It was past eleven on a Saturday night in middle-to-late 60s Elgin. Fats Vernal, Ally B, Famous Alex and myself had been up at the Brae. The Brae, or Braelossie to give it its full name, was a hotel with a bar where they didn’t ask if you were 18, which was convenient as none of us were.
On the way back into town, Fats suggested going to the bakers. I suppose that’s one reason why he ended up with that nickname.
The bakers on the high street stayed open all night in those days, and you could buy freshly baked rolls, butteries and pastries.
Anyway, for late-night snacks you had to go through the shop and along a narrow corridor into the actual bakery. The smell as you did so was fantastic. Single file we went, Famous first, me next. Famous had no sooner emerged into the bakery when two bakers in white outfits jumped into the corridor with very worried looks on their faces and in no uncertain terms ushered me back, forcing me to bump into Fats and Ally B as all five of us retreated towards the shop. There were loud noises of some sort of fracas coming from the bakery where Famous was now stranded, and from where the bakers had just escaped. I had no idea what was going on, but it sounded like a fight.
It turned out that what had actually happened was that as soon as Famous had stepped into the bakery he’d been slugged. Famous was a bit like that – if anyone was going to get randomly beaten up, it was always Famous, for reasons no-one could understand, as he wasn’t vicious in any way and never looked for trouble himself. There had been some sort of argument in the moments before my group had entered the shop, one baker had already been attacked and the other two were obviously slightly relieved that it wasn’t them currently on the receiving end. Famous was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, which, as I’ve pointed out, happened to him quite a lot.
So, once we’d all figured out what was happening, myself, Fats and Ally B made our way back down the corridor. Famous was by this time trying to get out of a headlock. A big, drunken grizzled bugger with a very wild face and short-cropped hair was doing the damage. A third baker was backed up against the far wall, trying to look invisible.
I went into the bakery and moved to one side to let Fats and Ally B in as well, only to look round and see them hightail it back down the corridor and out of the shop.
“Can ye see ma tooth, Rodz? It flew out over there, I think.” Famous asked, his head now pinned on the floor by the grizzled bugger, a thin trickle of blood coming from his mouth. Famous had quickly realised that his opponent was way too big and strong for him to gain any sort of advantage, or indeed for him to want to fight back with much enthusiasm, and in any case, conversation is always a good idea in such situations as it gives you time to figure out what to do next. Thirdly, he wasn’t in much of a position to do anything else.
I suddenly thought to myself, “Why doesn’t someone do something?” only to realise that I was the only someone available, and that wasn’t enough. “I’ll be back in a minute” I told Famous in as encouraging a sort of way as I could muster, whilst noticing his face reddening by the second as his assailant tightened the grip on his neck and poked his eye.
I ran back through the shop and out onto the pavement, where Fats and Ally were near wetting themselves. “What the feck are you doing? Let’s go back and help Famous?” I urged.
“No way!” they answered in unison.
“What the feck! We’re the front row of the First XV school rugby team [which was true], if we all go in together, we can surely take the bugger down.”
“Not him.” they replied, “That’s Black Eck in there!! He only got out of prison last week. He’ll kill us all.”
Strewth, I thought, as I watched them back up further along the road. Well, I couldn’t leave Famous to his fate alone and I had to go back into the bakery, I reckoned, and I did, following someone else who’d just entered – a ginger-haired chap, who didn’t know what was happening within or what was about to happen to himself.
So, the ginger had no sooner gone through to the back room when Black Eck released Famous from his grip and lurched at the new arrival, dunting him with his heid and laying him out on the floor, where Famous was now groping his way around, looking for his tooth.
I was rather hoping that his search would keep Famous occupied for a while, and take his mind off suggesting that I too entered the physical fray, when I noticed that two of the bakers’ long-bladed knives that they used to cut up dough were on a shelf and within easy reach of Black Eck. Fortunately, he didn’t see them, and instead went back to pummeling the ginger, who had stood up and was now attempting to defend himself without a great deal of effect.
The baker who’d been at the back of the room, who I now noticed sported a black eye, squeezed his way along the wall and then demanded that I stand between Black Eck and himself whilst he phoned for the police. Relieved at having something positive to do, I did this, with little expectation that I’d be much of an effective barrier if Black Eck chose to attack the baker for a second time.
At this point, Black Eck came towards me, and I reckoned – well, this is that. But he didn’t hit me. He just stood there, looking (and drooling a bit). There must be something about me which is different to Famous in that I’ve never been randomly attacked. I’m not big (though I was as puffed up as much as is humanly possible at that exact moment).
I was desperately trying to think of something even vaguely relevant and hopefully distracting to say to Black Eck when, simultaneously, Famous and the ginger jumped on top of him. But Black Eck was very strong, and he gripped both of them, this time, in headlocks, and used his knees to dunt them, in turn. The three of them went tumbling onto the floor of the bakery, but Black Eck was definitely doing more damage than he was receiving.
I thought – “Can the three of us take Black Eck?” and immediately calculated probably not, and that five would be a much better bet, so I went back out the front to try and retrieve Fats and Ally. There was no sign of them, but instead a worried looking woman asked me where her boyfriend was. “The ginger? He’s inside, fighting Black Eck.” I answered, telling the truth.
This turned out to be a mistake, as she went running through to the back of the bakery only to be subsequently laid out by a right from Black Eck, who had now got both Famous and the ginger in the same headlock with his other arm.
Holding both Famous and the ginger, Black Eck then tripped over the semi-prone body of the girlfriend, taking the black-eyed baker and the others with him.
Very fortunately, the baker, Famous, the ginger and the girlfriend all somehow fell on top of Black Eck at the same time. In falling, he also knocked his head on the side of the wall as well. It was difficult to tell how much this affected him, as he had looked glazed right from the start.
This was our big chance. Though drunk, concussed and with six people (Famous, the ginger, the girlfriend, myself and two bakers) trying to hold him down, Black Eck was just about getting to his feet when two polis finally arrived. They saw Black Eck and immediately radioed for more backup.
Famous, after finding his tooth, and myself later went up to the copshop and gave statements. The next day Fats told me he and Ally B wereny going to give a statement as Black Eck knew where they lived. In the event, it didn’t matter, as Black Eck pleaded guilty and was sent down for 9 months, mostly for resisting arrest, 27 previous convictions and for kicking one of the polis in the balls. I bet he regretted that when they came to give him his wake-up call in the cell, the next day.