Historic Hamilton By Garry L McCallum
Historic HamiltonBy Garry L McCallum 

An old friends story of his former pal Eric.

ERIC CULLEN

The following story was posted on the Beckford Street Primary Page and was written by David Cairns. I have really thought about Re-posting this for a couple of days and I'm sure that it will generate a lot of mixed comments, however, this is a Hamilton story and I would like to share David Cairns story with you all.

I got my first computer about 2000, so I bought some computery user type magazine, and on the cover , there were two internetty type pages causing a bit of a stooshie, one was Google, "now rated better than Ask Jeeves and any other search engines"...the other was Friends Reunited...so I type Google and then type Friends Reunited...and fucken hell !! It was technology gone mad... here was my school..and if I typed in the year..folk I went to school with..Rodney Barbour and Julie Cornish spring to mind...ghosts from a past life... all here.. on this page.. alive !!

Friends Reunited had a page for famous former pupils, there were folk like Dougie Donnelly (wan for the oldies there !) and Craig Broon the manager...but nae Eric Cullen..I got a bit lippy about it on the page, about how poorly his funeral was attended, and I remember Paul Hendry from Quarter, quite rightly, 'pult me up' about it...He said "..We might not have gone to the funeral, but maybe it was because we didn't want to be seen as ghoulish and imposing..maybe we just wanted to mourn respectfully at a distance... it didn't mean we didn't care !"...very true Paul. Point was taken. I went to his funeral because I sat next to him on his and my first day at school in August 1970, at Beckford Street Primary School Hamilton......

" So what are those then ?" ..."WHIT ..THOSE !!"..." Yes, those two round things ".... " TITS !..THOSE ARE TITS...HUV YE NO' SEEN YER MAM'S TITS ?"...and that's how my innocence ended. I sat next to wee Eric Cullen, the seating arrangements must have been alphabetical..and on oor first day at Becky School, with a trigger happy, violent auld boot called Mrs Forrest as our teacher, we counted blocks onto string, got a drink of milk oot the blue and white pyramid tetra-paks....and had tae draw a picture of our mums and da's.

Eric was so small, my mum told me years later, that he actually had a hem up on his blazer. Blond straight hair, cut like a helmet, NHS roon' specs, and grey school flannel shorts...wi' a hem up oan them as well !! We got paper and pencils and were given the task of .." SHUT UP !! NOW DRAW YOUR MUM AND DAD...OR ELSE"...so we set about stick drawing oor parents... when I glanced across at Eric's...both my mam and da' were... em.. 'sticky'..but Eric's Dad was 'sticky'...but his mum was..'boxy'..Eric's mum was quite big..(a Ward Sister at Stonehouse I think)..and in the middle of the big 'box' below the face and curly hair, were two round 'devil's dumplings'..." Aye..my mam's gote tits...has your mam no' ?..she must have..have a look"...so ..as my first day at school ended...I found myself mentally undressing my mother as she walked in the lower school gates...and it was all Eric's fault...we were best friends almost all the way through primary, pals in different classes at secondary, then a gap, then old friends, then my oldest friend..and then..they just become part of you friends like that, don't they ?

He was marked out as 'different' straight away...being so small..through Becky, he was called.."Ecky", "Wee Ecky".."Smout".."Small Fry".."Midget".."Inch High, Private Eye"..and that was when folk were being friendly..he might have been wee but he could mix it..apart from his specs getting broken mair often than not..sometimes with tape holding them the gither..he could fight, swear and spit like the rest of us. He WAS shite at fitba though..he got blooterd in the face with a size 5 Mitre fitba' (AKA a 'WIDOW-MAKER) every time he tried to play...simply because his face was more or less at the same level as any blootered shot..and off the pitch he'd traipse again, greetin', his specs broken in two..again..but he was well known in the school...

He won the bulb competition aboot 4 years in a row, and got in the Hamilton Ady every time. Ye see, we got a scabby bulb..took it hame, stuck it under the bed, forget tae water it, took it back a month later , and presented a three inch high deid daffodil for the bulb show in the toon hall...whereas Eric's Da' was the groundsman at the Teacher Training college..(Noo, posh hooses ca'd 'The Furlongs' and posh Hamilton College)...and he grew thoosands of the bastards in a big greenhoose every year...so Eric got the pick o' the greenhoose... cheating wee shite !!

I used tae go down and stay for a week at the time in the holidays because Eric had two sisters, Janet and Joyce, but no brother tae play with ( He had a brother he never met called David but he died of Leukemia ). Joyce was much older, and Janet was a bit of a honey..my first older 'wummin' thing...but I got over her when she was the School 'Prom' queen (whit did we call them back then..it wisnae 'Prom') in 1978 when she was in third year, and she got to pick a song of her choice at the end of year disco...and we were all screamin' for the Pistols or summin'...but she chose 'Wuthering Heights'...'ck's sake !! We had great fun doon there..his hoose looked ontae the starting line at Hamilton Races. The campus had a swimming pool, a ski slope...we used tae take his terrier doon and hide in the bushes on the golf course and knick the golfers ba's..it was aboot that time he started drama classes on a Saturday morning..Janet his sister, was going, but Eric's mum thought that it could, potentially, be useful to him as he had been diagnosed with achondroplasia..a type of dwarfism...and he was never going to achieve full adult height..show-business..acting.. may just be a career for him in the future..but it turned out, the future was just around the corner..

Eric was cast to play 'Wee Jaikey' in Huntingtower..a BBC adaption of the John Buchan novel. He played the smallest and youngest member of the 'Gorbals Diehards'...a gang on a camping holiday who help to foil some Scooby Doo type shenanigans...he filmed it in term time when we were early in our Hamilton Grammar first year. They broadcast the first episode on a Friday night, when we were supposed tae be at the 2nd Hamilton BBs...(undoubtedly Hamilton's best Boy's Brigade)..but we all dogged BBs tae watch it...I think Eric, with his pay from that show, bought the family a very early design 'Video Recording' machine..Betamax ...(hahaha)...but he recorded it..and I watched it down there at his house as well. I asked him at the time about the other child actors...he said he didnae really get on with them all like it was on screen, but he did like the lad that played 'Napoleon'..a wee lad called Iain Stewart fae East Kilbride (now Dr Iain Stewart that presents rocks and earthquake stuff oan the telly noo). Life changed for Eric .

He was public property after that..we would walk down the bottom cross for Keyboard lessons, and all the Holy Crossers, insteed of battering or chasing us, would rub Eric on the head and say..."Alright Wee Jaikey"...that was the first time that he ever started tae get...a wee bit..well..'posh'. He would stand and look indignant and say.."..for GOODNESS sake !" in a loud haughty voice...and people would kind of know they'd overstepped the mark...at Beckford Street he would tell them tae 'fuck off'.
A paedophile ring got their grips on him at this time. An uncle and another sick cunt called Francis Currans. Eric, who was an adopted child, was told by his uncle that he was going back to 'the home' if he opened his mouth. Eric had a great family. He kept quiet.

He mastered the keyboard and played the organ at the West Church. Showbiz settled down a wee bit. At that time, about 1981 when we were 16, we started going to great parties at Roddy Murray's and Callum Bain's..The parties would would become 'all-nighters'...and as we were too young tae go 'all-night', we'd pretend to my mum that we were camping in the garden.

So me, Eric and Alan Hinshalwood would camp oot...say goodnight, then fuck off oot the back of the tent in Meikle Earnock, and fuck off doon tae Hamilton tae a party. He met and fell in love with a Grammar lassie called Lorna Green at this time...it was unrequited.. he said he was gauny 'jump off the Grammar balcony' if she didnae go oot with him...but she didnae...and he didnae... he was just being..well.. 'dramatic'.. that was his job after all !!

He had a few 'wee' roles in some Scottish Comedy shows, did panto with Ricky Fulton and the like, studied at Motherwell College, went to Glasgow, and did well academically...then Hollywood called..Eric was too tall to play R2D2 in Star Wars, but George Lucas remembered Eric from then, and cast him as the lead in a Ron Howard directed big budget Hollywood movie 'Willow'. After two weeks filming, the initial 'rushes' weren't good...Eric was ironically, still too tall..he was replaced by Warwick Davis.
Eric was then cast as Wee Burney in Rab C Nesbitt. The role that defined him. He did theatre tours and filmed abroad...he made a wee bit of cash
tae..

He moved intae a posh wee cul-de-sac in High Earnock..he got a designer in tae tart the hoose up..if I remember right it cost ten grand for the make-over. The curtains were one long length of material, wrapped roon the curtain pole at the tap, (no' on hooks,) and the material rolled down the side of the windows and reached the floor with a bit extra, purposely billowing across the floor (it was the mid nineties,...gie him a brek)...when his mum was shown around..she said quietly "I think yer curtains could dae wi' a wee hem up son!". His family kept him grounded.

This was when the paedophile gang came back tae bite him. They never let him go. His uncle Jack and Francis Currans appeared at his Earnock home one night. They ordered him to keep a box in his house. Eric put the box in a room in his house. The next day, his house, acting on a tabloid tip-off, was raided by the cops. They found a box. The box had videos of boys being anonymously abused.

The videos were fingerprinted. Eric's prints weren't on any. The street was cordoned off. The rozzers were in in their crime scene suits. The media were camped outside. The quiet cul-de-sac was in uproar. In the midst of this, his neighbour, an older man who had rarely spoken, approached Eric's house, and was permitted by the police, to speak to Eric.He opened the door..the paperazzi camera motors were whirling.." Oh God Mr Burns, ye'd better come in..I'm really sorry about the upheaval...how are the neighbours..are they mad...I can assure you, the papers have it all wrong..it's me that's the victim.."..and Eric told this neighbour about his troubled past...and as he was approaching the end of his life story of abuse, the old boy said, ..."...Eric..can I stop you there,,,you see, I'm in a hurry, and I just came round to ask if I could have a quick lend of your lawnmower...I was eyeing it up last week...and it looks rather lovely..Margaret and I were thinking of buying one"... I remember when he told me that, he couldnae get tae the end withoot greeting...wi' laughter...aww fuck's sake, it was funny man !..

I wrote him an old fashioned letter (on paper with ink on it), when the shit hit the fan and he went into hiding..I have to say, I was like most of Scotland..couldnae believe it, and prepared to believe it , sadly,..cos it said so in the papers.. But my mam phoned at night. She said " I don't believe a word of it..I've known that wee boy since he was 5, there's not a bad bone in him...when your dad took his stroke...who was first at the door after school?...Eric !..fucken papers...it's lies." I never heard my mum swear like that. That gave me the courage and belief to write. I told him, that his mates were behind him. He phoned. My son was born then, so we went down to Hamilton, and I went over one night, we drank gin and beer and sat around his dining table, with the curtains still withoot the hem up, and he told me how he always had his table set for two. He just wanted someone to share his life with.

We got plastered and talked for hours aboot Beckford Street and the Grammar....about going up tae the County cafe and blawin' oor dinner money in there, insteed of buying something healthy like chips or going to Greasy Mary's at the Grammar...and when we used tae stay at his hoose...and ye could see the mausoleum oot his windae at night...and he'd tell me ghost stories and I'd shite it...and that was the last I saw him. His mum phoned me about three weeks later. She told me he had a twisted bowel, his operation was going to be a big thing, and she wanted me to know. He survived the surgery, but died two days later of a heart attack.

He was a great wee guy. I went to his funeral. I met Lorna Green, and poignantly, Ruth Hay, who has sadly just passed away. We were troubled by the lack of former friends, but Paul Hendry was right. He was funny, articulate...but rough as fuck as well, sensitive, a worrier ( he'd sit right on the edge of his couch so as almost standing..staring into nowhere..biting his nails), generous, a gin-drinking rabble rouser...he once got barred from Disneyland Florida..aye...banned for life..but the newspapers never got that wan... and it stays locked up that story...but it was a cracker), a performer, but a bit unsure of himself, up himself but insecure. Loved his family. Loved by his family.

I know it's easy to criticise and troll this post. But the guy was a victim. And he's passed away. He got two of his abusers locked up, one died in jail..so he goes to heaven in my book. Twenty years since he died. Can't believe it. Forty six years since he told me my mam's got tits. I still can't believe that either.

Written by David Cairns on the Beckford Street Primary Facebook page, 16/07/2016.

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