The McFlannels by Helen W. Pryde

There’s next to nothing on the internet about the author Helen W. Pryde, but I did find the above photo on a site called alamy. She seems to have written a lot of radio screenplays for the BBC and I’m not sure if the McFlannel books which were originally radio plays account for all of her writing.

I was really chuffed to get two of the books (4 and 5) in a charity shop, just as I had almost given up hope and had decided to trawl the internet for them. Of course I managed to buy book 3 when we were up at Fort William with Peggy and Evee in May.

The series comprises of:
1. The First Book of the McFlannels
2. The McFlannels See It Through
3. McFlannels United
4. McFlannel Family Affairs
5. Maisie McFlannel’s Romance

After Peggy left to go back to the US I just binged on books 3, 4 and 5 devouring them one after the other. When they were published, from 1947 on I think these books were seen as just a bit of light reading, a good laugh. Nowadays though they’re a real window into the social history of mainly Glasgow, with occasional days away into Edinburgh – or as we say in Glasgow – capital punishment!

These books are written mainly in plain English but father McFlannel, in the shape of Willie speaks with such a broad Glaswegian dialect that his wife and daughters are permanently embarrassed by him and despite years of attempting to train him up to be more genteel, none of it rubs off on him. Which is just as well as he is the best character in the books and holds his own with the posher members of society, who tend to be called McSatin or McSilk as almost all the surnames in the books are types of cloth appropriate to the characters, such as the McTweeds being a bit coarse and the minister is Mr McCrepe.

As I haven’t lived in the west of Scotland for donkey’s years now I’m wondering if all the pithy ways of expressing yourself have gone. Do people who think they are better than other folk (like a Scottish Hyacinth Bucket equivalent) still talk ‘pan loaf’ meaning a put on posh accent. Somehow I doubt it, which is a bit of a shame because it was amusing when you had dealings with people like that. Thankfully if you want to re-visit those days then you can through the McFlannel books, if you can get a hold of them.

I read these books as part of the Read Scotland 2015 Challenge. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve read this year, I’ll have to do a re-count.

McFlannels United by Helen W. Pryde

I mentioned in an earlier post that we had visited a bookshop in Fort William just before closing time and in the five minutes that we were there we all bought books, well I, Peggy and Evee did but Jack was more reticent.

Anyway one of the books I pounced on was the third in Helen W. Pryde’s McFlannels series which is called McFlannels United and was first published in 1949. These books were originally written for radio and were very popular during World War 2 and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

The McFlannels are a typical Glaswegian family, the children are grown up now and their daughter Maisie is a teacher, so she has joined forces with her mother Sarah to try and change her father Willie into something more genteel than he has any intentions of becoming. Decades of correcting Willie’s broad Glaswegian have had no results but they don’t give up.

The family is still plagued by Uncle Matthew who is a sort of failed black marketeer or dodgy dealer. Rationing is still very much to the fore and at one point every member of the family is convinced that they are going to be carted off to prison for wee bendings of the rules.

The son Peter brings his girlfriend Ivy home to meet his family, Sarah and Maisie are convinced that it means he’s serious about her, but Ivy has other ideas.

I found this one to be a hoot, I think it was better than the second one, The McFlannels See it Through, although that is still well worth tracking down.

I read this book as part of the Read Scotland 2015 challenge.

Highland Hiatus

As usual I had planned to schedule a few blogposts for when we were away in Fort William and Inverness, but I was so busy beforehand that I never did get around to it, so it has been unnaturally quiet on ‘Pining’ this last week. For good reason though, as you might know Peggy of Peggy Ann’s Post is staying with me this month and we were joined on our Highland sojourn by Evee of Evee’s Blog and of course Jack was with us – he was our driver!

I worried about the weather as Fort William is infamous for being wet and of course it was wet when we got there but the drive up until then had been mainly dry, if a bit grey. We were there just last June and had great weather just a few miles north of Fort William so managed to take some lovely photos of the Spean Bridge area, sadly the weather this time was grey and very windy – when is our summer going to arrive? Anyway if you don’t know what the Spean Bridge area looks like you can see lots of images of it here. So we didn’t hang about there long this time.

When we arrived at Fort William it was chucking it down with rain and we made for the bookshop which Jack and I had been lucky to buy some books in last year. The shop owner was just about ready to close it but within less than 5 minutes – I, Peggy and Evee had managed to find books which we had been looking for. I was chuffed to find the third book in the McFlannel series by Helen W Pryde and I also bought a book about Hugh Lofting the writer of the childrens series, Dr Dolittle. Peggy got a whole load of books by and about O. Douglas (Anna Buchan) and Evee bought a couple of books by Maurice Walsh which she had read back in the year dot and wished to revisit. Now she has me thinking that I should read his books too, as if I don’t have enough books already in my piles!

Anyway, it turned out that it was just as well that we bought books in Fort William as the famous bookshop Leakeys in Inverness turned out to be a big disappointment for us, although Evee did manage to buy a few books. I would say that all of the books there are vastly overpriced, a lot of them aren’t in alphabetical order – come on – pull your socks up, it’s a nightmare if books aren’t in some sort of order, I was tempted to start sorting them out myself.

It’s always the way of it, much longed for trips to ‘special’ bookshops always end up being a damp squib for me, then I find treasures in the most unexpected places. Oh well, it all adds to the spice of life I suppose.

Read Scotland 2014

It’s time for a Read Scotland 2014 update, in fact it’s way past time as I’ve just realised that I’ve read 15 Scottish books this year, so I’ve gone beyond Ben Nevis as I knew I would. I don’t know what the next level could be called – do you?

I haven’t been very good at linking to the challenge so here’s what I’ve read so far.

1. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
2. Lanark by Alasdair Gray
3. Rockets Galore by Compton Mackenzie
4. A Double Death on the Black Isle by A.D. Scott
5. The Comforters by Muriel Spark
6. Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford
7. The Cabinetmaker by Alan Jones
8. The Daffodil Affair by Michael Innes
9. The Four Graces by D.E. Stevenson
10. The First Book of the McFlannels by Helen W. Pryde
11. The McFlannels See It Through by Helen W. Pryde
12. Sleeping Tiger by Rosamund Pilcher
13. The Clydesiders by Margaret Thomson Davis
14. The Kellys of Kelvingrove by Margaret Thomson Davis
15. Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin – which I have yet to blog about but I really enjoyed it.

A few of these authors have been new to me and of those I think Compton Mackenzie has been the most surprising and entertaining, followed closely by Helen W. Pryde, I must get around to tracking down the rest in her series.

The most disappointing has been Secrets of the Sea House which was just not my cup of tea and was full of cultural mistakes, it isn’t authentically Scottish at all.

I haven’t read any Scottish non-fiction at all but I intend to remedy that soon, so stand by (Lorraine in particular) for a non fiction blogpost – when I’ve rounded up the ones I hope to read this year – which is almost half-way through already. How did that happen?!

The McFlannels see it through by Helen W. Pryde

The ‘it’ which the McFlannels are seeing through in this the second book in the series, is of course World War 2. The McFlannels are all doing their bit as is everyone living up the same close in Glasgow. Mr McMuslin is an Air Raid Precaution Warden (put that light out!) and is fairly enjoying himself trying to organise his neighbours. Sarah McFlannel is really only interested in seeing the inside of the McMuslin flat though and when he implies that she can’t take part in the fire watching (looking out for fires caused by bombs) because you have to be under 60, Sarah is incensed, she’s not much older than 50.

The book is full of laughs although as they’re in broad Glaswegian – especially when it’s Willie McFlannel speaking – I’m not sure how well it will go down with non Glaswegians. For me though it brings back so many phrases that I had just forgotten about, and I love the relationship between Willie and Sarah McFlannel. Their children are almost off their hands now, but Willie is still always looking for a ‘wee cheeper’ (a kiss) from Sarah, and Sarah is always being shown up by her husband’s broad Glaswegian accent. Long may it live!

In this one Willie ends up in hospital, having had an accident at work. He keeps dropping in and out of consciousness and one woman says:” Ah mind when Ah had ma operation for ma perspirated stummuck, there wis a wumman in the next bed that was aye drappin’ intae unconsciousness like that, and she was deid in hauf an hoor.” Poor Sarah isn’t amused.

There are quite a few books in this series but the first two have hit the mark with me because the first one was all about the McFlannels flitting and moving up the housing ladder, just as we were arranging our flitting. At the end of The McFlannels see it through they are thinking about downsizing as the kids have grown up, we followed the same pattern as I was reading the books. I wonder what will happen in the next one.

Whatever, I’m sure that there will still be a rivalry between Mrs McFlannel and Mrs McCotton, it’s what’s keeping them going!

I read this one as part of the Read Scotland 2014 challenge.

The First Book of the McFlannels by Helen W. Pryde

This book was first published in 1947. I managed to buy the second book in the series in a St Andrews bookshop but as I’m determined to read the books in the correct order I had to resort to the internet for book 1. I’m so glad that I did because the book was such a laugh, it was a real tonic and as the McFlannel family are arranging their flitting at the beginning of the book it was very apt as we are flitting at the end of the week after 26 years in this house. Peggy Ann got her hands on the first book before I did, you can read what she thought of it here.

The McFlannels are a typical working class Glaswegian family, it’s 1928 and Mr McFlannel is a fitter in one of the Clyde shipyards, and even though he is bringing home a good wage, he is adamant that he doesn’t want to live in a ‘bought’ house, he’s happy to pay a rent his whole life. His wife Sarah has ambitions for a better life for herself and her family and is thrilled to be flitting (moving) from their room and kitchen tenement, with a place on the stair (outside lavatory), to a bigger flat, even Willie her husband has to admit that their room and kitchen is too wee for them and their four children.

This had me laughing out loud in parts, not something which often happens to me, but it was just so funny. The relationship between Mr and Mrs McFlannel is so realistic and she reminded me of my own mother. I can clearly remember my mother boasting to our Glasgow neighbours that we were buying a house because she had always wanted her own back and front door.

All of the characters are named after fabric, which denotes their type of personality. McTapestry, McVelvet and McPlush are obviously meant to be a bit higher up the social scale than the McTwills or McCottons, in their own eyes anyway. My personal favourite was the name McCamel Hair, but so far they have only been a brief mention, maybe they’ll have a bigger part in the second book which has a World War II setting.

I’m starting it tonight as I’m in need of something light and humorous at the moment, navigating around our house is a nightmare, the books are the worst things to pack, fair enough you don’t have to wrap them in bubble wrap but there are just so many of them and you can’t put too many in one box otherwise you can’t lift the box, and the weight of the books pulls the box apart, amd we still have four bookcases to empty. What I want to know is – whose idea was it to buy all these books!

You might find the Glaswegian website below interesting.
Have a look here at the Our Glasgow Story site.

Recent Book Purchases


Yet again, I had banned myself from the library to concentrate on my own books, but a visit to the adjoining museum shop to buy a card ended up with me sloping into the library and of course I was seduced by some new books, but it was the unplanned book buying which was quite spectacular. In January it seems that every time I went out of the house I came back with books which I wasn’t even looking for – honest!

A visit to an antiques centre ended up with me buying the lovely Folio editions of the Mapp and Lucia books by E.F. Benson. I have them all but just in paperback so I couldn’t resist these, especially as they were so incredibly cheap. I’m not going to tell you exactly how cheap, I don’t wish to cause pain!

A mooch around some Edinburgh charity shops ended up with me buying the Penguin crimes.
The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
The Mask of Glass by Holly Roth
Cork on the Water by McDonald Hastings

I also bought It Ends with Revelations by Dodie Smith. Has anyone read this one? I’ve only read I Capture the Castle, which I really enjoyed. Then when I saw a pristine hardback of All Our Worldly Goods by Irene Nemirovsky I had to buy that too.

In the Scottish bookshop in Dunfermline I couldn’t pass up on
Children of the Tempest by Neil Munro and
The Selected Travel Writings of Robert Louis Stevenson called Dreams of Elsewhere.

Taking my library books back I swore I wasn’t going to borrow any more books, well I stuck to that but I couldn’t help just glancing at the bookshelves which hold the books for sale, Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym jumped out at me – really it did!

A trip to St Andrews saw me bringing back:
The Angel in the Corner by Monica Dickens, I haven’t read anything by her for getting on for 40 years, hard to belive it but true.
I also bought The McFlannels See It Through which is the second book in a humorous Scottish wartime series, but I don’t have the first one yet.

A trip to Linlithgow saw me buying:
The Children of the New Forest by Captain Marryat. It’s a children’s classic which I’ve never got around to reading. Of course it’s set in the English Civil War, which historians now recognise involved the whole of Britain, some of them are now calling it the War of the Three Kingdoms.

Also Nan of Northcote by Doris A Pocock, which is set in a girls school and was published in 1929. It cost me all of £1 and it could be absolute garbage but I love the cover.

My favourite and most expensive purchase was:
Scottish Gardens by Sir Herbert Maxwell, published in 1908 and it has lovely illustrations of some gardens which I’ve visited. I’m sure some of them don’t exist any more but I’m going to track them down and visit the ones I can, to see how they have changed over the years. The book is a beauty and was still a bargain, it’s for sale on the internet for much more than I paid for it. I’ve also discovered that the author was Gavin Maxwell’s grandfather. When I was a teenager I loved his nature books which are set in Scotland.

As you can see, I’ve got to get on with my reading!