Scottish Poetry Selection
- Oot The Windae

David Reilly wrote his book "Oot The Windae" to recall Glasgow's east end in the fifties and sixties. It is based on observations and anecdotes about growing up in the days when he was a lad. This poem is the about the popular past-time in those days of sitting, looking out of the window at the world going by. In the days before TV, it was a good way of passing the time - and seeing what was going on. See also The Tramcar of Rhyme.

This poem is reproduced by kind permission. See also the Oot the Windae Web site if you would like to buy the book.


Oot The Windae

Hingin oot the windae and watch the world go by
up a close in Glesga three stories high
Ma and Da and all the weans
oot the windae until it rains
get yourself comfy for the show is free
a couple of biscuits and a wee cup of tea
a coffee for dad laced with scotch
your very original neighbourhood watch

We had a grandstand view from our top floor flat
two to each windae and still room for the cat
the street was alive and a hubbub of noise
children playing games as they didnt have toys
woman chattering at the foot of the close
going ten to the dozen to see who knew most
though men in the street were very scarce
either at work or stuck in their chairs

Regular visitors coming to and fro
each with a purpose with somewhere to go
just like the Green Lady who visited the sick
delivering babies being her favourite trick
it was her who gave me my third little brother
that was four in a row and still room for another
home births were common with minimum fuss
caught out being easier than catching a bus

One welcome visitor was the man from the gas
emptying the meters for the street en masse
hed open the meter with his special key
and emptied its contents for all to see
hed count the money and place in a stack
took what he needed with the rest coming back
these were normally quite prosperous times
but he kept the shillings and returned the dimes

We would wait patiently for the ice cream man
who had just got himself a brand new van
he blew a whistle before they had chimes
unlike the Capocci man of more modern times
a far cry from his three wheeler bike
an ice cream cone any vanilla flavour you like
a wafer or a nougat or an oyster shell
and a loose woodbine he would gladly sell

The tottie man would come selling fruit and veg
delivering to your doorstep anything for an edge
carrots and turnips and Brussel sprouts
new Ayrshire potatoes he proudly shouts
Fifes bananas and oranges and pears
attracting the women down the stairs
and always on a Friday he brought some fish
when I was a child a discriminating dish

When the parish priest made his weekly run
all hell was let loose if you pardon the pun
his very appearance put us all on our toes
and we pray to god hed go past our close
hed visit the sick the elderly and the supposed meek
and those who missed mass the previous week
he had a reputation that would never be beat
the most feared man that ever walked in our street

We looked oot the windae for most of the day
watching the workers the wifies and children at play
we would kneel on a chair with our arms in a fold
as the events of the day would slowly unfold
we were people watchers with thoughts to share
like most in Glasgow that lived up a stair
yes we were observers from dusk to dawn
not like them nosey Parkers with their curtains drawn

Meaning of unusual words:
up a close=the passageway from the street to the apartments
weans=children
woodbine=a brand of cheap cigarette
tottie=potato

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