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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dom Joly owns a pig. That thinks it's a dog.  

I'll bow out. Let Wilbur, the pig that thinks it's a dog, bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'