When I was about twenty my brother fixed us up with a date with a pair of lovely Southern Belles from Georgia – finishing school the lot. They could demonstrate how to get out of a car without showing a leg, drink tea with finesse, walk elegantly; everything you’ve seen in ‘Gone with the Wind’. Beautiful girls but unbelievably posh. I was amazed because we were a pair of hopeless chancers with no prospects – in the toilets I asked him how he’d managed to even get near them.
Apparently, he’d been working at the Minto Hotel on the Southside and this party of about thirty Southern Belles and their chaperone were booked in the hotel. At the same time a wedding was going on in the function room. All the young ladies had gone to their beds early with strict instructions not to mix with the riff raff. My brother was working in one of the bars and got asked to come through to the lounge by the manager. The Manager explained ‘I’ve only lassies behind the bar and its going to kick off.’
My brother came into the function room. Huge wedding going on but apprehension everywhere – the reek of a potential melee hung in the air. Nervous looks, fists clenched on chairs, waitresses quivering with fear. But it was strange. An old lady was singing a mournful Gaelic ballad on the stage. Didn’t look provocative at all. My brother got behind the bar counter and whispered to one of the waitresses ‘What’s all the fuss?’
She replied that it was a wedding between some hard man from Piershill and some Highland girl. It had all been going fine and then naturally, because it was a wedding and the bride’s family were Teutchers, the bride had sung, then the father, then his son, then his uncle and his wife. They were now on about the twentieth interminable Gaelic ballad – those great long. long ballads with sparse melodies – and the hardmen from Piershill – whose patience would have been stretched by a single chorus of ‘Dancing Queen’ – were just on the edge of riot.
At this point, into the room walked the two southern Belles – the brave naughty ones that had sneaked downstairs against instructions – to have a glass of wine. With the grace of Spanish galleons they coasted up to the bar, totally unaware that it was a private function or that the atmosphere was as bleak as Culloden. At exactly the same time a pint of heavy sailed majestically over their heads and smashed against the bar. The whole room broke out into a seething riot. Big Teutchers and nasty hardmen from Piershill. Men women, children, the bride and groom.
My brother rushed out and desperately hustled them behind the bar, pulled the shutters down and hid them under the counter. As they cowered beneath the bar counter amidst the screaming, the blood, the breaking of chairs and the approaching police sirens one of the girls said ‘What’s happening?’
My brother replied ‘ Scottish wedding.’