Mrs McGilvery ate children.
Now, you’re probably thinking that I am being over dramatic when I use the word ‘ate’ and that she only despised children or was cruel to them, but please bear with me for a while longer and you will find that I am not one for speaking in metaphors about such a serious matter. Mrs McGilvery ate children, as in, devoured and digested them and it makes my skin crawl to say that young friends of mine were among her victims.
I was nine years old in ‘62 and I lived in Plough Street, just a stone’s throw from the city centre. A short distance maybe, but the wide pavements, cavernous shops and gothic office blocks of the city were a world away from the poverty and squalor of Plough Street and its surrounding maze of streets and courtyards.
It is a fact that within three years of our encounter with Mrs McGilvery, Plough Street, with its never ending rows of brown brick houses, its outside communal lavatories and its Spartan lack of any modern luxury, would be levelled to make way for featureless high rise flats. But the Plough Street Gang knew little, and cared even less, about the city planners’ intentions as we played away that balmy summer.
That was what we called ourselves, the Plough Street Gang, and a bolder little band of nine-year-olds never bloodied their knees or tore holes in the seats of their short, baggy trousers. We terrorised our square quarter mile in the way that only nine-year-olds can and although the grown ups shouted curses at us, I am sure that our devilment brought some relief to an area that otherwise threatened to sink in its own despair.