The 4th of April, 1966 was a warm, sunny Spring day. I got up and had my breakfast – a cup of coffee and two cigarettes – and joined my parents. In those days I had a 50-a-day smoking habit, and I was as skinny as a whippet – 9½ stone or thereabouts. After breakfast my father poured me a whisky “to steady my nerves” but I don’t think I was nervous. In fact he wanted a whisky and needed an excuse to have one. Then I walked up the road to Bathgate Registry Office to be there on time. The office was undergoing renovation, and we literally had to ‘walk the plank’ over the floor joists to get to the inner sanctum.
Jane arrived shortly after me, in a taxi with her parents. It’s expected that the bride will be late to her wedding, but in fact it was my parents who were late – my mother having stopped several times to blether with friends and neighbours.
But the ceremony, such as it was, went ahead, and I handed over the 7/6d for the marriage certificate, after Jane admonished me not to hand over the shilling coins we would need for the gas meter.
In those days it was the custom for the best man to throw a bag of pennies into the street for any passing children, the ‘poor-oot’. The trouble then was that the Registry Office was next door to the public baths, and a double-decker bus full of school children was waiting to take them back to their school. The teachers must have cursed us as the weans dashed off the bus to pick up the pennies.
Then to the Kaimpark Hotel for our wedding meal. Our best man had been taking the photographs, and the film ran out as we got to the hotel. So he opened up the back of the camera to change it, and the sunlight got in. I think he was drunk by then – I know I was. So that’s why we have no wedding photographs.
After the meal, which I can’t remember, my parents took us back to my flat in Glasgow (£4 per week), and while Jane and I relaxed, my mother made up the bed, putting holly leaves between the sheets – as you did in those days. After they’d departed in their 1100, we removed the leaves. The sheets were Bri-Nylon, so we suffered friction burns – we were quite energetic.
It was a happy day, with lots of laughter. I had £10 in my pocket, with a grant cheque two weeks away, so we never had a proper honeymoon, a fact which Jane still casts up to me, 47 years later. But the 7/6d was definitely my best ever investment.