For me a highlight of my childhood Christmases was the tradition of "visiting Uncle Dicky". As on one
occasion I saw the said Dicky pretending to smoke a child's liquorish pipe I include him here as an honourary pipeman !
When I was a lad, on Christmas Eve afternoon my mother would always tell me to "go round and get the
presents from Uncle Dicky", her elder brother. He lived in a tenement on the opposite side of Glasgow and we rarely saw him
during the year. The visit would always follow the same course. Dicky (a large man with a luxuriant black beard) would usher
me into his living room saying "Sit ye down laddie" and then leave. After a few minutes an old gramophone would start up playing
an ear-splittingly loud and crackly rendition of "Scotland the Brave" on an old 78 and Dicky would bellow from behind the
door "And now ladies and gentlemen, the dance of the pullets !".
Flinging the door open he would appear, stripped to the waist and wearing a tartan kilt, with two long
sticks of Edinburgh rock (a sugar-based confectionary product) protruding from under his upper lip and with his hands thrust
inside two oven-ready pullets. He looked like nothing so much as a Caledonian walrus ready to go 18 rounds with Joe Louis.
As the music continued he would perform a dance (apparently of his own devising) which involved him hopping uncertainly from
foot to foot while punching the ceiling with his pulleted fists leaving numerous faint greasy circles sparkling in the late
When the dance finished he would put an apple and an orange in a paper bag and wheeze "There's your
gifts laddie, now be off with you !". I left thrilled at such an entertaining spectacle and with no inkling that anything
After many years of "visiting Uncle Dicky", one Summer's day I came upon my mother preparing two small
chickens in the kitchen. I casually commented to her "Are you going to do the dance of the pullets ?". She turned to me with
a troubled look in her eye and said "Uncle Dicky was a postman during the war - it made him go a bit wrong in the head - but
he means no harm". I never saw Uncle Dicky again - he moved to Brighton and we lost touch - but every Yuletide when as a special
treat Mrs.Woodley lets me do the stuffing and I'm up to my elbow in a tasty old bird I'm often reminded of Uncle Dicky's flushed
purple face and I quietly start whistling "Scotland The Brave".