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Calum Beag (V): Demobbed
Calum Beag (V): Demobbed
Reminiscences by Calum Beag, Malcolm Nicolson, of Lemreway and Glasgow.
I got demobbed and returned to a room in Glasgow with my Land Army wife - who originally came from Gress, a village a few miles from Stornoway. The next thing to do was to get a job. I started in the Albion Car Factory as a storeman. I had applied for a job in the Police and was not long in the Factory when I got word to go for an exam. I passed and was accepted, so I gave up my Factory job. It was really hard work lifting lorry chassis and wheels to get stacked on the Factory floor - fork lifts had not been invented then.
I went to the training school in Oxford Street for basic training in law, first aid and the rudiments of police work. Then onto an outdoor school in Whitburn, West London, for six weeks' hard training.
We ran six miles cross-country every day and did boxing and more running. We got home at weekends. As we were all ex-armed forces, we were all used to the disciplines and fit, so it was enjoyable. We all passed and were allocated to our divisions. I was sent to the Central Division and was given a beat in the Gorbals. It was a poor area and very rough in those days. You really had to work there to appreciate the misery in which people had to live. There was seldom a night that the Army Police were not around looking for deserters and we had to go with them. We would have to climb over bodies sleeping on the floor. Most houses had at least three families in one and most houses had only two rooms - no bath, most had gas lights, outside toilet and gas on the stairs outside. Most of the people were decent folk but had no work, as the men had just been demobbed and work was hard to find.
I remember being called to a house one night by a distraught woman. Her daughter of about sixteen years of age had gone to the outside toilet and sat down quickly. Unfortunately the toilet was broken and jagged porcelain penetrated her rear end. The chap with me had a few
years' experience and was very callous. We took her down to the Police Box where we had the first aid kit until the ambulance arrived. I was never so embarrassed in my life, while my mate administered first aid to her private parts and her mother was in hysterics. Of course, I had to accompany her to the Royal Infirmary to get all the medical terms from the doctor - two inch gash from ... - one inch deep gash in the region of the ... That was my first report and it read like a page from the Kama Sutra. By the time I was there a year, I began to get callous myself.
I learned a lot about crooks and their work - seldom a night that we did not have to lock someone up on the late shift. There were gang fights every Saturday - a dozen a side most times with bicycle chains, razors, etc. They respected the Police more in those days and would usually run off if two of us appeared. If we caught them, they were locked up after a good telling off and maybe if they were cheeky, a cuff or two around the ear. We took the razors and chains from them and there was no law to prosecute them for possession. To-day you can be locked up for having a steel comb on you.
If anything went wrong, the Police were always the first to be called. I remember being called out one Sunday morning to a house in Oatlands - about a mile from the office. When we got there, the lady of the house told us that she could not turn the tap off. I was a lot flyer then and as there were kids around, I asked where her husband was. "Ah, he was in bed" and would be angry if she wakened him, but he was soon on his feet and told to put a washer on the tap. We knew that there was method in their madness, as one call from the Police to the factor would soon solve the matter.
During the day, we were mostly occupied by children who were forever breaking windows. We were issued with complaint cards for minor offences - mostly street football. A child under eight years of age was not punishable by law, so it sufficed to get their names and tell their parents. I was very friendly with the local Priest. One side of my beat was inhabited mainly by Irish Roman Catholics and I think that he thought I was Irish because of my highland accent - a matter I never enlightened him on. I used to tell him of any miscreants and it had a wonderful effect!