A Decent Wee Wummin
My granny had a phrase for folk that gave more than they had the means or the time to. ‘She’s a decent wee wummin, that yin.’
(Occasionally she’d say it about a man).
She didn’t offer this compliment to everyone we met. Few had earned it, but those who did were clearly held in high esteem by my gran, judging by her respectful tone.
It’s a phrase I haven’t heard in a long time. Not since my Granny passed.
I was born and was raised in Bellshill Lanarkshire. The Lanarkshire of the seventies and eighties was a curious mix of affluence- people were paid well at out local steelworks- and deprivation- those same people struggled through periods of industrial action. In 1980 the workers stayed out for fourteen weeks.
That’s fourteen weeks without pay, without means, for working men and women and their families. They took this action out of principle. The hardship they endured in those long weeks foreshadowed the extreme decline and poverty that was to come to the area and its residents after the closure of these works and the loss of so very much from our communities.
During these periods of industrial action, our townspeople, showed those traits and characteristics that I’ll forever associate with the people of my hometown.
Butchers and grocers provided meat and food packages. Local coal merchants gave what they could. Social clubs filled halls with warmth and welcome. People looked after each other, even if that only meant a kind word or an understanding or supportive glance from a friend.
This is the Bellshill I frequently write of and the people I try to show to those few who bother to read my books. Funny people. Kind people. Hard, welcoming, gallus and good people.
In this modern world of Duck-faced selfies, grasping consumerism, and paranoia about our immigrants, it can feel as though those times, and the people who lived in them, are long gone. That the values our people held and demonstrated so readily have vanished forever to be replaced with blinkered self-absorption and hearts as black as our yearly Fridays.
The media feeds us a perpetual loop of doom and an image of ourselves that segregates each of us from the other. We look at each other with scorn and envy. We treat our neighbours with suspicion and mistrust. We fear foreigners when each of us is an immigrant to this little island. Facebook and Twitter seem filled with hate and disdain, cynicism hangs over us daily.
None of this is reality.
The people I populate my stories with, the kindness they exhibit, are not a relic of the past, Good people, decent wee people still exist.
An elderly woman was robbed in Bellshill recently. She lost her belongings at a time when few of us could afford to. Thankfully she seems to have been unhurt… physically.
This kind of incident can happen anywhere, in any town, village or city. People of any ethnicity or means can be mean-spirited enough to prey on those most vulnerable to them.
On Facebook today. A lady named Elaine Lyness Ramsay asked for donations with which she could perhaps replace the woman’s loss.
Elaine has done what I know most of us would like to think we would do… if only we had the time. Elaine put herself in the lady’s shoes. Felt her loss deeply enough that she couldn’t ignore it. She worried about an elderly woman who’d lost her money and a portion of her dignity. Felt how vulnerable the woman must’ve felt. Concerned herself with whether the lady would have money to pay for food, or electricity or heating.
She visited the police station, she found a route to getting any funds raised to the lady involved and she gave people a means to donate. And our people did respond and donate what they could, just as their families did throughout the hard times of the past.
Thanks to Elaine, this lady will know for certain that there are still good people in her town who can’t see someone knocked badly. Who refuse to let someone suffer, or feel alone and uncared for. .
Isn’t that what Christmas is about?
Isn’t that what being from Bellshill means?
Elaine. A Decent wee Wummin.
24th December. Update:
Elaine has to date collected over £600 pounds in cash and stacks of food and goods for the lady.
We can all be incredibly proud of Elaine and those people who donated for this wee wummin.