEC oil interests. Chased by Spanish police and British gangsters, Kyle and Bryson come face to face with the man who would kill thousands.
Sir Alistair Barrington's prostate gland was busily trying to kill him although he was unaware of this. In consequence of his condition, regular visits to the private lavatory in his office irked him as they were always frustratingly brief but yet had the advantage of returning him expeditiously to his busy desk.
Sir Alistair had been a very senior civil servant; a Mandarin, as members of the fourth estate earlier referred to him. The office provided for the job with which he was now entrusted was located deep within marble-faceted premises on London's Embankment. Faded but deep-piled carpets on the sixth floor gave his room a certain still silence, the only intrusion being the monotonous and languid ticking of an antique William Clement long-case striking clock which sounded the time on each hour.
Most of his time on that sunny London morning had been taken up by reading various communications. Three short phone calls and one visit to his office by Miss Hetherington, whose timid knock on his door reminded him that it was ten o'clock and time for a cup of tea, proved to be the only time he'd spoken since his arrival at his desk at six-thirty that morning. As she placed the Josiah Spode bone china teacup before him on his desk, the clock struck as it always did upon the arrival of his morning cup of tea.
It was dusk now. The car approached the harbour and slowed to a safe pace as the driver manoeuvred along the narrow concrete moorings at which were docked various sizes of motor yachts. Gently resting immediately opposite elegant restaurants, cocktail bars and expensive shops, sleek craft glimmered and purred in the moonlight, accommodating those who could afford to berth in this most exclusive bolt-hole.
Susan and Kim fell into easy conversation and despite himself, Liam found himself outside the interaction, assessing Kim, taking in her even, dimpled smile which showed off her perfect white teeth, her slim but muscular frame and her short blond hair that framed an impossibly pretty face. He calculated she must be in her mid-thirties and was obviously lithe and athletic. Jeez... she's the real deal. She's completely gorgeous and obviously very competent. Hmmm, sharp and charming.......I'm going to enjoy being around these two women over the next two weeks. They'd turn the head of a man whose neck was in traction!
"Yeah, I've heard his name," said Kyle. "Didn't I read that he was arrested some years ago in Spain when someone who owed him money was found dead with all ten toes amputated?
Brand shook his head. "That was his boss, Marcus Perry. He was released when a witness mysteriously disappeared. But it's a crime that's characteristic of the gang. They're not to be trifled with. Our information was that the man they killed told them everything they wanted to know after the second of his toes was amputated by a set of pliers...but they cut the rest off anyway, one at a time. Like I say, I know this man. He's an evil bastard."
"Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States of America".
A grim looking Bill Clinton stepped up onto a portico and placed his hands on a lectern on which some notes had earlier been placed.
"Thank you, General Hess. Let me begin by thanking everyone who is a part of the Grand Forks Air Force Base for what you do for our national security and especially for what you have done to support the people of the Grand Forks communities in these last few days following the floods caused by the Red River. I'm very proud of you. Thank you."
As he spoke, the crosshairs of the telescopic lens of a powerful Barrett M82 Sniper Rifle fell across his chest.
"As I think all of you know, I have just come from touring the devastation of the floods as well as a very moving community meeting, presided over by Mayor Owens, attended by Mayor Stauss and other mayors, the entire congressional delegation from North Dakota and from South Dakota, Senator Grams and Senator Wellstone from Minnesota, Congressman Collin Peterson from Minnesota, and the Governors from North Dakota and Minnesota...."
The crosshairs moved up slowly to rest on his forehead.
This book is well worth a read. Some glorious banter, a gripping storyline with interweaving aspects involving the various characters and a tense climax to the tale. Enough twists and turns to surprise and ensure the unfolding of the drama can't be predicted. Some notable humour too. All in all a very good read.
A very enjoyable yarn, spun expertly along. The pace never falters from the first chapter to the very satisfying end game. The central characters, the good guys and the villains, are well supported and vibrant The book keeps you guessing and turning as it zips towards its conclusion. A must for anybody who likes their crime well seasoned, with lively banter and clever nuances. I'll be picking up more of Culley's work.
Saw this book advertised as Ian Fleming meets Alastair MacLean meets John le Carré. Figured it was a bit boastful but it exceeded my expectations. A cracking tale told well. Lots of twists and turns with a couple of real rogues as heroes.
Best spy thriller I’ve read in ages. Also hilarious in parts.
Born in 1950 into a Glasgow still recovering from the war, Ron Culley grew up in a single parent family in one of the new housing projects on the periphery of the city built quickly and cheaply to accommodate its growing population. Despite early flirtations with mischief and having been expelled from school, Culley went on to spend forty years in public service in and around the city, twenty three of them as chief executive of three of its key organizations. During a time of great change when Glasgow transmogrified from an heavily industrialised city to one which embraced the new economies it nevertheless left many of its communities struggling with poverty and lawlessness, the very conditions that inspired Culley to enter a life of service in the first place. Now retired, he lives in the south side of Glasgow with his wife, Jean as do his four sons.
This new book is a warm and affectionate account of Glasgow in the fifties, sixties and beyond. With no little humour, Culley charts his progress through a career that saw great change take place in the city he loves.
Although football was king, we always had a range of alternative distractions that suggested themselves from time to time. One was building bogies. Usually this was inspired by one of us coming across a discarded pram whose wheels could yet be used for other purposes. We'd set to it, searching out a sturdy plank of wood and a couple of spars as axles. A piece of wood for a seat, a rope to provide for guide-reins and we'd be off to the Red Hills; a deserted piece of land adjacent to the Levern Burn which were suitably undulating in order to provide us with the required gradients. The Red Hills were merely the result of discarded shale from the mine workings below them. The entire area was set upon a land mass riddled with mines rendering much of it undevelopable, fit only for greening and landscaping in later years when housing developments were considered in the peripheral environs of Pollok. A dump, but when we were young, they were the Elysium fields.
Time and again we'd return home in tears as the bogies were inevitably driven to destruction, the final collision almost always causing its driver a similar amount of damage.
Personal danger came during those many moments in play when we re-enacted the comic stories of the previous evening. Most superheroes wore capes and the nearest we could get to emulating these gods was to wear our duffle coats in a manner whereby only the hood was affixed to our body, attached to our head. It passed muster as an ersatz Superman costume but the peril lay in being apprehended in flight by a pal as by grabbing any part of the duffle coat, the caped crusader's head was almost torn from his shoulders. Thank goodness that whiplash injuries hadn't been invented in the 1950's.
I suspect in an attempt to mollify a confused adolescent, my Gran and Grandpa took me almost immediately on a holiday to Dublin. I was only fourteen and this was my first trip abroad. I could barely cope with the excitement. The River Clyde in 1964 was still a bustling, dark and brooding, lead-coloured waterway and our mode of travel to Ireland was an overnight ship to Dublin. We boarded at the Broomielaw in the centre of Glasgow and were ushered below deck to a large hold where was assembled rows of the kind of chairs that were ubiquitous in schools; the hollow steel framed chairs with green canvas back and seats. Too confining for a fourteen year old, I wandered the deck on what was a beautiful, still, moonlit night and absorbed the movements, smells and noises of the ship as it sailed downriver past Greenock and out into an Irish Sea in a flat calm. It was a glorious evening and was sufficiently warm for me to snuggle down on deck on top of a large rolled tarpaulin and sleep comfortably for a while before being awakened by Grandpa who not unreasonably had become concerned at my disappearance. In those days, Health and Safety matters weren't given the attention they are today and I guess I could have slipped between the railings on the side of the ship, even though there wasn't much of a swell that night.
Big Frankie, the guy in charge of the butcher's shop, was always very busy and usually I was last to receive any attention. He was possessed of a curious mixture of customer-fawning and customer-loathing and had a high pitched voice which I imagined only dogs could hear properly. I'd wait in the back shop while he conducted affairs out in front by smiling artificially at the customers while shouting tetchy back-shop instructions to young Sandy, an apprentice only a year or so older than me. I was astonished at the behaviour of Frankie who would routinely tip quantities of sawdust into the meat concoctions that would be minced in his machine in order to save on the cost of ingredients. Sandy was often delegated this task and one night so incensed was he at the truculent attitude of Frankie that having been instructed to make him yet another cup of tea, he duly put his finger to his lips, encouraging my silence, and promptly coaxed a brief stream of urine into the cup.
Both of us collapsed in deferred laughter when Frankie appeared a few minutes later and necked the tea in one gulp, issuing further gurgled, instructions to Sandy in his squeaky whine and handing me the boxed butchermeat without the slightest recognition that his tea had been tampered with.
My first post was that of a social worker in Ferguslie Park, long regarded as the poorest, most deprived housing estate in Scotland. It was built with good intentions. The council decided to take, not 'problem families', but 'families with problems', and locate them in a small enclave towards the edge of the estate called Candren Oval. Here they installed Housing Assistants whose task was to support these families and assist them with debt problems and other impediments which precluded them securing better housing in other parts of the town. Unfortunately the sociology of poverty defeated the authorities as more and more 'good tenants' moved away from the escalating mayhem whereby violence and crime became increasingly rife. In the fullness of time and certainly by the time I'd arrived, the place was a byword for all the social ills that might befall a community. It was a madhouse. If ever anyone needed persuasion that Thomas Hobbes presented an accurate perception of the underclass in his seminal work, Leviathan, they need only have visited Ferguslie Park in those days to understand that their lot was indeed 'poor, nasty, brutish and short.'
My discharge from hospital could have been conducted in a more elegant fashion, mind you. Before leaving, the ward sister asked me to take a shower in the bathroom at the end of the ward and upon completion, to provide a urine sample in a container that I'd find inside. I did so and bid her farewell by handing her the aforementioned container when the gradual, toe-curling realisation came over me that I'd just used a small flower vase in which to micturate. I can still see the look of complete bewilderment on her face as I handed her a cut-glass flower vase full of piss. I mustered up all of the little dignity I had left and dealt with the situation by pretending that nothing untoward had happened, flouncing out of the ward thanking all and sundry for a week's excellent health care. She must have thought I should be admitted immediately to another hospital, but this time perhaps, a lunatic asylum.
Sir Alex Ferguson CBE (Manager, Manchester United FC)
Born in 1950, into a Glasgow still recovering from the war, Ron Culley grew up in a single-parent family, in one of the new housing projects on the periphery of the city built quickly and cheaply to accommodate its growing population. Despite early flirtations with mischief and having been expelled from school, Culley went on to spend forty years in public service in and around the city, twenty-three of them as chief executive of three of its key organizations. During a time of great change, when Glasgow transmogrified from an heavily industrialised city to one which embraced the new economies, it nevertheless left many of its communities struggling with poverty and lawlessness, the very conditions that inspired Culley to enter a life of service in the first place. Now retired, he lives in the south side of Glasgow with his wife, Jean as do his four sons. "I belong to Glasgow" is a proud claim that millions of people over the generations have made. Ron's book will certainly bring back memories for many people and, I hope, act as an inspiration for those who feel they have yet the ability to achieve more in life.
I got this book as a Christmas gift. I surprised myself by finishing reading it before the year was out. If you 'Belong to Glasgow' in any way at all, you will find this book a very entertaining and enjoyable read. It was well written, very interesting and very funny. There's not many books that make me laugh out loud. I loved it!
This is a fabulous book. A mix of warm, witty and endearing personal commentary coupled with a serious, gritty and revealing insight into a life committed to public service in Glasgow. The book flows effortlessly and provides a social history of a young man growing up in Glasgow, managing to avoid many of the clichéd stereotypes, and in a way which begs for more.
This book is a very enjoyable read. There is the nostalgia factor for West of Scotland males of a certain age, however there is much more to this book than a trip down memory lane. The author has done well in his career, but this book is not a padded "list of successes". It is a remarkable story of career progression with stories, many of them humourous, from the author's involvement in the musical scene and his footballing encounters. It illustrates what can be achieved by hard work and determination, and the right approach. A real sense of the author's personality shines through due to his honest approach in writing the book.
Like a previous reviewer notes, if you 'Belong to Glasgow' in any way you'll find this book fascinating. It is actually a social history of Glasgow told through the life of the author.
So, if you now live in Canada, Australia, South Africa or are an ex-pat Glaswegian this is a trip down memory lane.
It's funny as well by the way. Oh how I laughed. See me, see mince, ah hate it. See me, see 'I Belong to Glasgow', ah luv it.
This book brought back warm memories of a childhood in Glasgow as well as giving an insight into how the author moved from being a working social worker to Chief Executive of a powerful West of Scotland institution. The story is told with humor and no small degree of candour giving a wonderful view into the life of a working class boy, who with ability, drive and willingness to adapt, rose to a position of influence and power in a city & community he clearly loves.
It is a great read and will particularly appeal to those who were brought up in Scotland in the fifties and who think fondly of their roots in council schemes and who managed to take advantage of free educational opportunities denied to our children today.
Alice Fagan (Sydney, Australia)
I absolutely loved this book and would love to read more about Glasgow. I left in 1979 and live now in Sydney, Australia with my man Tom and three kids who are all growed up. I have tried to explain to them what it was like for me and Tom growing up in Possilpark before we emigrated. Now I'm going to make them read I belong to Glasgow instead. It says it all. I'd even forgotten about 'Kick the can'. More please.
...Ahhh. I was a member of The Young Crew gang in Pollok when I was a teenager in Glasgow for the most part it was just daft boays chasing other daft boays but one night I seen a guy get stabbed and he nearly died. I decided that enough was enough but it's not easy to leave a gang I'm now in Majorca with the second wife but this book remembered me how stupid it could get.
This book was excellento by the way. (Edited)....
Albert Gaffney (Selkirk, Manitoba)
... but my wife got me this book for my Christmas and it put me in mind to check out some web sites about my old home toon the book was great and just made me remember things. I haven't been back in Scotland for twenty years. This book has made me homesick. It was a really good read...
Graeme McKissock (Auckland, NZ)
......Hulloooo. What memories this has brought back. I absolutely loved Glasgow though I couldn't wate to leave it when I was younger. I'm now a painter and decorator in Auckland, NZ and haven't been home since I left. Still with Alice though they said it wouldn't lass. Still got my accent though...(edited)
Andy (Los Angeles, California, USA)
My wife got me this for a present and I just wanted to tell you that I loved it. Not only that, I got expelled from school too but I was in the BBs instead of the Scouts but it was the same idea. I come back to Glasgow to see people about every five year. I will tell them about it too because they would like it too not just people that live away from the city they were born in.
I'm in Los Angeles these days
Hello Mr. Culley (Edited)
...that you are a very gifted author and have used your skills to great effect in writing this book. I enjoyed it immensely and thought I should write and tell you even if only to encourage you to write another book about Glasgow. On the strength of this book, I also read your novel, The Kaibab Resolution and found it to be completely enchanting. More power to your elbow...
Good morning from Durban
I noticed that your reviewers are Glaswegians from all over the world except South Africa. Let me put that right. I had a paper round in Maryhill and I'm still terrified of dogs or dugs as we called them. I got bit five different times and once it put me in hospital. I also hung round with a gang, the Fleet. We did some really stupid things. A woman saved me but we had to leave the city to build a life without the lunacy. Now in real estate and never looked back. The book was great and brought back wonderful memories. I have not been back in Glasgow since I left aged 28 but reading the book has given me pause for thought. Maybe I'll visit before it's too late. And all because of your book!
An author known for his exciting thrillers as much as his affectionate books about his city of Glasgow, Scotland, Ron Culley has now produced a book showcasing the hilarious stories and jokes for which the city is famous.
Following three decades of after-dinner speaking on the subject of 'Glasgow; Past and Present', the author is perfectly equipped to share the tales he's told and has been told as a raconteur. In this book he brings Glasgow to life by telling uproarious stories about the hapless Big Tam; Senga, who is a complete eejit, Wee Bennie; never out of court. Auld Wullie, Mr. and Mrs. McPhail also make an appearance as does Wee Andy.
These jokes and stories will bring a smile to the face of every reader and not a few of these rib-ticklers will have them gasping for breath in laughter. This book is designed to bring back memories to those who once called Glasgow home, to remind those who need reminding that Glasgow humour stands comparison with anything that's out there and to introduce the rest of the world to the 'patter'…the humour that makes the city and its denizens so well-loved.
And, by the way, the author denies that any of these jokes are old...merely 'classics'.
Laughter makes the world go round and after decades of humorous after-dinner speaking on the subject of 'Glasgow; Past and Present', Ron Culley has amassed hundreds of jokes. Below are but a few examples from a compendium of side-splitting jokes all about Glasgow and its extraordinary inhabitants.
Excerpt 1 - The Falklands
A Colonel of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards was walking down Bath Street in Glasgow when he saw a guy with no arms and no legs sitting in the gutter playing a mouth organ. A sign beside the guy read, 'Victim of the Falklands War.'
"Bloody disgraceful, that," said the Colonel, "the way this country treats its veterans!"
So saying, he pulled out his wallet, peels off two fifty pound notes and dropped them in the guy's hat.
The guy looked up and says, "Muchas graçias, senor."
Excerpt 2 - Neds
Two Glasgow neds were up in front of the Sheriff on a charge of theft and breaking and entry.
Gravely, he considered the charge sheet.
"The two of you," he intoned, "I'm minded to consider a custodial sentence. However, I intend to remand you both for a week after which, if you can demonstrate that you've done something to benefit the community, I may reduce the sentence."
A week later, the two neds reappeared in front of the Sheriff.
"Well, what have you done to benefit the community?"
"Well, your Lordship," said the first. "I've kept maybe ten people out the jail."
"And how have you done that?"
"Well, I just drew a wee circle and a big circle on a bit of paper and I told people that the big circle was the size of your brain before you took drugs and the wee circle was the size of your brain after you took drugs!"
"Excellent," said the Sheriff. "And you?"
"The second ned drew himself up to his full length.
"I kept about fifty people out the jail," he said proudly.
"Pray tell, how."
"Well, I also drew a big circle and a wee circle on a bit of paper...then I told them that the wee circle was the size of your arsehole before you went into jail...."
Excerpt 3 - Strathclyde Polis
Strathclyde Police, The SAS, and MI5 are all trying to prove that they are the best at apprehending criminals. The First Minister decides to give them a test. He releases a rabbit into a forest and instructs the organisation to catch it.
MI5 goes in. They place animal informants throughout the forest. They question all plant and mineral witnesses. After three months of extensive investigations they conclude that rabbits do not exist.
The SAS goes in. After two weeks with no leads they burn the forest, killing everything in it, including the rabbit, and they make no apologies. The rabbit had it coming.
Strathclyde Polis go in. They come out two hours later with a badly beaten bear, bloodied and bruised. The bear's yelling, "Okay! Okay! I'm a rabbit! I'm a rabbit!
Excerpt 4 - Partick Thistle
Two men are fishing on a river bank in a remote area of the Clyde on a Saturday afternoon, miles away from a radio or TV.
Suddenly one man turns to the other and says, "Partick Thistle have lost again."
The other man was astonished and said, "How on earth do you know that?"
The other man replied, "It's quarter to five."
Excerpt 5 - Winning the lottery
Mind you, Big Tam's done very well. He won the lottery.
Him and his wife, Senga hadn'y been getting on very well. …They were out for dinner last week and a big blonde came over and says to Big Tam… "Hello, Tam….good to see you, Tam"
His wife says, "Who's that?"
Big Tam says, "Alright, I may as well tell you ….that's my mistress!"
"Right says Senga……"That's us finished. I want a divorce."
Tam says. "Alright then…but so long as you remember…that's the tin lid on the Caribbean cruises, no more Gucci handbags, no more Stobbo Castle… the Lexus goes back…"
Just then… in walks his pal, Jimmy …
Senga says "Who's that wi' Jimmy?"
Tam says…"That's Jimmy and his mistress".
Senga says…. "She's no' as pretty as oors".
"Glasgow Belongs to Me" is available to purchase on Amazon
Ron Culley's compendium of Glasgow humour truly hits the mark. Punch lines that actually punch: including possibly the rudest description of Nick Clegg ever published. Just the right balance of in-yer-face hilarity against a background ambience of latent menace. Exceptional and thoroughly recommended.
I laughed long and loud at the jokes in this book. They were all new to me and I thought it was fantastic value. I now expect to re-tell them and claim them as my own when next I'm down the pub. I was impressed that none of them really offended good taste but all of the jokes and stories sounded as if they could be actually have been told by Wee Andy, Big Tam and all of the other characters in the book. I read Culley's thriller and his biography about Glasgow but this is an interesting departure. Very funny indeed. Looking forward to his next offering.
My favourite joke was the 'cornflakes' joke...but I accept the earlier reviewer's comment about Nick Clegg. Very funny indeed.
I cried laughing. I did. And the jokes are universal – not just about Glasgow.