This page is about my early years and the family that have been around me as I grew up. Warning: it contains some fashion that younger viewers may find distressing.
I came into this world in 1968, not long before Christmas, born to Robert (Bob) and Ellen Meiklejohn. I started off small but quickly showed early signs of the famous Meiklejohn appetite. Just over a couple of years later we were joined by Linda, and Craig arrived nearly two years after that.
I don't remember too much about our home in Neilston, other than brief episodes. We grew rhubarb in our back garden and I remember stealing some of that. I also remember going down to the corn field nearby, standing on a large stone and jumping over the wire fence into the field. We played in the corn, which was tall enough to hide in.
We had friends down the road, with two kids called Graeme and Una (and a little sister called Jennifer?). The mum was called Una too. Their back garden had a big slope downwards which made it ideal for rolly-polies. We came back to visit them once after we'd moved away, and I spent most of the car journey picking apart and unravelling a golf ball. It had an inner rubber core filled with gooey white stuff which was rumoured to be poisonous. Anyway, I remember watching a horror film with Graeme and Una, and they seemed to be following it far better than I was. I think this was the first time I realised I'm hopeless at recognising people.
I must have been about 4 when we moved away. Our dad's job took us down south to enemy territory: England.
Well, it was just over the border really, though that didn't stop some of my peers calling me Scotty in the hope that I'd chase them. We stayed in a house in the village of Rockcliffe, near Carlisle, a tiny place, though I only realised that when we popped in to visit on one of our trips down south recently.
Our houses formed a square, and our friends Jane, Paul and Rachel stayed right across from us. The primary school was just about a hundred yards away, along with a grassy bit where we played football and cricket (told you it was England) and rode our bikes. There was a short, steep hill behind the square, and another friend stayed in the house half way down this hill. They had a barn with an axe, I used to swap football stickers with the boy and play a table football game (not Subbuteo, but one where you pressed the heads down to make the players kick) and one memorable day I smashed their kitchen window with a football while we were playing in the courtyard. I scarpered and the dad came up to our house to say it was OK, that the window was cracked anyway.
We had a really hot summer while in Rockcliffe, probably 1976 since that's remembered as being hot. I can remember popping tar bubbles on the road, and we were given salt at school during play time.
We kept in touch with family, and occasionally drove back up to Scotland to visit, which we always really enjoyed.
On my mum's side were the Rennisons. Gran and Grandpa Rennison stayed in Govan and were well known in the area. Alexander (Sanny) had been a foreman at Stephen's shipyard, liked to watch the horse racing and put 50p on a line most days. My gran, Elizabeth (Bessie) liked to knit and watch Crossroads, and they were both keen bowlers. We went on holiday with them a few times, usually to Girvan, and the folk at the Girvan bowling club seemed to know them well too.
Whenever we visited, we'd always try to get out for a walk to Elder Park, by the sweet shop where we'd select a 10p mixture from the 1p and 2p trays the shopkeeper had. We'd race each other along the paths and play on the swings. I don't think we ever got to go on the pedal boats, though. If we stayed the night Linda and I would get to sleep on folding beds, while Craig got the short straw and had to sleep between two chairs placed facing each other.
Gran and Grandpa stayed up a close in Burghead Drive, on the second floor. Grandpa told the story of how he once sat on the windowsill facing inwards, and lowered the sash window to wash it, and trapped himself there until gran got home.
My mum had two little brothers. The middle one, our Uncle Andrew, was married to Aunt Muriel and they had our three cousins: Diane, Graeme and Alan. They stayed in Paisley for a while and then in Houston, with Max the dog. We visited fairly regularly, more often once we were back up in Scotland.
The other brother was Alex, who was married to Aunt Ann and lived way up north in Cawdor, famed of MacBeth. They had two children: Kathleen and Alexander. It was a long drive up there so we didn't see them so often, but when we did go it was a scenic drive up the Caledonian Canal and by the steep sides of Loch Ness. I remember stopping at a layby at the edge of a cliff over Loch Ness, and being very worried about how close to the edge we were. My dad still insisted on gathering wild strawberries right at the edge.
When we went to visit Uncle Alex and Aunt Ann we stayed in a caravan on their property. There was plenty of space to explore and we would go on walks out the back and through the forest to the river where we would try to make dams out of the stones by the shore. The two dogs, Nevis and Rannoch, would accompany us, and on one visit Kathleen had a pony which we all had a shot of, even if I was a bit big for it. The other popular walk was the mile or so into Cawdor village, where we could visit the local shop.
On my dad's side there were 3 siblings: Aunt Jess, Aunt Hilda and Uncle Alex. Hilda and Alex still stayed with my grandparents in what was known as a quarter villa in Cardonald, and we often visited there too. My grandfather on that side passed away when I was very young so I didn't know him, but I remember my grandmother Flora quite well. She was quite a fierce lady. They also had a parrot called Sandy. My Aunt Jess had gone to Zimbabwe as a nurse when she was younger, and married Roger Gillett, an English man who had also emigrated to Zimbabwe (at the time Rhodesia) and was a policeman there. They had two children, Morag and Iain, who we obviously didn't get to see too often.
So, in order of age, the cousins were Morag, Iain, me, Diane, Graeme, Linda, Craig, Kathleen, Alan and Alexander.
I was about 8 when we moved again, back up to Scotland, to the small town of Wemyss Bay. We were actually in an estate near the town, built by the Scottish Special Housing Association for workers in the nearby Inverkip Power Station. So nearby in fact that at the end of our road there was a mound of earth about 12 feet high to deflect the sound of the power station from annoying us. It only partially worked. We had a blaize football pitch and tennis court over the mound and the woods to explore, so there was plenty to do.
I remember my first day at Inverkip Primary. I was put beside Craig Muirhead in my p4 class. We had a maths test and we copied off each other, resulting in us both getting zero out of ten. My maths did improve after that. I don't remember the teacher's name, but he rewarded good work with sweets and disappeared mysteriously soon after that year. I do remember the subsequent teachers: Mrs McMath, Mrs McIndoe and Mrs Black. The headmaster, Mr Honeyman, liked to read us Tammie Troot when he subbed the normal teacher, and often commented on having a word with our parents, except they were probably bigger than him. It was only after I left and saw him again that I realised he was only about 5 foot tall.
Primary School was a mixed bag. I did well at classes and shone in maths especially. I enjoyed playing football (p6 against p7 or Wemyss Bay against Inverkip usually) but was in fear of some of the tougher boys in the class, such as Kenny (who blew his eyebrows off by lighting a match to see if a car had any petrol to syphon off) and Big Tam. I found it particularly ironic that it was Big Tam that reported me to the headie when he spotted me throwing chuckies at the school bell. I'm ashamed to say that in turn I was pretty unpleasant to another classmate Paul, who came to school in short trousers.
I was 3 years ahead of Linda at school and Craig started the year after her, so I didn't see too much of the two of them before I was off to high school.
We hadn't been in Wemyss Bay for long before my dad became ill. It was only years later I found out he had a stomach complaint and had been treated in various places without much luck. He was taken into hospital and we visited him once, but it was only shortly after that a nurse visited the house and mum called us in to tell us that our dad was gone.
It was a hard blow, and especially to our mum, who now had to cope with 3 kids, no job and no husband to help. She got a job at the new Wemyss Bay Primary School, in the kitchen, and took driving lessons so she could be more mobile and take us places. I remember in 1977 going to see the new Star Wars film in Greenock, and coming back on the bus. On the walk up the road, Craig asked for the key, but when we got to the grassy area part way along the road he was out playing football. "What did you do with the key?" "Oh, I couldn't get it to work so I posted it through the letterbox." We were locked out for an hour or so, until a neighbour retrieved the key with a bit of fishing line and a magnet.
A couple of years later though, and we were in for a surprise. Mum was going to marry our Uncle Alex, my dad's brother. It took a bit of adapting but we'd always liked Uncle Alex and he was very generous in taking on a whole family.
We had some really good holidays together. In the early days we went to Girvan quite a lot and often at the same time as Gran and Grandpa. We spent a week at Millport once, and we also went to Wales, the Isle of Man and the Norfolk Broads. On the Broads we sat through an amazing thunderstorm and once left mum behind when casting off from a mooring.
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