Mercy O Gode
The day’s the international day o the hameless. Hamelessness isnae restrictit tae borders an wilnae be cured by independence.
Gin yir merchin doon the Marketgait in Dundee, Sauchiehall in Glasgae, the Mile in Embra ye’ll see the wee bit middens o auld blankets, pale flesh, trackies. Wiles a dug will sit wi them, wiles they’ll be oan their tod. Wiles sittin up straight, speirin at ye fir cash, wiles cowpit owre, an empty cider bottle ahint them.
Scotland’s hoachin wi these puir buggers wha lost, or mair nor likely never hud, a chaumer tae caa their ain. The day isnae a day tae rehearse the causes, but its aye helpful tae repeat that fowk arnae hameless by their ain deeds alane. Grippit capitalist landlords chargin fowk prices weel aboon whit’s fair. Employers wha wilnae (or cannae) tak the risk tae employ a body just oot the jile. Neebors wha dinnae intervene whin they hear a neebor abusin their pairtner. We aa conspire tae cast oor brither an sisters oot ontae the causeys.
The state has been fechtin agin the issues o hamelessness fir owre feev hunner year. And yet in the lang gait o Scottish history it hasnae been resolved.
James V inventit the “Gaberlunzie” beggars. He gied aa beggars a blue cloak so’s fowk kent they were legitimate. This gied ramblin, doon oan their luck chiels a sortae aura an distinctiveness. Guid King James, as he’s kent yet in Traiveller circles, gied a respectability tae the inevitable an unenviable lifestyle o stravaigin hameless.
Ma Mammy, wha isnae yet saxty year auld, telt us aboot the auld mannie that bade by Carnoustie. He’d biggit a wee bit hoosie oot o sticks an odds an sods, just oan the ootside o toon. Wheniver the bairns’ sheen in ma mither’s family were owre auld, or a wee bit spare cloot or whitever came intae ma granfaithers possession, he’d gie it tae ma mammy an say “awa up an gie this tae the tinker”. The hail toon wid dae the same, an thegither they gied just enough tae keep him in this warld.
He’d ramble in the simmer, an bide intae his ramshackle hoosie in Carnoustie through the winter. He deed there no sae very lang syne. There’s been a sympathy there for them wha suffer. Is that same sympathy still there the day? Ah dinnae think so.
The hameless huvnae ony aura aboot them. They are junkies an jakeys, baith mingin an mankit. They hae nae sangs tae sing, nae wares tae sell door tae door. They are victims o this new Scotland; ane that maks it easier tae get drugs than a job, an whaur accommodation is aye gien tae the highest bidder. A society whaur gin ye dinnae fit the mould yir oot oan yir dowp.
So, oan this, the international dey o the hameless, pit a puckle o pound coins in yir pooch afore ye set aff fae the hoose. Drap a couple intae ilka puir begger’s bunnet that ye pass. Let them ken they arnae forgotten.
J. Derrick McClure reads Mercy o Gode, by Pittendrigh MacGillvray…