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Scottish Memories

Scottish American Society


By Bob Leslie*

Our own Carol Leslie Hosticka has been receiving notes from her brother, Bob Leslie.  Bob has been been posting on Facebook so their second cousins in Chile, whose mother is from Glasgow, can learn about the family, especially their Granny Boyle, their mother's mother, and her brother, Jimmy (who looked like Jimmy Durante).  I thought these memories were special enough that our readers might find them worth reading. 


Granny would strike up a conversation with anybody - which could lead to problems. Mother had taken her out for a drive in the country and they'd ended up at a little pub in the middle of nowhere. Mum went to the bar to get her a brandy, and when she returned, Granny was engrossed in conversation with a shady-looking individual. "Mary, get this puir laddy a whisky, he's been havin' an awfy time o' it." says Granny B. Mother, somewhat doubtfully, gets the nip for the stranger, brings it over, and sits down. "He's been tellin' me he's got naewhere tae stay, he's jist oota jile, and his wife's thrown him oot." Mother nods sympathetically. Just then the stranger's hands appear from under the table, and the ladies, somewhat to their disconcertment, see that they are tattooed with "Love" and "Hate". "And, might I ask," enquires Granmama, "why were you in the jile?" "Murder, Missis," replies the reprobate. A swift exchange of glances followed, and the words "God help us!" hung, unspoken, in the air. Their Saviour arrived, in the form of the barman, who enquired, "Are youz wi' him?" jerking a thumb in the direction of the homicidal scallywag. "He's barred, an' youz are barred tae. Git oot and nivver come back!" Shamefaced, Mother and Granny beat a hasty exit and ran like Hell for the car, not even pausing to exchange numbers with their new chum.

Granny's brother, Jimmy Fletcher, was quite a character too. He could rattle off jokes till your sides were aching and you couldn't breathe. During the Depression, he organised unemployed young men into harmonica bands so that they could busk and earn some money. He bought an old van, and he and one of the bands used to travel around seaside resorts, and play to the holidaymakers. The van was fitted out with a wee paraffin stove and Jimmy would make their meals on this. At night, they'd sleep in the van, or on the sand if it was dry. Jimmy saved some of the money and bought a bunch of white suits at a closing-down sale. He personally altered them all to fit the band members - unfortunately, one wee man had to tie his belt somewhere in the region of his chest. Using the uniforms as a badge of respectability, Jimmy negotiated gigs for them in the theatres, and, until the war, they often appeared at the Pavilion Theatre (where Granda Boyle was later to become stage-door man). He also got involved with teaching kids football (soccer). He'd always been a handy player himself, but, because poverty and rickets had left him with wee short legs, he couldn't keep up with the speedier players so never went professional. Judging by his upper-body build, he should have been about the same height as me (6'3"), but his short legs meant he ended up about 5'9". He was President of the Glasgow Churches Junior Football League almost till the day he died (he was, I think, 86 when he died) and furnished Glasgow Rangers (he was on the Protestant side of the family - not that that mattered a hoot to him!) with many a promising young player. There's a song on my last CD about him, you can find it here: http://www.facebook.com/l/23aa4/www.reverbnation.com/artist/artist_songs/839173 It's called "The Star Harmonica Band"."

*Bob Leslie is a veteran Scottish singer-songwriter. Despite taking time out to raise a family, he has never stopped writing and has recently returned with a 12-song album of self-penned Americana showing a mixture of lyrical wit and romanticism reminiscent of Tom Waits and Jim Webb.

Bob started singing from the cradle – which annoyed the hell out of the neighbours and puzzled his parents. He made an early mark on the Edinburgh music scene, winning his first talent show at 14 years old. He paid his dues for 20 years in professional rock bands and many more semi-pro mainly singing but also playing guitar or bass and songwriting for every type of venue from folk and workingmen's clubs to festivals and theatres.

Early in his career, he excited interest in his voice and songwriting from Apple Records, Chrysalis Records, and Boscobel (the Kinks' managers). At one point he recalls, the wee man from Chrysalis asked him to write a follow-up to Total Eclipse of the Heart, He replied “You must be joking!” and thinks this may have locked the doors on teenage idolhood for him. Anyone still wishing for such a follow-up would now only have to wave money to receive an affirmative reply.