What's new with Janey
09 June 2007

Remembering the Ragman…

Back in the 1960s in inner city Glasgow we used to have a man who came round the streets with a big horse and cart. He would blow on an old brass horn and all the kids would come running out of their houses and head straight for the Ragman.

His big horse was old and smelly with more flies in its eyes than an African baby but we thought it was awesome as we never got to see a real live horse.
Its matted coat stank yet we would all clamber round to pet it and the big bastard of a horse hated kids and would try to kick us.

The Ragman would take clothes from us and give us in return one of three things.
1. A stretchy elasticised bracelet made from multi coloured panels that usually broke as soon as you stretched it.
2. A bat with an elastic string and ball that always banged you in the eye
3. A blue plastic whistle that startled the horse as soon as you blew it

To us kids though he was a magical man with a horse and we aimed to give him as many clothes as we could find.
We were really poor, so spare clothes were thin on the ground and the Ragman knew the kids were giving away stuff that really wasn’t supposed to be handed over. He would quickly swipe it from you, stuff it into his bag on the cart and let you choose your gift and a quick pet at the horse.

There was a woman up the next close to us who knitted handmade jumpers and cardigans for the community and I really hated the stuff my mammy got off her.

Once she knitted me a muddy brown cardigan with big black wooden buttons. The reason I despised this item was it was really scratchy and very tight, in fact so tight it actually ‘squeaked’ when you raised your arms, I think it was knitted with twine!

The squeaky cardigan made me so uncomfortable I used to throw it off as soon as I got out the house and run around the street in my wee cotton underwear vest. Even if it was cold, the cardigan had to go.
Once when the ragman came I saw my ultimate opportunity to get rid of the offending squeaky top and ripped it off and swapped it for a stretchy bracelet.

My mammy spotted this exchange and came bolting down the stairs and made the Ragman hand it back as she threw the stretchy bracelet back in his face.

I had to wear that bloody annoying cardigan till I finally grew out of it.

I wonder where all the Ragmen went?_