The McDevits and the Glasgow mafia
The flat in Manor House was a cornucopia of exotic characters. The most exotic of all was the McDevit family. They lived on the floor below us and expanded to take over all three bedsits.
The first to appear was Mr McDevit, a small middle-aged scruffy looking man with shaggy eyebrows and not a lot of personal hygiene. He arrived one night, moved in and established himself into a pattern that he maintained for the duration of his stay. That largely involved sitting on the bench by the park with a bottle of scotch in a brown paper bag. He always, regardless of weather, wore a long tweed overcoat. I later discovered why.
The next to arrive was Mrs McDevit. She was a larger lady with an assertive disposition. It was probably good that Mr McDevit spent most of his life outside the flat because he had been known to raise his voice and I think they might have killed each other.
Shortly after the other bedsits became vacant and various children of assorted ages, from around fourteen to late twenties, began to arrive.
They kept themselves to themselves but were friendly enough if you passed them on the stairs though utterly incomprehensible. Mr McDevit had such a strong Glaswegian accent that it would have been difficult to decipher at the best of times but when you factored in the perpetual slur from the alcohol it became merely a series of guttural sounds.
Shortly after Mr McDevit moved in all the telephone boxes in the area stopped working. This was because they had all been jimmied open. Within the recesses of the overcoat were a number of ‘tools’ one of which was a crowbar. This was deployed on phone boxes in order to replenish the stocks of alcohol. I found it interesting to imagine what the storekeepers thought when he came in to pay for a big bottle of whisky with those old many sided three penny bits.
The rumour soon went round the house that Mr McDevit was on the run. He’d had to flee Glasgow owing to a ‘dispute’ with fellow gang members. I do not know how accurate that might be but future events suggested that there might well have been some truth to it.
They were not there long.
The dry-cleaners across the road was broken into. There was no money so the burglars had stolen all the dry-cleaning.
One of the criminals had dropped an envelope with an address. The police visited the McDevits and discovered mounds of dry cleaning, along with a number of other stolen items. More worryingly they found a cache of guns under the mattresses.
No longer would I hear Mr McDevit’s greeting – ‘Arlriii thun?’ as I walked past the park bench.