Talking Point, with Ron Harris

Find out what’s on Gazette chief reporter Ron Harris’ mind this week.

YOU get to yon stage in life when you’re feart tae look at the obituary pages o’ the newspapers just in case you see your ain name there.

Mah reputation as a font o’ all knowledge for budding young journalists took a bit o’ a knock several years back when ah advised a new recruit tae the Gazzy tae get intae a morning ritual o’ scouring the pages o’ a certain Glescae paper tae spot ony national stories that might have a local ‘angle’ for us here in sleepy wee Clydesdale.

“Of course,” sayeth the All-Knowing Wan here tae this ignorant child, ”you can miss oot reading the obituary page; there’s never, ever ONYWAN frae oor area or onywan you’ve ever even heard o’ mentioned there. Look and learn, boy; ah’ll show you...”

Wae that, ah flung open the obit page and, weel, you can guess the rest.

Oot the six dear departed featured that day, ah’d interviewed FIVE o’ them in the past.

As for the sixth wan, weel, ah was wance briefly engaged tae her but that, as they say, is anither story.

Onyway, it’s no’ a repeat o’ a similar humiliation but just fear o’ seeing yet another familiar name that now stays mah haund turning tae yon page every morning.

The latest auld character frae mah reporting past tae appear was yon feisty, fearless Lanarkshire businessman Jan Stepek who, near 40 years back, put his natural caution o’ us hacks tae wan side in mah case when discovering wan o’ mah grandfaithers was frae the same part o’ Poland he’d hailed frae.

In the heat o’ the moment, he sometimes lapsed back intae his native tongue, thinking ah wid understaund his every word. The truth was that mah paternal grandfaither, who fled tae Bellshill o’ all places frae a 1900 Russian pogrom, only ever taught me two Polish phrases, wan inquiring where the nearest pub was and the other a request for the Tsar tae do something physically impossible tae himself.

Onyway, Mr Stepek was amang the last o’ a post-war breed o’ immigrants who came here frae distant pairts o’ the world to not only make it in Lanarkshire but make it big-time.

Another recent loss in this category was Yaquib Ali who ran his cash and carry empire frae an office in Hamilton ah was oft summoned tae as a young hack wae the brief, wan-sided phone conversation: “Rhaaaan! (Ron) These b....y cooncillors are trying to baaankrupt me again. It’s just because I won’t bribe the! Come up for a cuppa caaafee and aah’ll tell you aboot it.”

Typically, when the “b....y cooncillors” wance went right over the score, Yaquib organised a mass protest meeting o’ Lanarkshire off-licencees – maist, like him, o’ Asian origin – and introduced me tae the assembled throng wae the charming and ingratiating words: “This is Rhaaan. I know he looks like a murderer but he is actually a verry nice chaaap!”

Ah wance asked Yaquib if, after a’ his years here, he now felt mair Scottish than Pakistani and he responded by asking me what year ah was born.

When ah replied it was 1956, he laughed and exclaimed: “Ah caame here in 1952! I’ve been Scottish four years longer thaan YOU!”