There was a story from the early 1950s in Glasgow about Sammy; a man who used to play the violin. Sammy didn’t have a home but sometimes a kind soul would let him rest his head on their sofa or in their garden shed.
In those days people used to queue outside the movie theatres awaiting the start of the film, if it was a rainy night – and in Glasgow that was almost a certainty – people were cold and bored and this is where Sammy would find his audience. Up and down the queue he’d play, old ones, new ones, tunes from the War and tunes from the dance halls. Kind folks would throw a penny or two into Sammy’s hat; he’d nod with a thank you and move up the queue. Folks were glad to see old Sammy and it all felt part of their night’s entertainment.
When the building had swallowed up the audience for the last show, Sammy would tip the contents of his hat into his pocket and head off to the Coronation Café for a cup of tea and his first food of the day. On good days he might have a cake to follow. This particular day had been a good day and he’d made seven shillings and three pence. Two shillings of this would go into a box he kept hidden for the days when he didn’t feel too good and couldn’t make it to the cinema.
If he didn’t have anywhere rest his head that evening, Sammy liked nothing better than to sit in the café and talk with friends and strangers – about this and that and everything else in between.
Sammy had lots of favourite topics; one was about God and his place in the universe.
“There can only be two theories on the universe, either there is a God and all of this is a reflection of his personality, or this is a universe without a driver and it is all the more wonderful for that,” Sammy would say with a wicked glint in his eye.
But people didn’t really listen to an old man who played a violin in a cinema queue. I mean, what would someone like that know?
The other things Sammy liked to discuss were his belief that one day soon, “before I die,” he would say, “we will see man walking on the moon.” And the second, a big topic with him, was that television would quickly take over the world.
Friends and strangers would laugh at the outrageous things he said, after all he was an old tramp who knew nothing.
One night, one cold rainy night, when ironically the people were queuing to see Singing In The Rain, Sammy found that the queue was so large there was little room for him to move up and down, so he had to step on to the road and that was when it happened. When the number 59 bus hit Sammy full on.
Some folks thought he had died right there and then, but he’d only bumped his head on the way down and had passed out. Naturally they took him to hospital where he spent several comfortable and warm nights. It even went through Sammy’s head that perhaps he should make jumping in front of a bus a regular occurrence.
A big chief from the bus company came to see Sammy in the hospital probably just to see what the damage was.
“You shouldn’t have been on the road, you understand it was your fault,” said the big chief. But the truth of the matter was that some of the people in the queue said that Sammy had been pushed into the road and that the bus was going too fast, especially on a wet and windy night.
“So taking all factors into account, we have decided to give you this,” said the chief and handed Sammy a cheque for £150. Sammy asked if it was okay to have it in real money instead, as he didn’t have a bank account. The chief sent over his secretary with the money to the hospital the following night.
Between the money that Sammy had in his box and some of the money the bus company gave him, Sammy bought himself a little caravan and a place to put it. For the first time in many years he had a permanent roof over his head and some money to feed himself.
He didn’t waste the cash, instead he bought himself a rather smart suit from Woolworth and on the first night out he wore it, he noticed a big change in people. Folks walking along Argyll Street would say hello to him, or nod or wish him well. After all, he was a smart dressed man and so he had to be one of their own.
He decided to use some of his money and go and watch a concert of classical music in a big hall on Bath Street. It was love at first hearing and when he talked to some of the performers afterwards they suggested that if he loved to play the violin then why didn’t he come along to their rehearsals on a Thursday.
After the first Thursday he attended, Sammy was asked to join the orchestra and this made him happier than he had ever been before.
After practise, the gang, as Sammy called them, would go to a late night café bar and discuss this and that and everything in between. When Sammy told them about his thoughts on the universe and the Moon and television, they sit enthralled listening to this well dressed, talented man with so much genius in his head.
Wasn’t he the cleverest, most talented man they had every met?
bobby stevenson 2017