In 1942 the public toilet for laddies in Glasgow’s Union Station was somewhat unique. The loo, as Englishmen would say, was located in a large basement room that was accessed by a ten-foot wide stairway from the station’s main concourse. There was no door at the top, nor was there a door at the bottom. At about six steps from the bottom the room’s appointments came into view.
In the center of the room were a few urinals arranged around a column that supported the ceiling. Washbasins were on both sides of the stairway. The booths for those who had need for greater privacy occupied the other three walls.
The only other occupants during one September afternoon when I visited were three U.S. Navy sailors. The oldest did not seem any older than my nineteen years. Despite their thirteen-button flap-fly fronts, I expected them to be gone when I headed out. Instead, they were on the lowest steps trying not to be obvious about stalling. One with his hands to his face was smothering a grin. The second was elbowing the ribs of the third who seemed to be examining a wall tile.
Since I was the only other person present I became alert for some kind of mischief. That concern vanished in the next second when I saw a kilted soldier coming down the steps.
The soldier was of medium height, lean, and very swarthy, as if he had just returned to Scotland from Africa. His army-brown jacket showed signs of wear. To say the least, his stern appearance was that of a thirty-year old who was battle hardened. Thus I too paused at the bottom step and pretended to tie a shoelace while I hoped the Glengarry-topped warrior would not enter a booth.
As he noticed us Americans the Scot suddenly became more erect. Just as if bagpipes were skirling that only he could hear he marched the last few steps to the nearest urinal, and then stomped his brogans to attention in the style of the British Army. He then swiveled just his head and looked back at us four mesmerized spectators. His dark face had changed. It now bore a wide grin from which at least three front teeth were missing.
The soldier said something that I didn’t understand because of the toothless pronunciation of his brogue. While laughing the Scotsman reached down, grabbed the front of his kilt and while holding it with both hands proceeded to pee. He could not have been wearing any drawers!
On my way up the steps, with tears of laughter streaming down, I concluded that what he said in effect was, “Weel Yonks, tak a dom guid luk!”
Copyright © 2005 (text only) by Louis D. Chirillo