FROM the Sugarolly ‘mountains’ in Cranhill (really, mining slagheaps) that were adventure playgrounds for Glasgow kids in the 50s, to the mysteries and magic of the local graveyard, Tom Laird has captured it all in a new book.

The former carpet-fitter, who was born in 1949 at Stobhill Hospital, and grew up in a single end in Shettleston in the East End with his parents and two sisters Sadie and Ellen, has written a funny and moving memoir called Among the Gravestones.

His vivid description of his home and the local area will undoubtedly spark memories for many Times Past readers.

Glasgow Times: Tom LairdTom Laird (Image: Gordon Terris/Newsquest)

He says: “The house was opposite the old part of the Kirkhouse Inn. [In the living room] facing you were two bed recesses, one of which I would share with my Ma and Da, the other recess my sisters would sleep in.

Glasgow Times: Tom's sisters, Sadie and EllenTom's sisters, Sadie and Ellen (Image: Tom Laird)

“Next to the old inn was Hassard the coalman’s yard that used to be stables where he kept two lorries, as well as renting out some small garages. If I remember right, the building housed about eighteen families. I can remember some of their names - McMahon, McAloon, Travers, Deery, Wilson, Lindsay, and Dempsey whose son was my pal Tommy.”

He adds: “At the back of the building stood two air raid shelters and a washhouse with two outside toilets. Behind them was the old graveyard wall… the weans used to use them as dens.”

Glasgow Times: Tom Laird at the Kirkhouse InnTom Laird at the Kirkhouse Inn (Image: Gordon Terris/Newsquest)

Tom’s dad worked in the ropeworks close to the house.

“If he missed the alarm on the clock that was fast, he could still make his work on time as it was only five minutes’ walk," he says.

Between the side of building and air raid shelter at Shettleston Road was where Tom and his friends had a bonfire on Guy Fawkes Night.

Health and safety concerns were non-existent in those days, of course, he points out.

“These fires were sometimes as high as twelve feet,” he explains. “In the lead up to it the weans would all collect wood and various things to throw on it every year. With it being my birthday, I felt really special and would kid myself they had done it all for me.

“Some bigger kids used to jump over the fire as it started to die down and throw bangers (squibs) at each other. If only the parents knew what their kids got up to when they weren’t there….”

Glasgow Times: Tom LairdTom Laird (Image: Gordon Terris/Newsquest)

Tom also recalls being fascinated by ‘the Gravey’, the old graveyard which lay over the wall from the air raid shelters.

“The kids spent a lot of time here, playing games like hide and seek, tig and kick the can,” he writes. “In the centre of the graveyard was a sort of oval area that was gravel. Here we used to play football. We were only kids and there was no disrespect, it was all very innocent.

“In the summer the parks department used to send out men, and a beautiful big Clydesdale horse with a red and green cart, to cut and collect the grass. They would use scythes to do this. This usually would take two or three days. They couldn’t take all the grass at once, so they would pile it into haystacks.

Glasgow Times: Outside the tenementOutside the tenement (Image: Tom Laird)

“The kids had a field day. We used to jump or somersault off the gravey wall into the haystacks. Sometimes we would have to scatter when the alarm was raised that the polis were coming over the wall….I don’t remember anyone getting caught.”

Tom recalls his mother telling him that the two rectangular boxes at either side of the gates were sentry boxes, to deter any grave robbing.

“She also told me when she was in her teens, she worked as a housekeeper in a property near Gartocher Road near the cemetery, and there would be comings and goings especially at night, by horse driven coaches, with carriage lamps swaying from side to side -  it all was very strange and eerie.”

Tom’s book is full of childhood memories, from stealing apples from big houses in Sandyhills, to following the burn that flowed through the back gardens of Sandyhills and Tollcross all the way to Wellshot Road and Tollcross Park.

“It was like an expedition, fighting your way through the vegetation while trying not to fall in the burn,” he says. “They were happy days, and each day was never the same.”

Among the Gravestones is available to buy online.