I have always prided myself
on being an honourable man. My parents instilled in me, from a young age, that
without honour and decency, we have nothing. Everything I have done until now has
been guided by that principle. But now… No, I shall start at the beginning.
Some might say that because my father worked at a brewery that he was not a decent
man, but I know he was among the best. We never lacked, my mother, sister and I,
even though my mother occasionally had to earn more than pin money to keep us solvent,
and Margaret and I in shoes and at school. They were determined that we should
make something of ourselves, my mother especially ensuring I learned to read and
write properly. They are both dead now, God rest their souls. But I shall never
forget them, nor the love they held for both of us.
It was their fondest hope that I be self-sufficient, with a proper trade. I had
no particular skills beyond the ability to carry a tune, so when my uncles
friend offered to take me on as apprentice in his bindery, I took the opportunity.
It is easier work than many other professions I might have taken up, and I was
glad for it.
With my grandmothers firm hand, and the strength of my convictions, I believe
I lived as my father and mother would have wished. When I had sufficient income,
took my sweetheart, Ali, as my wife. We had known each other as neighbours all
our lives, and she is…was… the best of women. God did not see fit
to bless us with bairns, and though it saddened us, I am grateful now. They would
only suffer to have me as father.
I always stayed away from the gangs in our neighbourhood. I suspect, now, that
my father had something to do with the fact they never bothered us, and later,
me, and Ali. He must have set aside money in advance, but the leadership changed
and one day a group of men met me outside the shop as I left at the end of the
day. They demanded a tithe of me in exchange for peace. I didnt know, then,
of the penalty of refusal, nor, though it pains me to admit my naiveté,
how impossible it was to avoid the gangs in Ruchazie. By the time I did, it was
too late. They took my Ali, said if I didnt swear allegiance, she would suffer
for it. I asked myself what my father would have me do, and so I acted on my principles.
God help me, I didnt believe them. Not her own cousin, I thought. Now she
is gone, and I leave too. I remember, I used to laugh and sing, and in the pub,
men would say "Och, theres Billy Boyd. Give us a tune, Bills!"
I didnt mind, before, but now the musics dead in me. I hope it will
be easier in London, where no one knows Billy Boyd, and no one asks him to sing.