February 26, 2021
From Radical Glasgow (UK)

My Uncle Willie.

         To those who know me there will be no doubt in their minds about my hatred of the economic system we bleed under. In my eighties now, I have seen this system destroy individuals, tear families apart, and in its voracious greed for profit and power, it has murdered and maimed countless millions in its endless wars. Each individual destroyed, each family torn apart, each war grave, and each veterans hospital are all indictments against a system where people are sacrificed to keep the system functioning for the benefit of a small cabal of over privileged parasites. You would think that our humanity would demand that the system should be altered, modified and shaped to meet the needs of the the people, not the other way round.
        As we look at this society we can see all around us, those unfortunate individuals whose lives are deeply scarred by a system that uses people to perpetuate its greed driven machinations. It is so easy to encapsulate the ruthless viciousness of the system in one person’s life, to me my uncle Willie is such a person. To the system, a nobody, a human being of no significance, but to those around him, a father, a son, a brother, a husband and an uncle.
        My uncle Willie was my mother’s younger brother, naturally I didn’t know him in his early years, but I heard the stories. Willie, like the rest of my family, lived in Garngad, a Glasgow slum in the north of the city. A young man in his 20’s, he was married and had three kids, and like so many of that era, unemployed. It seems that Willie was a family man and loved his kids, he could be seen most days walking with them along the waste ground off Charles Street at the back of Glenconner Park, usually two kids running in front and the youngest on his shoulders. It seems he was an excellent snooker/billiards player, and that is where he supplemented his income, by playing round the many snooker halls in Glasgow. However to the system, he was superfluous to requirements, so could scrape a living in the slums of Glasgow as best he could. 


       Then, suddenly, he is a valuable asset to the system, 1939, WWII starts, and Willie is scooped up and shipped out to Egypt. We no nothing of his experiences there, but after three years there and later his demob, he returned home with malaria, this is when I got to know him, just a little. His shaking hands, the troubled look in his eyes. His return to civilian life didn’t get off to a good start, on returning home to his family, of wife and three kids, he discovered that he now had five kids. This was the end of his marriage, the family broke up, and Willie moved from job to job, and his drinking got worse and he eventually couldn’t hold a job, he was now an alcoholic and homeless. Moving from homeless hostel to homeless hostel, occasionally staying with family, but his alcoholism made that an ever decreasing possibility.
       I remember my mother, a church goer and anti-drink woman, on many an occasion, looking out the window and saying, “Oh here’s Willie coming”, then a pause, then, “he doesn’t look too drunk”. He would sit and chat to his big sister and myself, my mother would make him something to eat and give a cup of tea. Though it was never a full cup of tea, his hands were shaking so bad it would have been all over him, she only quarter filled the cup and kept topping it up, it was his troubled eyes that have stuck with me all these years, as he was leaving, my mother would slip a 10 shilling note into his hand. 


       Willie spent the rest of his years moving around hostels for the homeless, eventually dying in one down in Ardrossan in his fifties. To me, my uncle Willie epitomises this stinking system, you’re a worthless entity, left to rot unless the system needs you, either to make its profits, or to fight its imperialist wars, and your reward for either of these activities, if anything at all, is never anything grand, usually nothing or suffering.
The Warmth of a Dream.
He lay in a dark doorway, dreamed of home,
night frost locked his joints
morning rain chilled the marrow of his bones.
In the dream there was a sister, 
a pram in a garden, a crowd of youngsters
who called him “mister”, a time of little pain.
Are these youngsters the same young men, who
now laugh at him, throw beer cans, 
piss on him as he lies drunk in some dark lane?
When was that first step to no forgiveness.
No will to rise to beg for food,
numbness kills the pain.
The dream brings a warmth that feels good,
dark fog shades out consciousness,
an ambulance carries off a body washed in rain.

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Source: Radicalglasgowblog.blogspot.com