01 May 2021
Andrew McIntyre shares his memories of Hogmanay in the 1960s, with elaborate preparations, first footing and the 'White Heather Club'.
Hogmanay in Scotland is a time of reflection and thinking back to what went before. It's a time of nostalgia, thanksgiving and looking forward with hope and expectation. That's as true today as it was in the Sixties. My parents were church going Christians, yet still the old ceremonies were observed at Hogmanay. For instance the house had to be clean from top to bottom, scrubbing out the old dusty year in preparation for a brand new one. After the festivities of Christmas it seemed we were under siege again. This time, mother was baking batches of shortbread, pancakes (or to give them their Anglicised name, drop scones) and fruit cake. And there was granny's leftover dumpling to be eaten as well. Father had made his ginger and raspberry wine, as we were teetotal.
The White Heather Club
It wasn’t until the late Sixties that we children were allowed to stay up late and see the New Year in. One could sense the excitement and expectation rising, the tension was felt. We watched black and white television then and before midnight, we were treated to the White Heather Club with turns by various singers, actors and entertainers.
Then the magic moment came – bells ringing out all over Glasgow. We stood at the back door listening to them all and also the ships' horns and hooters blaring out their New Year anthem. The ships were berthed on the Clyde in the days when Glasgow was a busier port than it is now. At the White Heather Club Andy Stewart first footed, and gave a rendition cheerily with his eye glinting and a wink with a cheeky smile.
Our house had its own first footer and without being unkind, he wasn’t the epitome of first footers. He certainly wasn’t tall, and handsome... well! But he was a great laugh and first footed us every year. At exactly five minutes past midnight the door bell went and we knew that it was our first footer. Wee Charlie is long gone now, but his New Year visits were special.
Wee Charlie would stay till about 12.45am then that was the time when all the then young folk descended on our house to celebrate. They would have been at the watch-night service held in Lambhill Mission wander up the road and come in for a party. Usually about twenty plus people would be there – singing, dancing, some played the piano and many did a turn.
It would be about 1968 when I was first allowed out to celebrate seeing in the New Year with friends. That first time I was out all night, getting home about 8.30 on New Year's Day. My parents were just rising and of course I was dressed and up, so I told them that I was just awake and had prepared breakfast. I don’t think I fooled them for one minute. Those were good days when one could walk the streets after midnight and wish all and sundry a happy New Year, without fighting or argument. New Year still happens of course, but to me, they're not the same as they once were. Those days are sadly missed, who knows maybe they will come again?
By Andrew McIntyre