Home from the age of 16 was a shared tenement building on the rough side of the world infamous Gorbals district of Glasgow. Well it could be said that there wasn’t really a good side to the Gorbals district, except the community and neighbourly spirit. The tenement flat had two bedrooms, kitchen and a lounge, which was shared with a three other lads, like me new apprentices at the big John Browns shipyard on the Clyde.
John Browns was famous for building big ocean liners for Cunard, the previous summer saw the launching of the Queen Elizabeth II which had so many disasters on its trial voyages with its turbines. The like of us apprentices were assigned to the smaller boats, which were the real stable work of the yard.
We were all between 16 and 18 years old and well on the way to being fully paid up thugs with most of us “known” to the police. Short hair was the norm amongst the apprentices, although not all of them were skinheads, the team I worked with mostly were like me with a number 1 and an attitude. Being Protestants we supported Rangers and their matches were the main event of a Saturday afternoon in season. Work was a 45-hour week spread over five and a half days. Saturday morning started at 6 and, if there wasn’t any overtime we knocked off by about 11. The afternoon consisted of either heading off to the football match with the potential for some violence or down to the pub for the rest of the day.
I can’t have done much work that Saturday morning ’cause the previous evening was still banging like a power rivet hammer around and around in my skull. A fucking good wake for a mate who had taken his bike beyond the limits of its engineering and hit the bridge on the bypass. The whisky and the Guinness had flowed well into the night and most were in as bad a shape as I was, or worse, several not showing their faces at all. Getting up was not good, but I got through the morning somehow. We were working on a medium sized fishing boat which had been launched the precious month and had much of the metal fitting out still to be done. The eleven o’clock siren sounded and I sat down in the spring sunshine on the stern deck for my sarnies and tea.
Sleep overtook me and I woke up mid-afternoon with the sun shining down, a gentle cool sea breeze and the deadly quite of a big industrial yard when nothing is happening. But it didn’t feel quite right. The hull was swaying slightly, but as the wind was from the sea onto the bow, the movement was not caused by the wind. All that sounds very logical thinking, but it was more an instinct that all those who have worked on the sea will understand. My watch suggested that it was a little after half past three and the hull should have been empty, unless others like me had fallen asleep.
I shoved the remains of my lunch and flask onto the top of my tool bag, rigged it over my shoulders and with hard hat in hand, headed off down the ladders towards the midships quay level and the gangplank. The hull was still swaying gently, so there was definitely someone else around, probably two I thought. Just before stepping onto the plank I heard what sounded like a muffled scream. Someone in trouble and needing help was my first thought, so I dump the tool bag and hat near the plank and decide to go look see.
Having heard the sound once I heard it again and it seemed to be from the bow end of the hull and higher up than I was. So up a couple of deck ladders, the steps and stairs weren’t fitted yet, and a slow walk forward trying to move quietly enough so as I could still hear the noises. It was definitely a muffled screaming sound, each scream preceded by a sharp striking sound. About five minutes later I found myself just outside the chain locker — this is a triangular room close to the top and front of the bow in which the anchor chain would be stored when raised or under way. The room has a small hatch door about 4 feet high into a space about 20 feet along the hull side, with almost no floor, but a long sloping side of the inside of the hull.
So there I am standing like a prick outside this locker room, sounds that didn’t make sense cause it didn’t sound like someone in serious trouble calling for help. What to do? After a few minutes I decided that I had to know what was really going on, that I couldn’t, well didn’t want to walk away, so … I grabbed the lever and opened the locker door. There was a sudden surprised silence, some laboured breathing and a sight that I will never forget. Bill and Jimmy, two apprentice lads from my team, spread out on the sloping side of the locker room, arms up and legs down in a star shape with chain holding them and tack welded onto the hull. Their backs were stripped and seriously coloured with bruises. A gas welding barrow was in the corner and two charge hands standing looking very threateningly at what had just interrupted their afternoon fun.
One of the charges, Michael, had been driving my team the week before and he remembered my face and the tattoo that I had done that week on my shoulder — a pair of badgers coming out of their hole. “What the fucking are you doing here you little scrote?” I was at a loss for an answer, so fear kept my mouth shut for once, and probably saved me from a serious instant injury. The other charge, Iain, grabbed me by my jeans belt and hauled me into the locker, shoved me down in the corner next to the welding barrow and told me to “keep quiet don’t move a fucking muscle.” In an instant I was forgotten, both resuming what they had obviously been doing before I opened the hatch: beating Bill and Jimmy with a heavy belt and a lump of wood and odd kicks aimed at their balls.
I crouched and watched, my head full of questions and crazy thoughts. How would anyone do this to a workmate? How had these two got the better of Bill and Jimmy long enough to overpower them and nail them down? What was happening to my prick? It was getting hard and I didn’t know why. Bill and Jimmy must have agreed to this. Why? They had never said anything about this before. Suddenly there’s a flood of piss from Bill, down his jeans and onto the floor, heading for just where I was sitting. Mick turned and said quietly but with menace, “don’t even think of moving.” Bill’s piss headed on and soaked into my jeans. The smell was making by prick harder still.
Just after Bill lost control Mick stopped beating him, lit the torch detaching the chains which had held his legs and helped him down off the sloping side. Bill collapsed into what was left of his own piss. He was not in good shape and clearly couldn’t support his own weight. There were some serious looking bruises all over his back including some broken skin and a little dried blood. I was hauled to my feet again, this time by Mick, then Iain turns around so that both the charges are staring at me. In a normal conversational tone Iain explains my position: I have had the misfortune to interrupt where I was not expected — no fault on my part but still awkward — there are two choices on offer. I can go round to the pub with all four of them for the rest of the day, get pissed and forget everything I have seen and forget the last half hour of my life entirely and never, never open a chain locker on a Saturday afternoon again. Or I can have some of the same “fun” that Bill and Jimmy are having and then go to the pub.
The pub bit seemed OK, I could certainly use a couple of whiskys. But as to the fun my brain is still turning summersaults and just then my stomach joins in. Suddenly Micky smiles and says to Iain “I think we have another player here mate, just take a feel of this” whilst grabbing my prick and squeezing by balls at the same time. I decide that playing along with is probably safer than expecting them to trust my silence and forgetfulness. I move very slightly towards the position that Bill was held in. Mick notices instantly and forces me against the wall saying that for this first time he’ll leave my clothes on, next time would be without jeans and bib. Mick with obvious practices easily puts my wrists through the chain loops, pulling them tight. Next come chain loops round my ankles, the other ends of which Mick tack welds back onto the hull side. I am now face against the sloping sides, with only a little movement possible. I try to turn my head round to see what’s coming in time to get a stinging slap across the face from Micky, who has found Bill’s underpants, trodden them in the remains of his piss from the floor and forces these into my mouth saying “you will need something to bite on.”
The first few hits were from Mick’s boot direct onto my bum. Hard but OK. Biting onto the underpants meant that only grunts escaped, and for the first time I swallowed some piss, it tasted slightly sour, but good. Mick was quite slow with his boot, taking time between each hit and keeping an irregular pattern to the timing. The anticipation was as bad as the pain. I lost count, I can’t remember why I was even trying to count in the first place. Another slight pause and someone undid my jeans, my cock and balls were pulled roughly out. The chains on my ankles prevented me from moving my legs together to protect my balls. A weight was attached to my balls increasing the tension on my arms. I tried to move, twisting and stretching but nothing I did gave any relief for my balls. The locker door was opened, Micky and Iain leave without saying a word slamming the locker door after them. Jimmy and I are left hanging, both of us breathing heavily with Bill still on the floor.
Bill whispered hoarsely that they had probably just gone out for a smoke. My arms were getting painful, very painful, it seemed like I had been hanging there for ages, although a small part of my mind kept saying that it wasn’t really that long. Iain returned with my welding helmet, which was immediately put on me and the strap tightened. This ensured that the piss soaked underpants remained in my mouth and restricted head movement and the protective visor removed all vision. Another boot hit, and again, but it must have been Iain as the force was different and more aggressive than with Micky before. I was just getting to coping with the renewed boots when suddenly I was hit across the back with something solid. Both Iain and Micky continued for what seemed like ages. At some stage I began to cry quietly to myself. I hurt all over, arms, legs and balls from the position I was in and all over my bum and back from the beating. Suddenly it all stopped.
Quietly and slowly I was released from the chains, I crumpled into heap on the deck and was left to calm down. I was not wholly aware of what else was going on around me, but having finished with me for the time being both of the charges took notice of Jimmy again. He had been hanging in his chains throughout my ordeal and I thought that he must have been in serious pain from the position alone, little did I know at the time that this was not unusual for either Bill of Jimmy and as I learnt later he was actually OK. Mick laid into Jimmy’s back with a lump of wood used as a paddle for a while and then he was also released in a similar condition to Bill.
Cleaning up time followed: a water hose around the locker, the welding barrow was returned to the station which had been using it earlier in the day, the various bits of chain put back in tool bags and soon the chain locker looked as it did first thing in the morning except for a few slight tack welding marks on the sides, which in a ship of this size would never be noticed. We all sorted ourselves out and retired down to the Apprentice’s Arms for what turned out to be an alcoholic invitation to repeat with differences the following Saturday afternoon. It was the beginning of what turned out to be an amazing good summer.
Metalbond wishes to thank Skinric for the story. To contact Skinric, click here.