The heretical Glasgow Chronicler and I follow a lost burn through gangster edgelands, deserted cemeteries and Mossad conspiracies to the old mythical heart of the city.
It seemed a good idea at the time. Follow the course of a forgotten half-mythical burn as it threaded its subterranean way through the sacred and historical heart of Glasgow.
For an exercise in pointlessness, following something that could not be seen, through some of the less charming parts of the city with poor weather promised, the day’s entertainment needed doubled-up insurance. The Glasgow Chronicler (GC) was the man.
GC springs out of an Iain Sinclair novel right-down to the book market dabbling of rare editions. He is a Glasgow street chronicler, writer, publisher, blogger, TV extra, literary correspondent, expert in Scottish politics and a legendary victim of Scottish tabloid vilification. He possesses a vast mind archive of stories, vignettes, witticisms, verses that allows him to quote WH Auden one minute, Abraham Lincoln the next.
As an obituarist he is currently monitoring the health of the last remaining Spanish Civil War veterans. If you are a man of significance, interest or character approaching the end of your rope GC will be lurking in your shadow making notes. He wrote an obituary for my father for a couple of the national newspapers (my father fell into the interest or character category).
GC is both myth and myth-maker, described in The Scotsman as a cold 19th century tramp given a coat by Oscar Wilde. He is a proud heretic of nationalist myths and proclaimed a quisling by the Scottish Daily Mail. He found himself in a media storm when the battle of Bannockburn was omitted from his book, Scotland: 1000 Things You Need to Know. It mattered not that the omission was a pre-print edit blunder, nor that all involved in the book were Scottish, nor that the error was corrected. It was a conspiracy, Scotland was insulted and English infidels were to blame. Worse was to come.
In a radio interview GC cheerfully pillaged the Wallace legacy, pointing out the foul deeds committed by both the English and Scotland’s favourite warrior hero. He skewered the myth-making Scottish nationalism and inaccuracies of the film, Braveheart, and suggested the Wallace Monument should become a Museum of Human Rights and Genocide, portraying the butchery committed by both sides.
Cue more media mayhem, cue more furious mad-dogs frothing with rage.
When GC pointed out that Wallace’s heroic march down south chiefly consisted of wiping out defenceless villages the Scottish Mail decided he was calling Wallace a coward. The Scottish Sun somehow found a picture of GC helpfully dressed in a pink t-shirt and grinning like a village idiot. ‘Dumb-heart’ thundered the headline. That was still not quite his finest moment. GC once gave an interview on women in his life and said if he was born a woman he would most like to be Jane Asher. This was enough for the Scottish Mail. They outed GC as a bizarre transvestite who yearned to dress-up and pretend to be Jane Asher.
The modern day foot solders for the William Wallace legacy still howl with nights terrors at the thought of GC capturing the monument.
During the brief train journey to the outer suburbs he recounted tales of villains in the publications industry, how the very English Terry Thomas once charmed an Edinburgh pub full of hard nuts, linked Calvinist reformation vandalism to the destruction of religious and cultural artefacts by the modern-day Taliban, and outlined how Sunni-Shia sectarianism can find a natural home in Glasgow and its more traditional Christian divides.
As we shuffle out of the charmless Stepps menaced by rain storms from leaden skies, GC related the startling news that an acquaintance had been found guilty of running a brothel in a Dennistoun flat on the evidence of some clearly ungentlemanly spineless punters. The friend protested in court that it was an innocent mistake, she was only the receptionist and merely did the accounts for what she thought were bona fide massage services. It also emerged that the popular star of the brothel was a 61 year old hard of wearing woman who worked under the name ‘Alexis’.
“And how would the family explain this away?” I asked.
“A lovely person who is keeping old ladies in work” he quipped.
We hit the banks of the Hogganfield Loch where an old friend of GC drowned in mysterious circumstances in the early 1980s. George Mitchell was a communist and founder member of the British Anti-Zionist Organisation. The whispers still echo that he was far too good a swimmer to drown in the loch and he was assassinated by Mossad, worried by his anti-Zionist influence. GC believes it was an accident but Mitchell’s death occasionally pops-up on far right conspiracy websites keen to expose the global Jewish conspiracy, and oblivious to the irony of his left-wing leanings. The muted winter brown-grey tones and placid waters of a Glasgow suburban loch seem an unlikely spot for an Israeli secret service hit, then again arcane history has to happen somewhere.
And so we edged towards the source of the Molendinar Burn…