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Back court gambling in Gorbals


I've been talking to my dad about his childhood in the Gorbals and he's been telling me about gambling that used to occur in the back courts with occasional 'visits' from the police!  He was also telling me about betting over coins in Malls Mire, Toryglen.  There were two coins and people would bet on the combo face up after they'd been tossed?

Anyone else have any memories of these?

Cheers :)

i worked in the shipyards where they laid out a large tarpaulin for everyone to stand round.they used a piece of stick with five old pennies on it and tossed them in the air they got the shout which was always heads many a mans wages were lost before they got home
Lobey Dosser

Yes bigdan. I can remember lunchtime 'pitch 'n toss' when I was an apprentice working in Barclay Curle's and Fairfields in the '60's. The guys would gather round in a circle and one guy would toss three old pennies in the air from a flat stick. Before they were tossed the guys taking the bets would be shouting "Heads a dollar...Heads a dollar" (5/-) and collecting the bets.....I'm sure they did the same thing in various backyards in Glasgow.

Cheers for sharing.  

It's been great listening to some of his childhood memories.  I've been hearing about the backcourt singers, burning the midges, the leerie and some of the most awful things they used to do to cats!!
Lobey Dosser

Burfi - If you want some real entertainment, ask him about the childhood street games he used to play, like Kick the Can; Free a Leash; Giant Steps & Baby Steps; Kick Door Run Fast; Hunch Cuddy Hunch; Best Fa'; Statues etc. etc.

Pitch and Toss schools seem to have been very popular all through the West of Scotland at one time.  I remember an old guy I worked with in Balloch telling me how he played it as a young man in the inter-war years.  According to him, even at that time, the pot sometimed reached the hundreds - a lot of money in those days.  He also mentioned an individual called "The Belt Man" who swung a belt around his head while the game was in progress - presumably to stop anyone from coming near the pot.

The 'belt man' sounds pretty scary!

Another game with throwing coins was "Moshey" Three small holes about 75mm diameter and about 50mm deep were made in a line in the soil about 2 metres apart with coins being thrown from in front of the first hole moving up to the next hole as you went on. I've got a vague memory on it but that's all. Also stankey with jawries being thrown/ rolled at the small metal plates that accessed the stop cocks to the closes. Plates were rectangular with one half having small holes that the jawries got stuck in.

ChasR wrote:
Another game with throwing coins was "Moshey" Three small holes about 75mm diameter and about 50mm deep were made in a line in the soil about 2 metres apart with coins being thrown from in front of the first hole moving up to the next hole as you went on. I've got a vague memory on it but that's all.

Also known as 'moats' though I dont remember such imperial accuracy with
regards to the holes and how far apart they were.  

I also have no clue what the rules were.

James H

many a time we would listen to hairy mary sing in the backcourt in kingston she got the name as she wore a fur coat while doing her turn

Was that the wee woman who peed where she stood... I remember her raking bins in the toon....

So, it wisnae jist a fur coat she wore - it wis a wet fur coat.

She must've been a well travelled wee wummin, because ah'm sure she sang in the back courts in Garscube Road when ah lived there.  Mebbe Herry Merry wisnae jist wan person, but a franchise like MacDonalds.
Lobey Dosser

Can you imagine the franchisee interview....Sorta like a "Glesca's Got Talent" ?

"─wright, Senga, frae Barmulloch...... Yer no' a bad chanter at a', although Ah thought yer rendition of Annie Laurie lacked a wee bit depth. Ye managed tae hit the high notes though, an' yer mooth organ solo definitely added a touch o' individuality. Ah'm gonnae gie ye a conditional 'Yes' -- provided ye get yirsel' an ankle-length fur coat. That knee-length wan yir wearin' is jist a wee bit too darin' wi'the wellie boots...."


she probably did pee on the spot when she reached the high notes!

I am sure I have seen her in the Possil area

Must be the original Herry Merry's great-grandaughter surely, Norrie? The original would be about 120 by noo.  Ah widnae have thought there was much call for back court singers nooadays, or much profit either come tae that.

She probably used the underground as her means of transport for live dates!

Well, when I heard about the fur coat it rang a bell, she was a wee woman
No subway in Possil  not unless she got off at Cowcaddens  and worked her way up Garscube rd

That's right Norrie and she was a pleasant looking lady always very clean and tidy not like today's performers on the streets she worked for her coins!

my auld man grew up in the gorbals 1930s/40s and told me of crowds of pitch and toss schools meeting at weekends on the cathkin braes to gamble.

Amazing how lots of men's wages went on the toss of three old pennies
Lobey Dosser

Yes, and I also remember there was a guy who would jump forward and actually kick one or more of the pennies as they fell, if they hadn't spun in the air properly. This was to prevent any arguments in case someone was trying to get the coins to land flat, without rotating in mid-air. They always had to spin completely during the "toss".

In the shipyard no one was allowed inside the perimeter of the tarpaulin which was laid down except for the two guys who ran the show when the stakes were high they would lay a bank book in the middle to signify that all bets were covered

I can remember a song about Hairy Mary that was sung in Townhead in 50s & 60s ,its quite rude ,,,so be warned
Hairy Mary from the gallowgate will give your ho** for 2/8
some times a tanner, sometimes a bob,
all depends on the size of your k**b.
classic or whit ????    

Hi Hambone, we sang that in Milton too Forum Index -> Glasgow From The Past
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