The Wine Alley Boys
‘Dessie comin’ oot, Mrs Bradley?’ Smiled ginger haired Paddy Mullen at his best friend’s mother. ‘Naw son, he’s no,’ the tired looking woman replied. Paddy looked at her puzzled and asked, ‘How no?’ She exhaled, ‘No that it’s any of yer business Paddy, but his Da’s keeping him in, sorry.’ With that she closed the door, a slightly irritated look on her face. Paddy was not one for giving up though and headed out the smashed back door of the close at Kellas Street and into the back court. He ducked under a washing line replete with damp clothing, stopping briefly to wipe his nose on a limp Rangers shirt pegged onto the rope. He glanced up at the first floor windows of his friend Dessie’s flat. He scanned them one by one, no sign of life. It looked like his mate was staying home after all. As he pondered what to do, the sliding sash of the bathroom window stuttered up a little and Dessie’s pale face peered out. ‘Wait there Paddy, am busting oot this dump.’ He forced the window open a foot or so and squeezed through legs first like a clumsy burglar. His feet searched for the cast iron drain pipe and with all the agility of a skinny, twelve year old he was soon scrambling down the pipe to the ground. ‘Mon Paddy, quick.’ he intoned as his friend followed him to the opposite end of the back court where they clambered over the wall which separated the back from the railway line beyond. They headed for a den they’d built in the thickest part of the clump of trees which ran alongside the railway track. This was their refuge, their meeting place when things were stressful at home.
‘Wit wur ye kept in for?’ Paddy began looking at his friend as they sat in the secluded den on some dirty, yellow pieces of foam they had cut from an old couch someone had thoughtfully thrown over the wall into the railway. Dessie’s face changed and he looked as if he was a little embarrassed. ‘A canny lie tae ye Paddy, yer ma best mate. My Da was mad cause I tried his beer and made myself sick as a dug. Drank two bottles and vomited all over ma room.’ Paddy’s eyes widened, ‘Beer? Jeez my old man wid kick ma arse if ah even smelled of beer.’ The two friends lay back on the foam and chatted for a while about school life, football and girls. On good days they'd stare at the clouds drifting over the little patch of Glasgow they called home and try to discern objects in thier shapes. The two had been friends since they first met at St Saviour's as 4 year olds and now both were ready to start first year at St Gerard’s Secondary. They considered themselves pretty grown up now that they were almost teenagers. They watched as a train rattled past with its clickety-clack rhythm as the sky turned grey over Govan. ‘It’s gonny rain Dessie, I’m heading up the road afore they notice I’m away. You goin’ tae the game the morra?’ Desomond Bradley nodded and said with a smile, ‘Aye, we’ll dae the buses first eh?’ Paddy grinned, ‘Oh aye, widnae miss that.’
It was a bright August day and warm wind blew through the Wine Alley as Paddy and Dessie headed for the area where they knew scores of buses carrying fans to the Rangers v Celtic match would be parking. It was 20 minutes before kick-off but already the long line of early arriving Rangers coaches were empty apart from the odd snoozing driver. Stealing from the buses was something of a sport among the street urchins in the Wine Alley although most didn’t touch buses of supporters who followed their team. Paddy and Dessie, being Celtic mad, targeted Rangers buses only. They scanned the big double-deckers first as they had an opening at the rear with no door and were easy to access. Paddy checked that the driver was snoring away and nodded to Dessie who slipped stealthily on board and began scanning the seats with an experienced eye for anything of value. He then quietly headed upstairs for a look around and after a minute or so appeared with a folded dark overcoat and a polished, wooden Rangers Supporters Club shield. ‘This’ll fit my Da, I’ll tell him I found it,’ he said nodding towards the coat, ‘and this is going in the Clyde,’ he said looking at the elaborately decorated shield with its Rangers crest and odd depiction of a man on a white horse. The ill-gotten gains were hidden in the hedge of an empty house for later retrieval. They moved onto the next bus and Paddy sneaked on as Dessie kept watch. In just a few seconds Paddy flew of the bus with something up his jumper. Dessie excitedly followed him into a close, ‘Wit did ye get?’ Paddy reached under his jumper and produced a half bottle of whisky. ‘Whoa!’ said Dessie, ‘That stuff is pure fire water by the way!’ This turn of events made them abandon their piracy for the day and head for the distant roar of Ibrox as the game would begin soon.
As they neared the Broomloan Road they heard the wail of a Police siren and watched as a crowd in Celtic colours passed chanting loudly, ‘Govan Team, Govan Team OK!’ Paddy spotted his older brother Paul in among the chanting crowd but said nothing. If he was honest with himself, he didn’t really like Paul who was six years older than him and bullied him a bit. There was an excitement in the air as the crowd neared the stadium, Paddy patted his jumper under which the whisky was hidden, ‘We selling this or dae ye fancy drinking it?’ Dessie shook his head, ‘Selling it mate, that stuff wid kill ye and besides we'd both get get a slappin' aff wur Da's if we drank whisky!’ They scanned the crowds around the turnstiles at the Celtic end. Experience had taught them that trying to sell it to the wrong type only meant you’d get a slap and it taken off you. Paddy soon spotted a likely customer and nodded to Dessie, ‘There’s yer man.’ The man in his thirties and smartly dressed looked a little the worse for drink. ‘Here Mister, sell ye a hauf bottle fur a pound?’ Dessie said. The man stopped and regarded the two boys, ‘Hauf bottle of whit?’ Dessie went on in a confident voice, ‘Whisky, saving ye at least ten bob.’ The man demanded to see the Whiskey and check that the seal wasn’t broken on it. To the boys’ joy he nodded 'deal' and handed over a crisp pound note. They grinned at each other knowing that the money would buy them their fill of sweets and chips that weekend. The day was going well.
They headed for the turnstiles at the Celtic end and picked out a couple of strong looking men. Paddy approached the taller of the two, who it transpired was a visiting Irish fan; ‘Any chance of a lift big man?’ The big man smiled at him, ‘Aye no problem young fella, come on,’ he replied in a strong Donegal accent. A few minutes later the two friends had been lifted over the turnstile and were heading down the stairs of the already packed Celtic end to a spot near the front. Ibrox was seething with over 72,000 singing fans determined to roar their respective team to victory. The first half was a grim battle of attrition with little decent football played. Dalglish and Jimmy Johnstone showed flashes of their class but the tough tackling and frenetic pace of the game left both sets of players and fans exhausted as half time arrived. Dessie and Paddy knew Celtic would be shooting towards the Celtic fans in the second half and looked forward to seeing if Stein’s team could break through the Rangers defence.
Every game has its key moments and in 4 second half minutes Celtic broke their great rivals. First after 67 minutes Johnstone shot through a packed penalty box into the Rangers net. Half of the great bowl of Ibrox exploded and Dessie and Paddy roared their heads off. Then came the clincher: Hughes was chopped down in the box and the Referee pointed to the spot without hesitation. To the astonishment of the Celtic support Captain Billy McNeil sent youngster Kenny Dalglish forward to take the kick. The 19 year old rookie stopped to tie his laces as 72,000 watched to see if he had the nerve to seize the moment. If Dalglish was nervous it didn't show. Young Dessie Bradley subconsciously wrapped his arm over the shoulders his friend, gripping his jumper. The blonde young striker began his run up towards the ball, the Celtic end held its breath as he struck it cleanly to the keepers left and into the bottom corner of the net. For the second time that bright afternoon the huge Celtic support erupted.
Lost among that joyous crowd were two young lads from the Wine Alley taking their first steps in following the Celts. The joy around them was infectious. They had watched their team win and win well, they had a pound in their pocket, a smile on their faces and life was good.