Saturday, July 15, 2006

Nostalgia *

Thanks to simonholyhoses, we get a link to a BBC piece looking back on the summer of 1976 - yes, the one with the long droughts and all that. I won't say too much about what Simon wrote other than to say that it is well worth a read and gives plenty of pause for thought.

My own take on the summer of 1976? I would like to say it was all ripped clothing, safety pins through the nose and burning of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin records as we had all found a new music to listen to - but, of course, as I was only 11, that would be (never mind the) bollocks.

No, for me and my generation growing up in a certain coastal town in the west of Scotland, that summer was decidedly different from any others we had experienced up until then. For my age group, there was the excitement of being the oldest kids in primary school after the holidays, and there was the excitement of visiting the newly built leisure centre near the beach - a leisure centre which was, at that time, the largest in western Europe (and which was to employ yours truly for a summer a few years later!).

But it was also the summer when weird things were happening. Me and my friends were no longer free to wander all over town and into the countryside and down the beach on our own. Suddenly, parents were asking us where we were going and not to go too far - some were even being kept indoors for long, long spells. No longer would we be out all day, with our parents not having a clue as to our whereabouts., days when we used to be in the woods climbing trees, down the beach swimming all day and jumping off the harbour walls. The police presence in the town was quite enormous and officers seemed to be visiting every house in the town more than once. And all because of our stand-out memory of that year - Sandy Davidson going missing.

Sandy was just a few weeks from his fourth birthday when he told his gran he was off to look for his dog, which he said had ran away. He wasn't to be seen ever again. All sorts of theories emerged as to what happened - he was abducted by long-lost relative or that he had an accident and fell into one of the many building sites in the area (Irvine was going through an unbelievable transformation at the time with new housing developments being built at a rate of knots). What no-one suggested and never contemplated was that he had been murdered never mind that he may have been abused in any way - how times have changed!

But that was sadly that! The police made absolutely no progress on the case and still, to this day, have him posted as missing - see here, for example!

There emerged really sad stories of his parents pissing it up in the town's pubs every night - as if any of us would have done any different - and people saying they were milking it just to cadge drinks. A whispering campaign started that his parents may even had something to do with his abduction, going by their behaviour. But those were sick comments from sick minds.

Sandy was just gone, simple as that. And his parents were left without their little boy.

That summer was the end of my age group's childhood. Yes, we eventually got back to wandering the town, going back into the woods and getting back down the beach. Our parents' concerns about where we were going got less weird. And the police presence scaled down until it was eventually back to normal.

But ask anyone who was around Irvine at that time and ask them about the summer of 1976 and they will surely mention the case of Sandy Davidson.

By the way, Sandy Davidson is one of the cases in Andrew O'Hagan's book The Missing. O'Hagan lived in Irvine for many years before becoming a superb journalist for the London Review of Books.



Blogger Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Really evocative post - linked over at mine.

4:38 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

On Google there are 513 references to Reidski. That's one hell of a lot less than the 753,000 references there are to Yorkshire Pudding, making me approximately 1.5 million times more important than you!

5:05 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Now I've read about the missing child and the fact that you hail from Irvine. Did you by any chance know a guy called Sean Hemphill? Mr Hemphill the English teacher at secondary school or the piss artist Hughie Lynch - also from Irvine - who I met at Stirling University in the early seventies? No? Well worth a try.

5:10 pm  
Blogger Moo said...

Brilliant post Reidski, Obviously I dont remember '76 but my parents told me about that a few years ago, and how when they were younger they could go anywhere, do anything without even the thought of anything like this happening. We live in a world where I would be scared to bring another life into, because what will it have?

8:42 am  
Blogger Moo said...

Oh, and new post at mine!

8:43 am  
Blogger Jim said...

I think O'Hagan's vastly over-rated. If you read gis stuff particularly childhood based peices, I think he has a tendency to sensationalise and just plain fib at times. Your post on the other hand is infinitely more worthy, better written and just plain good.

I don't remember much of 1976, I'd started working by then, childhood over. Damn. Political involvement started as well. Was listening to the Bollock's though.

11:21 am  
Blogger J.J said...

His poor poor family. I can't imagine living with the agony of never knowing what happened to him.

10:38 pm  
Blogger Reidski said...

Lisa - thanks for the comment and for the link.

YP - Your maths is shit.

YP - Those names ring a bell, but, as I didn't go to school much, don't remember many teachers' names. I do remember the name of the teacher who had me pinned up against the wall with my feet off the ground who was threatening to do me in if I ever throw a soggy bomb at his head ever again!

Moo - thanks. Bad things happen, but great things happen in this world also. I'm glad I brought another life into this world. And I'll get off and check out your new post.

Jim - what the fuck is all that shite about O'Hagan. You don't like his writing, I do - story over! But thanks anyway for your comments. And you weren't listening to Bollocks cos it didn't come out til 77 - gotcha!! And, anyway, what do you mean by "political involevement"? I am sure you were in Militant at that time - far cry from politics, may man!

JJ - my sentiments exactly. And what they were going through was made all the worse by the disgusting whispering campaign from all parts of the town.

8:43 am  
Blogger Jim said...

Its not that O'Hagan's writing is particularly bad its the made up shit within it that gets me.

I was listening to loads of bollocks in 1976.

Militant was later than 76. 76 was an age of innocence, pre sectarian days.

9:13 am  
Blogger SimonHolyHoses said...

Yep, that's an excellent post Reidski.

I agree with j.j. too about what his family must've gone through.

Thanks for the link too.

9:29 am  
Blogger Reidski said...

simon - thanks for your comments and for inspiring this little piece. It really is what I think about when I think about 1976!

10:16 am  
Blogger Darren said...

Thoughtful post, Reidski and you're right that the coverage of such an event would be so much different today.

My main memory of '76 is that it was the last time I ever had a decent sun tan. Shame that at the age of four I couldn't really appreciate it.

Interested to read that Jim was a teenage Millie. If that doesn't warrant a ten part series on TNS, I don't know what does.

2:05 pm  
Blogger Sparkle said...

Hi Nat's mum here. The summer of 76 Natalie entered this world on the 24th August.I remember it like it was yesterday and now she is all grown up and in Australia. 30 years later and hopefully we are having another heatwave.

6:43 pm  
Blogger Reidski said...

Darren - you must suffer from the usual Jock malady of going from brilliant white to bright red at the mere hint of sun. I know that's what I'm like! And Jim should entertain us with tales of his days in the Militant Tendency and why he then supported Michael Meacher against Tony Benn in the Deputy Leadership contest in the Labour Party in (?) 1981.

Sparkle - welcome aboard the rather boring ship Reidski. Thanks for bringing Nat into this world, you've obviously done a great job there. And, yes, what a bloody heatwave and I played football in that sunshine last night - phew!!

8:56 am  
Blogger Darren said...

Jim should definitely step forward with his memories of those glorious days. I always enjoyed the series of blogs that Marc Mulholland did on his days in the Millies.

He opted for Meacher over Benn? What a dilemma for the Labour left in those halycon days: which Public School lefty should I support for the deputy leadership?

Yes, I have a chip on my shoulder. ;-)

11:45 am  
Blogger Jim said...

I'll get round to Trotskyist sects at some point I'm sure.

Are you getting mixed up though, I never did support Michael Meacher, certainly not in preference over Benn. I think you might mean the Kinnock Hattersley dream ticket thing. At the time it seemed right to me. Now I know it was irrelevant!

10:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

had a celebratory bowl of kasha after the election Reidski,you commy twat?

11:50 am  

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