“GIRLS chalked the pavements with peever beds and boys played football on any spare ground they could find - we played on a hill between Oak Street and Guest Street and the cry went up by the winner after the toss, ‘we’ll kick up hill in the first half…”

John Keeman grew up on the streets of Anderston, ‘in the shadow of the crane’ – the towering Finnieston landmark which still stands as a reminder of the city’s shipbuilding heyday.

In the Shadow of the Crane: A Life in Short Stories and Tall Tales is the title of John’s latest book, a moving and funny memoir which is bound to strike a chord with many Times Past readers.

Glasgow Times:

“It took me a long time to decide to write an autobiography,” explains John in the introduction to his book, which lays bare a Glasgow childhood, warts and all, long before gentrification. “I thought such writings were restricted to the rich and famous...but having flicked through some tomes written by so-called celebrities, I figured my life, and that of any other human being, is just as important to record as theirs.”

The 76-year-old, who started writing after a period of depression in his early 30s, wrote a novel called The Italian Connection five years ago, based on the real-life wartime memories of a friend’s father.

John was born in his great aunt Margaret’s house on Finnieston Street, to Jean and John Keeman.

Glasgow Times:

“My mother, a small woman with a glass eye and a ferocious temper, was an unemployed tearoom waitress and my dad worked at a railway yard in the Gallowgate,” he writes. “The first house I can remember living in was another single-end at 25 Oak Street. That house was on the third floor of a tenement and I remember it had a fireplace, a cavity bed, a sink, a cupboard and little else.

“The single-end dwellings were single rooms with no bath or toilet. They were designed for occupation by two adults and at the most two children under twelve. In reality much larger families occupied these hovels. Ours was a depressing house, in a depressing area, in a depressing society.”

Glasgow Times:

The book is an insightful look at the effects of the changing political landscape on the city and its people, and it pulls no punches about the negative aspects of life in Glasgow at that time. It is affectionate too, however, as John recalls happier times.

“The same piece of land was used for sleds, made of Bilsland’s bread boards when it snowed and bonfires on November 5,” he recalls. “On one such night a couple of my pals found some bullets in an old office next to the Hydepark Street stables and threw them in the fire. When they got very hot they went off with a bang but amazingly nobody was hurt.”

Glasgow Times:

Food was very different back then, recalls John.

“Cabbage and potatoes are the only vegetables I can recall,” he says. “These were generally accompanied by the ham from ham ribs or pig’s feet, which were really revolting things to look at on a plate with the hairs still visible on the burned black skin - and eggs came in a tin....”

In the Shadow of the Crane by John Keeman (Ringwood Publishing) will be released later this year.