Authors: Jenny Telfer Chaplin
Some half-hour or so later, as Daniel spooned his porridge,
Mammy grinned across at him.
“’Tis a grand day you’re getting for your outing, Danny. So,
you be sure to sup up all that porridge – give you strength to cheer the Queen
and wave your flag for her.”
Daniel, never sure when Mammy was being serious or just
trying to wind him up, put down his spoon with a sigh. Then with all the
superiority of his school-learned knowledge and the confidence of his ten
years, said: “Mammy, it isn’t the Queen herself who’s coming. It’s the Prince
and Princess of Wales. And he’s to open the Eastern Palace with a gold key.”
At this nugget of information, Kate shook her head in
“A gold key, indeed. My, my, and I wonder where they get the
money for such extravagant frivolities? ‘
more like the City Fathers to provide decent houses for its workers. But there,
’tis the way of the world. And nothing the commonality – and Irish scum at that
– can do about it.”
Since young Daniel had no answer to this complex problem of
the hated, wild Irish in overcrowded Glasgow he instead concentrated on
finishing his bowl of porridge. That done, he asked: “Please may I leave the
Permission graciously given by a slight nod from Mammy’s
head, Daniel then went over to the cupboard by the sink. He bent down and,
after extracting the old tomato box of shoe cleaning materials, he got down to
business. A supply of old newspapers was also kept in the box, for quite apart
from its use as protector of Mammy’s clean linoleum, odd bits of newspapers
were used to stuff the toes of thin and shoddy footwear soaked in any one of
Glasgow’s famous downpours.
By the time that not only his boots were mirror-image clean,
but also his unruly mop of hair had been slicked down, and even the back of his
neck washed in honour of the great Royal occasion, Daniel Robert Kinnon was a
joy to behold.
Mammy, one hand on hip, an appraising look in her green
eyes, looked him over from top to toe.
“Yes, Danny Boy, you’ll do. In fact, if the Prince of Wales
himself looks any more handsome ... well, I’m the one that will be fair
Unused to such praise and lacking the necessary élan with
which to deal with such compliments, Danny took refuge in toeing the rag rug
with his booted foot. Kate, who had put out a loving hand with which to pat his
smooth cheek, thought the better of it. Instead, she diverted her hand to
smoothing back a stray lock of her own hair.
‘Yes, Danny Boy, you’re growing up. So I’d better not go
chucking you under the chin or patting you like a baby. That would never do, to
upset your manly pride.’
Knowing all the while that she would have loved to gather
her son up in her arms, Kate ignored the compulsion and instead concentrated on
making him a special piece for his sweet bite which he always enjoyed at his
school playtime. In honour of the Royal occasion today, her own darling Danny
Boy would have, instead of the usual dripping, a taste of Granny’s lemon curd.
As she handed over the newspaper-wrapped pack of thick bread
slices, Kate smiled fondly at her son.
“Now, Danny, have a wonderful time at the Great Exhibition.
And your teacher’s got the money all gathered together to get your class in,
isn’t that right?”
The boy nodded, hardly able to contain his impatience to get
going. However, polite as ever, he answered: “That’s right, Mammy. Mind, we’ve
been paying it up a farthing a week since March. Creepy Connor said it was
cheaper going with the school –
Kate smiled despite herself, but even so, she felt a mild
rebuke to be in order.
“Danny. That’s enough of that Creepy Connor talk. No way
that to speak about your headmaster.”
Daniel pressed his lips together then, lowering his head,
looked up at his beloved Mammy.
“Sorry, Mammy. But you must admit he is a bit creepy the way
he sneaks about with his big
belt in his
hand. Just fair looking for folk to punish.”
“Away with you, cheeky wee rascal that you are. And you’d
better hurry or you’ll get a doubler from his belt for being late.”
At this threat to end all, Daniel was halfway out the door
before his mother stopped him with a restraining hand on his arm.
“No need to take me at my word quite so fast, Danny. Anyway,
you’ve forgotten something.”
He frowned and looked around the kitchen, and finished by
patting his Sunday best jacket pocket to check that his pack of bread and lemon
curd was safely stowed therein. Kate watched this performance then, without a
word, she walked over to the mantelpiece and lifted down the highly-polished
best tea caddy. With eagerly seeking fingers, she scrabbled around the inside
of the caddy. Then, as her fingers closed over something, she withdrew her hand
and again approached her son.
Whatever it was, she kept it in her tightly bunched fist.
Then with a mock-serious expression on her face, she smiled at her adored son.
“Danny. Close your eyes. Then just you hold out your hands.
I’ll give you a creepy Kinnon doubler. See how you like that.”
When Daniel again opened his eyes and looked in wonder at
his upturned palm, a slow smile crept over his face.
“Oh, Mammy, Mammy. Two whole silver
Kate threw back her head and laughed, delighted that the
planned surprise for which she had also been saving at the rate of a farthing a
week had proved so acceptable to Danny. Again, she laughed.
“Of course it’s for you, Danny. To spend at the Exhibition.
And listen, it couldn’t possibly be two half silver
now could it, you daft gowk. Away with you –you can’t keep Royalty waiting. And
mind and use that rag I gave you for a hanky. Would never do to let the Prince
of Wales think that we’re all
in this benighted City – even though we are Irish.”
As she waved her son off from the front-room window, Kate
found herself wondering: ‘ What tales would he have to tell on his return.’
Since she herself had never been to an Exhibition of any
kind, be it international or otherwise, she had no way of knowing, or any
possible conception as to what delights may or may not be awaiting him. But
knowing Daniel, she knew he would be full of it on his return home. Her one
remaining hope was that Pearce would, for once in a lifetime, take time out to
listen to his son. As she turned away from the window, having caught Daniel’s
last cheery wave as he turned the corner, she thought: Ah well, time will tell.
Meantime I’d better see to Hannah and the girls. Can’t stand here day-dreaming
for ever more: much as I’d like to.
When later that same day Daniel arrived home from his visit
to the Exhibition in
Park, from the
bemused expression on his face, it was clear he was still slightly
shell-shocked from the impact of the wonders he had seen. The family was seated
round the kitchen table and with the exception of Hannah who as usual,
understood little or nothing but her own immediate needs, it was to an
enthralled audience that Daniel spoke. Amazingly, even Pearce seemed not only
attentive, but also even somewhat impressed. He allowed the boy to finish
speaking, all the while stroking and smoothing down his handsome black beard.
“Yes. Daniel, I am indeed pleased that you’ve been able to
give us all such a comprehensive report of your visit. Yes, that
was most certainly money well-spent.”
Daniel’s eyes widened as he started to correct Dadda as to
the total amount of money spent. He got no further than: “Oh. but Dadda, I had
– “ when catching a warning look from Mammy, he at once changed tactics, and to
cover his confusion, started coughing and spluttering, as if something had
stuck in his throat.
Kate immediately got to her feet, returning a second later
with a mug of cold water. With a twinkle in her eye and a conspiratorial air
for his eyes alone, she held out the mug, with the tongue-in-cheek words:
“Something go down the wrong way, Danny?”
When he again sufficiently recovered, Daniel resumed
answering the eager questions still being fielded by Jenny and even wee
Isabella whose eyes were out like organ stops in amazement. Much to Daniel’s
enjoyment of the unique situation, even Dadda seemed to be hanging on his every
“But Daniel, is that really true?” Isabella said. “What you
told us about the statue heads – made out of soap?”
Daniel nodded so emphatically that a lock of hair fell over
“Honest, Isabella, it’s true. I swear it. How could I even
make up such a thing? There was a head and shoulder ...”
Here Pearce, ever one to educate his children interposed:
“It’s called a bust, Daniel. Such a carving, no matter of whatever material –
it’s called a bust.”
Daniel digested this fact and went on: “Well, there was a
bust of the Queen, Queen Victoria herself, with a crown on her head. And one
each of the Prince and Princess of Wales. And Robert Burns, and Walter Scott
and David Livingstone. And lots more. Wonderful to see. And all made out of
soap. Now what was it called ... oh yes ... white Windsor Soap.”
From then on, even after tea was well finished, Daniel was
allowed, for once in his life, to hold the centre stage and regale his audience
with wonders untold. There was the gigantic corncob archway with the words
picked out on it; there was a full-size reproduction of a miner’s workplace
with the new marvel of the age – electric lights; there were dozens of ship
models, including that of
, the fantastic
steam yacht recently built for the
of all the
; there was a special Exhibition of the Queen’s
Jubilee presents from all over the world.
“Imagine it,” said Danny, with shining eyes, “eight hundred
presents. Silver boxes, jewels, books, silks and satins, medals, and even
At this revelation, the girls clapped their hands in
delight, as they ooh-ed. and ah-
, all the while
trying to form a mental picture of eight hundred gifts. But such a feat was
beyond them, so it was left to Daniel to go on.
“There’s even a whole Indian Street where you can buy ...”
he cast a sideways glance at Mammy, “... if you’re any money, that is, you can
buy fancy sweeties in lovely tins and even in carved boxes.”
“But not, I hope, carved in Windsor soap, eh, Daniel, my
By this time, the girls were almost hysterical with
laughter, as was Daniel at his father’s rare joke.
“And Dadda, there’s even a switchback railway. Yes, and they’ve
got attendants stationed down below, ready to pick up any articles that get
lost in all the excitement. Isn’t that just grand, Dadda?”
“Mm, Yes, grand perhaps, but not entirely educational. I
rather think we could do without the switchback railway. Never mind, Daniel,
you have certainly used your ears, your eyes and your
all to good effect. I do congratulate you, son.”
At this rare and totally unexpected praise being heaped on
his unsuspecting head, Daniel was momentarily at a loss for words. Then he
decided to press home his advantage for the sake of the common good.
Greatly daring, he ventured: “Dadda, do you think maybe you
could take us all one of the days to see the Exhibition? There’s plenty more
I’d like to see or even get a closer look at. And the girls would love it,
Pearce sat further back in his chair, folded his arms across
his chest and with pursed lips appeared to think deeply before giving his ‘yea’
All the while he was mentally deliberating, the rest of the
family, including a flush-faced Kate, held its collective breath. The only
sounds were the ticking of the clock, the distant clang of a screeching
tramcar, and the sucking sounds from Hannah as she chewed at the fingers of a
long-suffering and somewhat mutilated
At length, Dadda cleared his throat. Never had he had a more
appreciative or expectantly hushed audience. Leaning far back in his chair, he
inserted his thumbs under the topmost part of his waistcoat, and from this
stance of authority, he surveyed his audience.
“Well now, let’s see: a family outing to see for ourselves
the wonders of the Empire and of the world on display at
Again that silence.
“Just one proviso: we leave Hannah with Granny
be too much for
the poor child, what with the crowds, the noise, and the bustle. We do that ...
and yes, I think such a visit would indeed be feasible.”
The girls looked at each other in disbelief, clapped a hand
to mouth and ended by flinging their arms wide and hugging each other.
Daniel got to his feet, walked around the table, and shook
Dadda by the hand.
The summer was going on and as yet, Dadda had not fulfilled
his promise to take the family to
there to see the wonders of the Exhibition. True, he had been on the point of
going towards the end of May, but then the weather had broken and there were
fierce storms, and he decided to leave it until a later date. What further
strengthened his resolve was that there had been reports of a number of leaks
in the Exhibition’s main roof and he decided in his unassailable wisdom that
this would be harmful to Wee Isabella’s somewhat delicate constitution. To
drive home the point, he had even brought back from the Fruit Market a cutting
from one of the newspapers. Under a report of the problems of the leaking roof,
there was a cartoon picture of some Glasgow street urchins standing in front of
the White Windsor display of soap carvings of such notables as Queen Victoria
herself, the Prince Consort, Burns, Scott, and Livingstone. The aptly-worded
caption read: THE GREAT UNWASHED get a free tub at the Exhibition during a