Apologies that I never managed to write the log last week. There has been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to Ireland recently for meetings as I carry a few different roles in our Passionist Province of St. Patrick, as well as being rector and parish priest of St. Mungo’s. That put a fair bit of extra pressure on me; but mostly I am missing Father Gareth who has been at home in Merthyr Tydfil for the past 5 weeks giving support to his mum who is ill at this time. I miss his unique presence, his good humour, his generous spirit, and his appetite for working hard and easing my load. Having said that, he is absolutely where he needs to be at this time, and he and his mum are constantly in our prayers. Obviously, there is a mountain of good will towards him around St. Mungo’s, and the two phrases I keep hearing from people again and again are: your mother is your mother; or, you only have one mum. True enough!
That got me to thinking about my own mum, whom we always referred to as mammy. She was a great woman, despite being under 5 feet tall, who, having been left widowed at an early age with three young sons, worked herself tirelessly to raise us and care for us. Her main job for many years was as a barmaid in the Downhill Bar in Partick, where we were born and grew up. She was very well known and liked among the regular patrons. I got a good sense of that myself when I worked behind the bar during my summer breaks home as a Passionist student. I also discovered how hard the work was. On top of that she took on cleaning jobs in some of the big houses around Downhill, Kelvinside and Hyndland; and she did some school cleaning as well. Her weekly game of Bingo was one of her rare breaks and enjoyments.
One thing I often neglect to recall about her, however, is that she was considered to be a lovely singer. My uncle Tony, who was really granny’s brother, and therefore mammy’s uncle, was renowned as a bit of an impresario around Partick, and the concerts he put on in the Partick Burgh Hall and other places attracted well-known entertainment figures and big audiences; and very often mammy was one of the support acts. It was a gift she passed on to her three sons, as every one of us is capable of holding a tune. Patrick is a bit shy about singing, but has a lovely voice, but not so shy at times at being a mimic, with an extraordinary memory for funny one-liners from the classic comedians; give Hugh the floor and Frank Sinatra comes to life again; but I suppose I was the one who developed it a bit more than the others, singing and playing double bass in a couple of folk bands before entering religious life, and later becoming involved in contemporary liturgical music.
I have lots of memories from my folk band days, such as playing the folk clubs in the early 70’s with the likes of Billy Connolly; Gerry Rafferty and Barbara Dickson; touring Scotland with Billy Connolly in 1971-72 to raise funds for the struggling families during the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in, during which Jimmy Reid came to prominence; coming second to the wonderful JSD Band in the Scottish Folk Group Championships, when Finbar and Eddie Furey played the interval; less salubriously, getting stranded overnight in Dunoon at the opening of a new folk club when the organisers disappeared with the takings; my double bass falling apart when playing our opening set at The Singers Club in Clydebank when , once again, Billy Connolly was topping the bill; and enjoyably, a regular Tuesday night gig at Sloans in the Argyle Arcade which would be packed out, but mostly with family and friends. These are just a few of many great, and not so great memories from a former life, stemming from a gift of music passed on in the family, and especially by mammy. St. Augustine may or may not have said that, “He who sings, prays twice, for when you sing praise, you not only praise with gladness, but also with love” but, if not, I’ll settle for St. Paul in Ephesians 5:19;
Be filled with the Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.