A graveyard does not scare Fearless Francis
Tucked in between a tenement building and Saint Mary’s Chapel Priests House in Abercromby Street was an old graveyard. It had been many a long year since its last occupant was laid to rest there and finally it ended up as a football pitch for Saint Mary’s Primary School. Now, even that school has gone, famous for having its playground on the roof, where children were forced to play in all sorts of weather at break time.
St Mary’s Church Hall was even more famous. It was here on the 6th of November 1887 that Brother Walfrid, a Marist Priest constituted the Glasgow Celtic Football Club (although Celtic FC proudly proclaim on their emblem that it was in 1888).
The old graveyard was a fascinating place for wee boy in the 1950s, it provided a place to play games - during the day that is. They used to play hide and seek among the gravestones and monuments and sometimes they were brave enough to hide in the open ditches that they didn’t realise at the time were probably robbed graves.
This was a great place for the fertile imagination of Francis, a wee boy living in a fantasy world when on his own. He and his pals often visited the graveyard during the da, and latterly when it grew dark. So the graveyard held no fears for Fearless Francis.
It wasn’t a big graveyard, square in shape with a path that formed a circle around its centre. What was unique about this graveyard was the strange sounds that came from it. Every noise became an echo due to the sound bouncing off the Priests House on one side, and the tenement on the other. Francis realised that if he hid in a certain spot then screamed, the echoing crescendo would make susceptible victims ‘cough their botty’, in other words - give them a quick cure for constipation. He may have been guilty of mentally scarring many a wee boy or girl for life with his Graveyard Game.
It all starts with Francis regaling his pals with stories of ghosts in the graveyard and how it wasn’t safe to walk in through one gate and walk out through the other without hearing the screams of dead souls, angry that the walker had woken them up. He would go into great detail about what would happen to someone who didn’t move fast enough through the graveyard to the other end.
There was always some wee boy who didn’t believe him, so Francis would challenge the unbeliever to walk through the graveyard when it was dark and Francis’s pals would escort him to the gate and make sure that he walked, not ran, down the short path that leads to another gate at the bottom, on his own, the pals watching him from the safety of the gate. Francis would make an excuse that he couldn’t be there that night because he had to visit relatives.
One particular day, Francis hooked a wee ‘hard man’ for his Graveyard Game. The wee hard man (age nine) listened to the ghost story and said it was a load of mince. He called Francis a liar and said that he wasn’t feart of walking through the graveyard. So they agreed he would do the walk at 6pm that night in front of witnesses. Being November, it would be very dark - perfect for the Graveyard Game. As usual, Francis couldn’t make it but said his pals would tell him later if the wee hard man made it through the graveyard to the other end.
That evening, at just about quarter to six, Francis peeked out the kitchen window and could see his pals set off with his victim, heading towards Forbes Street. He left the house, taking a different route and raced on ahead, reaching the graveyard five minutes before they did.
It was a cold, wet night. The street lights in Abercromby Street cast an eerie amber glow across the graveyard. At the bottom of the graveyard was the primary school and there was a lamp set in its wall - this too, gave off a strange light, enabling Francis to see the face of anyone who dared walk through the path toward the school. The moon helped to create the atmosphere too, adding a more eerie atmosphere.
He settled down in his favourite spot - a ditch behind a large monument where he could see anyone walking down the path, but they could not see him. He lay in wait.
He could hear voices at the Abercromby Street end of the graveyard, so he prepared himself. He could see the victim clearly. The boy was trying to swagger down the path, his shoulders swinging to and fro in the gallus style. But his face told a different story. He looked straight ahead, concentrating on the exit and although Francis could not clearly see his eyes, he saw his face - and the boy looked terrified. But, give him his due, the wee hard man walked slowly and determinedly towards the gate.
It was time for Francis to strike. He was just about to let out a blood-curdling scream - when two cold clammy hands grasped his shoulders from behind.
“WHO DARES DISTURB MY SLUMBER?!”, a deep male voice boomed, sending echoes across the graveyard, chilling the very air. Francis let out a REAL blood-curdling scream and flew out of that ditch faster than a curry fart. Clambering over the gravestones, he tripped and sprained his ankle, landing on his backside, his eyes nearly popping out of his head in fear.
The graveyard echoed to the sounds of his pals' laughter - they had set him up and only Francis and his intended victim didn’t know that one of his pals' big cousins had went into the graveyard minutes before him and was told where to hide when Francis came in. His pals' laughter seemed to last for ages, reverberating off the walls, seeming to get louder and louder. Finally, they left Francis, still sitting on his backside, still very stunned.
Luckily, he had finally mastered the art of bladder control, but the other end was decidedly dodgy. He sitting on a damp patch of grass, or was he?
He got up, relieved to find that it was definitely only wet grass. But his left ankle was very sore and swollen and he hobbled down the path in the graveyard. He knew he would never live this down and that he’d be the butt of jokes for a very long time.
But he had a more pressing problem.
He estimated that it would take him at least fifteen minutes to reach Cubie Street at this speed (very slow). Unfortunately he had a liberal amount of mince and totties for his dinner earlier - and mince had a habit of wanting to leave him in a hurry. He felt the familiar deep rumblings from his lower regions and knew that his troubles weren’t over yet.
After hanging his botty over an old open grave for a while, he thought it safe to make his way home as fast as his swollen ankle would let him, praying that the outside toilet was working and unoccupied when he got there.
That was the last time Francis played the Graveyard Game.
© Wishart Frankfield
- The owner of this video may not be aware that the derelict football pitch was originally a graveyard. St Mary’s Primary School at the other end of the football pitch was closed in 1990 and demolished soon after.
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