Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Hey pastor would you like a cigarette?

On the right Billy and his brother Gibby

Today I joined with others to remember the life of my Uncle Billy. A difficult day for the gathered family and friends. Very poignant to see a number of his grandchildren carry him to his final resting place in the Inverallochy & Cairnbulg Cemetery.

My other post about Billy talked about our shared love of Aberdeen FC but we also both liked a good laugh. He was born on April the first, April fools day, and some say that was the right day for him!

One of his "wind-ups" stands out to me. Back in 1976, the local AOG church had just appointed a new pastor. A young guy of 26 from Exeter named Roger Blackmore. As so many of the men in the church back then were fishermen it was customary for any new pastor to go through the initiation of going to sea in one of the trawlers.

So my dad invited Roger to travel to Peterhead with the rest of the crew by minibus. There, the fish were landed and sold very early on a Saturday morning then the boat would make the short trip back to Fraserburgh.

We travelled around the villages of Inverallochy & Cairnbulg picking up all the crew in a well-worn routine. First, Jimmy Love, then Alex, on to beacon cottages where Billy got in and Jim the cook who lived just across the road, finally fellow Dons supporter Charlie. With all the crew onboard it was time to head of to the manse to pick up Roger.

Roger hopped on sat down and settled in. Before long Billy tapped Roger on the shoulder and offered him a cigarette which Roger politely refused having never met this man before in his life. To that Billy fell about laughing finally saying, "Well you wouldn't have lasted long here if you had taken it."

Although Billy was only the occasional churchgoer he knew enough that smoking, drinking, dancing and going to the cinema were seen as the unpardonable sins at our local church.

Later he told me that he had shared some of his wisdom with Roger the new pastor.

You see Roger it's like this, for the first 2 years the church will idolise you. Then for the next 2 years, they will criticise you and then for the next 2 years, they will scandalise you.

Sadly Billy had not been given the greatest impression of the church by us who are part of it. Even more, sadly it turned out to be too near the reality for comfort.

Hey, my Uncle was far from perfect and like me, he was his own worst enemy by opening his mouth and putting both feet in it. But as I look back to my time growing up before I left home my memories of him bring a smile to my face.

I don't get to see our first love Aberdeen FC very often nowadays but no matter the ground I am visiting, Villa, Leamington or even MK Dons he is never far from my thoughts.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Uncle Billy my footy buddy

Uncle Billy front right. Next to his mum and dad, Bill & Mary, and his brothers and sisters Gibby, Christine, my mum Elsie, Joan & Mary

On Saturday 21st December I received a message that my Uncle Billy had passed away at the age of 80.

I left home in 1982 for college at the age of 19 and have only paid short visits back home since so have not regularly kept in touch with my extended family. But growing up, Billy and I shared a great love - Aberdeen FC.

It started in 1975 when he took me to my first match at Pittodrie. Accompanied by his dad & my didie, also called Bill, we set off on the 40-mile journey to Aberdeen. As was to become part of so many of our trips we were dropped off at the bottom of Pittodrie Street by my Auntie Margaret and we headed off for a pie and our seats in the main stand.

Two-nil down at half-time with a certain Joe Harper anonymous, it didn't look like the Dons and I were going to get off to a great start. But King Joey turned up in the second act, scoring a hattrick and we headed home smiling from ear to ear. Sadly it was the only game we attended with my Didie Bill, whom both me and my uncle are named after, as illness restricted his movements till he passed away in 1976.

Over the next 8 years, we crisscrossed Scotland each Saturday, often going far too fast in Billy's 3 litre Capri Ghia, watching our beloved team. Those years coincided with what was probably the most successful in Aberdeen's history. Our first trophy win at Hampden under Super Ally. The near misses under McNeil and then the golden era of Fergie. The league at Easter Road and Scottish Cup glory with the smiling Tattie! But, even through those never to be repeated heady days, we were often known to get back to the waiting car, only to throw our scarfs in the boot with disgust and say that is it, we are never going back! (Usually against Morton and Andy Ritchie:(( )

Back then Billy smoked a lot and often said that because of those long car journies even though id never touched a cigarette in my life I had smoked hundreds.

(I will come back to cigarettes in my next post about him.)

The memories come flying back, stamping our feet on the old wooden stand in Hampden as we closed in on the league cup. Aberdeen - stomp - stomp - stomp. Bent over a radio at Easter Road praying that the ref would blow his whistle in Celtic match. Rushing to the car to hear sportsreport. Stopping in Perth on the way back from Glasgow for chips. Watching McLeish of all people curl a shot into the top corner of Ranger net at the final like he was Jairzinho. My constant companion was Uncle Billy.

Thanks, Uncle Billy