Thomas Healy

  • Living Dangerously: Young Offenders in their Own Words by Roger Graef
    HarperCollins, 262 pp, £14.99, January 1993, ISBN 0 00 215967 8

‘Hang down your head, Tom Dooley’ was a hit song in the winter of 1958. If I was hanging mine, it was because I was a caught robber in a remand home named Larchgrove, on the Edinburgh Road, just outside Glasgow. Larchgrove was built on an incline so that as darkness fell you could see the city, a splash of lights. I was 14 then and on the fringes of the gangs. As you often met guys in rival gangs from other parts of Glasgow at Larchgrove, it was essential that you acted tough. Your whole street-future hung on how you bore up. That comes to mind as I remember the song, but mostly I remember the khaki shorts they made you wear. I felt so stupid: when you went for a pee you had either to hitch up the leg or pull down the front, and you wore no underpants. I’m sure this operation was a delight to our keepers. When I think about it now, it surprises me that the place functioned, or malfunctioned, for so long. After my time, there was a sex scandal and the place was closed down.

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