My dad the inmate (Part 2)

In the second of his moving series this week, our writer recalls visiting his father in Barlinnie prison

Share

Yesterday I pointed up to that bough of my family tree which, in the late 1980s, found itself creeping over the walls of Glasgow’s Barlinnie prison. As some of you may well be aware, HMP Barlinnie was, and is, an institution about which it is hard to be flippant, humorous or particularly clever, although for the purposes of this piece I shall endeavour to be all three. But I do so not to make light of the jail’s impact on its past or present inmates… and certainly not as regards how it affected my father.

He had been locked up there after being found guilty of a planning role in a campaign of non-violent animal rights direct action against one of the country’s largest practitioners of corporate vivisection. And while I may have utilised the odd custard pie when describing Barlinnie, like so many of this country’s Victorian jails, in reality it is what it is – sad, grotesque and ultimately mundane… and nothing more. Although often a great deal less. And the fact that my father, a former detective sergeant in the same city – and a vegan – managed to walk out of there supported by intact knees says much about his resilience. And, I must admit, my reaction to visiting him there says as much about my lack of same. Although, having said that, as I wrote yesterday, there were – and are – extenuating circumstances, as my relationship with my Dad has always veered from blissful, guffawing delight to the blackest of misery as swiftly as a bi-polar shopping trolley. But that’s another story; one much longer, with an appendix and suggestions for further reading.

My visit to Barlinnie began with a bus journey to the north-east Glasgow suburb of Riddrie and, after that, a moment or two spent gazing nervously up at the jail’s enormous main gate, feeling like a middle class mouse. Once inside, I was searched and put in a waiting room along with a dozen or so other people. There were more women with prams and squabbling toddlers than you might feel comfortable knowing about.

We were then led into a room which was bisected by a wall in which were set a row of grimy windows. Below each pane of safety glass was sited a thin slit, for speaking through (no Hollywood-style phones on the wall… and I recall this disappointing me a little). Each slit was covered with a thick iron mesh which meant that anything you said or heard was muffled to the point of inaudibility. This led to a situation where both inmate and visitor had to lower their heads so that their mouths or ears were as close to the slit as possible, just to hear or be heard. A memorable and, at the time, incongruously ridiculous consequence was that you spent the entire visit staring at whichever straining eyeball your opposite number was able to use to peek over the window sill while they either spoke to you or listened to what you said.

I walked along the row of windows, looking for my Dad and, about halfway along, there he was, smiling at me. “Alright, kid?” I smiled back. He looked thinner than I had ever seen him.

Tomorrow… a conversation with my father the inmate.

Twitter: @DonaldAMacInnes

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

School Administrator

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Long term SIMS School Administr...

Nursery assistants required across Cambridgeshire

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

SEN 1:1 Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified teache...

SEN Teachers and Support Staff

£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Scottish referendum: The people of my country have brought a catastrophe upon themselves by voting No

Simon Brooke
Young voters leave a polling station in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh  

Scottish referendum results: The independence question is resolved for a generation at least

Douglas Alexander
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week