Monday, 14 March 2016

The Lighter Side of Protest

Invited c.2010 to supply anecdotes about the 1960s, a former member of Aberdeen YCND came up with the short compilation of memories below. 

Individuals’ names have been replaced by YC1, YC2 etc. (for Young Comrade/ Young Campaigner).

Sometimes you just had to be there...

Singing on the bus going to a demo, to tune of ‘We Shall Overcome’: ‘Aibirdeen for the Cup – some day...’

YC1 selling anarchist newspaper, singing sotto voce ‘Oh Freedom over me..’ and adding ‘It was raining at the time...’

YC1 going in to Lodge Walk [police station] to be questioned by local CID about some incident: ‘If I’m not out in an hour, call the police.’

YC2 used to denounce British subservience to US policy, saying ‘’We are tied by the balls to America’. Once he was giving the  same speech to the Student Christian Movement at a joint meeting with Students’ CND and caught himself in mid-flow: ‘’We are tied to America by the -- strings of finance!’

A custom arose for a few people to stay over at a comrade’s house at the weekend when his mother was out. One week YC3 was stopped on the way by police and had to empty his pockets, which contained a toothbrush among other things.  ‘I always carry a toothbrush on Fridays,’ he explained (pause, dead-pan) ‘ - Religion.’

Sometimes irrelevant or absurd slogans were frivolously added to the serious ones in the interests of general confusion, such as ‘Restore the Stuart Monarchy’ among the anti-war messages, or SEX alongside SAW (Scots against War) – later rationalised for public consumption as Society for the Extermination of Xenophobia.

Student on a grant, faced with a fine to pay: ‘The state giveth and the state taketh away...’

The Press and Journal (or was it the Evening Express) did a write-up on YCND and the anarchist connection, which YC4 read out with great gusto substituting ‘Aibirdeen’s ‘YC5 and YC3’’ as the subject, in extracts like (adapting a quote from police)  ‘We are interested in all YC5 and YC3’s nocturnal activities...’

Flower power had a certain appeal c1967; there was even an attempt or two to put it into practice by presenting the forces of law and order with assorted specimens (‘Hae a floo’er’), possibly with the dubious (from a peace-and-love point of view) motive of annoying them more than anything.

The fashion for eastern mysticism had some echoes too, notably on a demonstration advertised as ‘Coulport-Come-All-Ye’ (1967? [1966]) which ended up with some desultory chanting of ‘mantras’ after a lot of fairly pointless wandering about the countryside. This episode was satirised in ‘Megaton: the [short-lived]’magazine of Aberdeen YCND’ under the heading ‘Om Sweet Om, or Coulport-Where-Were-Ye’… ’

We (YCND and anarchists) used to meet in the Trades Halls, Adelphi, off Union Street on a Sunday afternoon. One week a couple of lecturers from the university came along, apparently out of curiosity. They were surprised to find how youthful the gathering was, and one of them, a psychologist, offered us  [the anarchists] his cellar as an alternative meeting place (perhaps he wanted to observe us). We tried it but it didn’t really suit, although our standards weren’t high. At one point someone was investigating one of the holes in a wall, and someone else yelled ‘Dinna dae that, it’ll be all full of rats and mingin mice!’

YC5 wending his way homewards after a convivial evening in a student residence, flourishing a stick: ‘Death to lamp-posts!’ ‘Death to Corporation things on wheels!’

YC5 trying to persuade YC4, who was still adhering to the SLL [Socialist Labour League] at the time, to come along to a folk-song event: ‘We’ll sing “Trotsky was a good lad”!’

On the plinth
King Edward’s statue in Union Street was a favourite point for (small) demonstrations and vigils. YCND held a fund-raising fast there for War on Want over Christmas 1965. We wanted to pitch some sort of tent but this wasn’t allowed because it was ‘against the bye-laws to have an erection in the vicinity of King Edward’s statue.’ Later it was the scene of some puir daft Goons-meet-Situationist would-be ‘happenings’… 

1 comment:

  1. Here's another one:
    An evening in 1968 (or possibly '67), two of the youth drop in on a couple of comrades in a flat in Torry, after roaming the streets of Aberdeen for a while.
    In a bout of inspired lunacy, they've invented a new pastime, drain-spotting (people made their own entertainment in those days), involviing observing and comparing the inscriptions on manhole-covers and suchlike normallly unregarded features of the pavements.
    They reckoned it could catch on, promoted with suitable peace-movement-derived musical accompaniment:
    "What have they done to the drain?"
    "There's a hard drain's a-gonna fall"...