No Mean Fighter (1992)




A unique collaborative project involving inmates of Barlinnie Special Unit, students of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and Glasgow band The Basement.
Mayfest 1992 (Arches Theatre, community and prison tour Edinburgh Fringe 1992 (De Marco Gallery). Scotsman Fringe First Winners 1992. Scottish Tour Spring 1993 (The Tron, Glasgow; The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen; Edinburgh community tour; Scottish prisons)
Directed by Irvine Allan
Script edited by Willy Maley
Written by Irvine Allan, Steve Cooper, Kate Dickie, Billy Elliott, John Gordon, James McHendrie and Willy Maley
Poems by Tommy Campbell and Hugh McDiarmid
All songs by Derek Lang, except for No Mean Fighter (words by Willy Maley) and John Maclean (words by Billy Elliott, chord progression by Joe Kydd)

About The Play
“I would rather be immediately put to death than condemned to a life sentence in Peterhead.” – John Maclean.

No Mean Fighter is a musical about Peterhead prisoners, past and present, including one of Glasgow’s most celebrated socialists, John Maclean. The idea for the musical came out of discussion in the Special Unit between inmates, students of the RSAMD, and members of Glasgow band The Basement. There are five songs in the show – John Maclean; Sandman of Peterhead; We’ll Take Our Chances; Tell us who you are, John Maclean; and No Mean Fighter.
John Maclean is well-known as a Red Clydesider. What people sometimes forget is that John Maclean was also a Peterhead prisoner, a man who did time in one of Scotland’s toughest jails. His experiences mirror those of modern inmates. Speeches by Maclean, and tributes to him, are interwoven with material from Special Unit inmates based on their experiences of Peterhead.
Peterhead Prison, situated 34 miles north of Aberdeen, was built in 1888. It’s history goes back to 1881 when a Committee on the Employment of Convicts reported that the ‘most likely prospect for benefitting the shipping and fishing interests of the country at large and at the same time profitably employing convicts is the construction of a harbour of refuge at Peterhead in Aberdeenshire’. Peterhead was designated a General Convict Prison for male prisoners sentenced to a minimum of five years.
John Maclean was kept out of circulation in prison. He complained of his food being tampered with, and being constantly fed false information by the authorities about his family and friends. Red Clydeside is gone, but Peterhead still feeds off young Scotsmen.
Two prisoners, John Maclean and another are in solitary in Peterhead in the same cell at different times. Their experiences are told through speeches, poems, songs and voices. We also hear the views of other prisoners, visitors and a warder.


Scene 1
GOVERNOR: Our aim is to provide a secure environment within which all who live and work at Peterhead Prison are encouraged to participate in a positive and progressive yet structured and controlled regime. We are committed to developing a constructive working relationship at all levels. Thus forming the basis for mental trust and consensus. We must continue to shape and respond to society’s expectations, and to meet the objectives of the Scottish Prison System.
Security. Control. Humanity. Opportunity. Responsibility.

Scene 2
[Prisoner hides knife and finds diary]
PRISONER: What’s this? A wallet? Naw. It’s a book. Somebody’s diary.
PRISON OFFICER: Still here Maclean?
JOHN MACLEAN: Aye, caged in body but not in spirit. Shiteing out the poison yous are feeding me.
PRISON OFFICER: Paranoia you suffer from, laddie. That and allusions of grandeur.
[Maclean returns to writing furtively in diary]
JOHN MACLEAN: I had for some months here starting in December been feeling very ill, with what I can only describe as a chemical-induced pain. I went on sick roll. Now then, I come to the doctor. The doctor I refer to is the prison doctor.
DOCTOR: Well, saviour of the human race, what ails you this time?
MACLEAN: I told you, when I first arrived in Peterhead it was plain sailing.
PRISON OFFICER: Aye. Now you’ve realised you’re marooned. Got bored with four walls for scenery.
MACLEAN: Doctor, I was fevered up. And being able to combat that, I then chilled down. Two men came to see me at the end of December.
PRISON OFFICER: Santa and a pal?
MACLEAN: Doctor, do I have to suffer these types of remarks while describing the state of my health?
DOCTOR: He’s not interrupting me. You were just about to mention your two visitors.
MACLEAN: One a prominent lecturer in this country, and Mr Sutherland MP. And to them I protested that my food was being drugged. I said that there was alcohol in the food.
DOCTOR: Nonsense.
MACLEAN: Doctor, I know alcohol in the food can lower my temperature. I know also that potassium bromide is given to people in order to lower their temperatures. I was aware of what was taking place in Peterhead from hints and statements from other prisoners.
DOCTOR: Are you complaining, or boasting? Alcohol!
PETERHEAD PRISONER: Don’t let them play mind games with you, John. You keep it going, man. We’re all with you.
[Song: ‘John Maclean’]
John Maclean, John Maclean, tell us who’s to blame?
John Maclean, John Maclean, you’re like a burning flame.
When you were here, when you were here, the Clyde was red.
Since you’ve been gone, since you’ve been gone,
all the colours bled.
In Peterhead. In Peterhead. Oh they wished you dead.
But you returned, yes you returned,
with a vision instead.
John Maclean, John Maclean, tell us who’s to blame?
John Maclean, John Maclean, you’re still a burning flame.

MACLEAN: I know you’re watching me. I can hear you breathing. I know I’m under observation. You’ll not intimidate me. When I get out I’ll make sure people know what’s going on in here. This is inhumane. I’m sick of your petty tyrannies. If you’re a doctor, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. How can you expect a man to keep his health in these conditions? If you’re a turnkey, you’re wasting your time. There’s nothing to see here.
WARDER: Talking to yourself again, Maclean? My God you’re paranoid.
MACLEAN: I won’t be cowed by your bullying.
WARDER: There’s time yet. Don’t be in a hurry to be a hero.
MACLEAN: I’m only a man, mister. I never pretended to be anything else. No saint. No sinner. Just a man.
WARDER: A man with convictions, eh? And time on his hands. Well, I’m a man, too, Maclean. One of your precious working men. Earning an honest shilling. You can see I love my work. The bosses are good to me. What’s all your talk done for you?
MACLEAN: I am a teacher. I am a socialist. I am a fighter for justice.
WARDER: Socialism? The war put a stop to all that. It’s all king and country now. Except for traitors and troublemakers.
MACLEAN: What about the Rent Strikes?
WARDER: You don’t need to worry about rent strikes, Maclean. You can stay here rent-free.
MACLEAN: Nothing’s free. The state is paying to keep me out of its hair, and the money comes from the workers. All this ugly business is being done in their name. I’m a prisoner of war. Class war.
WARDER: The war’s over for you, Maclean. You’ve had your war. Now give us peace.
MACLEAN: There’s no peace in Peterhead. It’s always war here. Did you hear me? I said there’s no peace in Peterhead!
WARDER: Not for you!
MACLEAN: Not for anybody. You’re in jail, too, mister. You’re just too bloody stupid to notice it!
[Maclean returns to scribbling in his diary]
MACLEAN: “From January to March, the so-called winter period, the doctor is busy getting the prisoners into the hospital. Breaking up their organs and systems…I give notice that I take no food inside your prison. Absolutely no food. If food is forced upon me, and if I am forcibly fed, then my friends have got to bear in mind that if any evil happens to me I am not responsible for my actions”. (Delirious, repeating his famous speech from the dock) No human being on the face of the earth, no government is going to take from me my right to protest against wrong, my right to do everything that is for the benefit of mankind. I am not here, then, as the accused; I am here as the accuser of Capitalism dripping with blood from head to foot.
PRISON OFFICER: Are you pulling yourself in there, Maclean?
MACLEAN: (Writing) “… I’ve seen the monster face to face. There’s no velvet glove in Peterhead. Only an iron fist. This is where the bosses show their true colours. The poor men in here are testimony to the injustice of the capitalist system. I leave this account here for a future inmate. It may be my last will and testament. I don’t know if I’ll ever get out of here alive. What I leave to mankind, my only worldly possession, is my rage against tyranny”.
[He hides the notebook].

Scene 3
PETERHEAD PRISONER: Who’s that? Who’s there? Bastards!
PRISON OFFICER: What do you want, son?
PETERHEAD PRISONER: A pen and some paper.
PRISON OFFICER: What do you want with a pen?
PETERHEAD PRISONER: I want to write.
PRISON OFFICER: Then scratch the walls, son. That’s what everybody else does. This isn’t a school, you know.
PETERHEAD PRISONER: They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Frankly, ah’d rather get chibbed with a pen. But then again, a nib’s a chib. You can take some bastard’s lamp out with it!
[Song: No Mean Fighter]
This man was a visionary, a teacher, and a writer
When he raised his fist on Glasgow Green
He was No Mean Fighter
This man he defied the law, its chains were pulling tighter
So they poisoned him in Peterhead
He was No Mean Fighter
This man was a burning flame, a flame still burning brighter
The people they recall his name
He was No Mean Fighter
This man had no stolen wealth, to make his burden lighter
All he had was his own self
He was No Mean Fighter
This man took a narrow mind, and made it open wider
He made them see who once were blind
He was No Mean Fighter
This man was a Glasgow Boy, and a Red Clydesider
They sent him to an early grave
He was No Mean Fighter

Scene 4
1st WOMAN: They used to send them to Australia. Had them building roads and railways hell-knows-where.
2nd WOMAN: Now they’ve got them caged at the other end of the country.
3rd WOMAN: Getting there from Glasgow is a nightmare. Travelling all day. And for what? To look at a broken man through a glass partition.
1st WOMAN: A couple of hours once a month. Twelve hours on a bus for that.
2nd WOMAN: They built the prison there so that the prisoners could build the harbour.
3rd WOMAN: Now the harbour’s built, and the quarry’s closed, but the men are still there.
1st WOMAN: Isn’t there something in Glasgow they could build?
2nd WOMAN: Like houses.
3rd WOMAN: They don’t build houses anymore, just jails.
1st WOMAN: They’ve made prisoners of us too.
2nd WOMAN: Breaking up families.
3rd WOMAN: Like stones in a quarry. Smashed to pieces. Good for nothing but breaking glass.
1st WOMAN: Dirty protests.
2nd WOMAN: Hunger strikes.
3rd WOMAN: Solitary confinement.
1st WOMAN: Rooftop protests.
2nd WOMAN: Ugly suicides.
3rd Woman: Cries for help we never hear.
1st Woman: Voices in the wilderness.
2nd WOMAN: Like a seabird in a storm.
3rd WOMAN: They come out worse than they went in.
1st WOMAN: On an elastic band.
2nd WOMAN: No future.
3rd WOMAN: Shell-shocked.
1st WOMAN: Further away from us than ever.
2nd WOMAN: Pacing up and down.
3rd WOMAN: Turning outside in.
1st WOMAN: They had them making nets. To catch fish.
2nd WOMAN: Cold eyes staring into space.

Scene 5
PRISON OFFICER: Aye, you were a big man in court, MacLean. But you’re no such a big man now! If they could see you, they bloody comrades of yours. Standing there in your drawers, with your shirt tail hanging out.
MACLEAN: Freedom is a flame that never goes out.
PRISON OFFICER: Aye, you’re a political animal alright, MacLean. But there’s no politics in Peterhead, only animals. How does it feel, MacLean, to be locked up with murderers and thieves?
MACLEAN: Don’t tell me there’s policemen, and bosses, and government ministers in here!
PRISON OFFICER: You’re always on about the workers, MacLean. Well you’ll get plenty of work to do here. All the prisoners are workers.
MACLEAN: And all the workers are prisoners.
PRISONER: Yes, get it up you!
PRISON OFFICER: Keep that noise down!
MACLEAN: You can break my body, but you’ll never break my spirit. You can take away my clothes, but you’ll never take away my dignity. You can take me out of the struggle, but you’ll never take the struggle out of me.
PRISONER: Well said, my man!
PRISON OFFICER: Quiet in there!
PRISONER: (Holding up Maclean’s prison diary, reciting poem by Hugh MacDiarmid)
Look at it, you fools, with unseeing eyes,
And deny it with lying lips!
But your craven bowels well know what it is
And hasten to eclipse
In a cell, as black as the shut boards of the Book
You lie by the light no coward can brook.
As Pilate and the Roman soldiers to Christ
Were Law and Order to the finest Scot of his day,
One of the few true men in our sordid breed,
A flash of sun in a country all prison-grey.
Speak to others of Christian charity; I cry again
For vengeance on the murderers of John Maclean.
Let the light of truth in on the base pretence
Of Justice that sentenced him behind these grey walls.
All law is the contemptible fraud he declared it.
Like a lightning-bolt at last the workers’ wrath falls
On all such castles of cowards whether they be
Uniformed in ermine, or blue, or khaki.
PRISON OFFICER: We’re all equal in here, Maclean. There are no leaders here. No saviours either. You’re on your own. No big crowds to cheer you on. No flags waving. No fists clenched but your own. Look at him. Look at the saviour of the working class. Where’s yer comrades now, Maclean? Your friends have deserted you. Your wife has left you. You’re losing your mind, Maclean.
PRISON OFFICER: The red flag’s flying at half-mast now, Maclean.
MACLEAN: Where e’er we go, we’ll fear no foe. We’ll keep the red flag flying high.
PRISON OFFICER: I’ll weave you a red flag alright, and make you wear it for a shroud.
PRISONER: Nothing changes.
MACLEAN: Not without struggle.
PRISONER: Where Were you when we needed you?
PRISON OFFICER: Is that you talking to yourself, Maclean?
MACLEAN: Who’s that?
PRISONER: Who’s there?
PRISON OFFICER: Keep that bastarding noise down.
[Song: The Ghost of John Maclean]
I can feel your heartbeat next to mine
Though we live in different times
Oh how times have change
But in Peterhead, they’re still the same
I can feel your pain
Tell me who you are, John Maclean
John Maclean …
I can feel your anger towards me
Johnny can’t you see
No-one knows like me
What it’s like to be insane.
I can hear you breathing in my sleep
Pacing up and down will you greet
You were just a working man trying to lend a hand
I understand.
There is no answer I can give to you
They lock you up for what we do
Knock you black and blue
Yes that’s what they do, well it’s true.
I can feel your heartbeat next to mine
Though we live in different times
Oh how times have changed
But in Peterhead, they’re still the same.
WOMAN: No child is born a criminal: no child is born an angel: he’s just born.

Scene 6
[Woman at home. Man enters.]
WOMAN: Come in. You’re late.
MAN: It was a long drive, and it wasn’t me who was driving or I would’ve been here hours ago.
WOMAN: What’s the hurry? The less time you’re here the better.
MAN: Some homecoming. I didn’t think it would be like this when I saw the house again.
WOMAN: You weren’t home when you were needed.
MAN: I’m sorry.
WOMAN: I had to arrange everything myself.
MAN: There was nothing I could do about that. I couldn’t get here any earlier.
WOMAN: You should never have been away in the first place.
MAN: We’ve been through all this a thousand times. I’m here now.
WOMAN: He wanted to be like his daddy. He said he wanted a scar. He got more than he wanted…
MAN: Stop it!
WOMAN: …All my scars are on the inside.
MAN: I tried to tell him right from wrong.
WOMAN: He didn’t listen to what you said. He learned from what you did. I’m burying two men today. I mean it. You can stay in that tomb up there till hell freezes over.
MAN: Please. Don’t…
PRISON OFFICER: (Intruding) When you two are finished fighting we should go. The cars are waiting.
MAN: It’s our funeral, you bastard! We’ll leave when we’re fucking ready!
WOMAN: The last thing I needed today was you with one of those vultures at your shoulder.
VOICE: Winston Churchill, of all people, once said “You can tell how civilised a society is by looking inside its prisons.”

Scene 7
[Three prisoners playing cards]
1st PRISONER: Unsatisfactory.
2nd PRISONER: Diabolical.
3rd PRISONER: Atrocious.
1st PRISONER: Counter-productive in the imaginary sphere of reform.
2nd PRISONER: Dehumanizing.
3rd PRISONER: Barbaric.
1st PRISONER: Hygiene’s a dirty word in here.
2nd PRISONER: You never feel clean.
3rd PRISONER: Two wash-hand basins.
1st PRISONER: Two showers.
2nd PRISONER: For forty men.
3rd PRISONER: One a week.
1st PRISONER: If the S. O. okays it…
2nd PRISONER: The shower heads are, what, four foot up the
3rd PRISONER: You’ve just about got to kneel.
1st PRISONER: On your knees for the privilege of cleanliness.
2nd PRISONER: The smell of the place.
3rd PRISONER: It stinks.
1st PRISONER: I’ve got dead pigeons in my air vents.
2nd PRISONER: There’s live ones flying about the hall.
3rd PRISONER: Pigeons, sparrows, starlings. You name it.
1st PRISONER: Wee feathery bastards.
2nd PRISONER: Birdshit all over the place.
3rd PRISONER: In your food and everything. ALL: And can you spot the difference?
PRISON OFFICER: 1952 Rules, Rule 101: The diet shall at all times be wholesome and appetising, reasonably varied and adequate for the maintenance of health.
1st PRISONER: Ever had spaghetti hoops for breakfast?
2nd PRISONER: Or a salad when it’s below freezing outside?
3rd PRISONER: Most of us supply our own vitamins.
1st PRISONER: Paid for out of our own wages.
2nd PRISONER: Oh aye, the wages.
3rd PRISONER: If you’re working.
1st PRISONER: If they’ll let you work. Had me unknotting a goal net last week.
2nd PRISONER: How about tearing up bits of foam for soft toys?
3rd PRISONER: It passes the time.
1st PRISONER: Sometimes.
2nd PRISONER: Then it’s time for…
1st PRISONER: A telly.
2nd PRISONER: A pool table.
3rd PRISONER: A video.
1st PRISONER: Between, what, forty guys?
2nd PRISONER: Cannae get near it.
3rd PRISONER: And the noise.
2nd PRISONER: Can’t even get peace to write a letter.
3rd PRISONER: The mail.
1st PRISONER: One free letter each week at public expense.
2nd PRISONER: Public property as far as the screws are
3rd PRISONER: Our mail gets delayed.
1st PRISONER: Withheld.
2nd PRISONER: Censored.
3rd PRISONER: And the screws all get a good laugh at you, the cunts.
1st PRISONER: For example.
2nd PRISONER: Observe the screw with the sleekit grin and the pole up the whole walk.
1st PRISONER: Operation wind-up is about to commence.
PRISON OFFICER: Mail! Jackson! MacDonald!
3rd PRISONER: Now watch this carefully. This particular screw’s had it in for Morrison ever since he came in.
1st PRISONER: It’s nothing personal.
3rd PRISONER: Just doesn’t fucking like him.
PRISON OFFICER: Morrison. Letter from your wife. It’s a ’Dear John’. Did you hear me, Morrison? I said it was a Dear John’!
[Long pause, then prisoners erupt, table flies, others freeze, but John moves again as his wife appears]
PRISONER: Who’s there?
WIFE: Who’s that?
PRISONER: How did you get in here?
WIFE: How did you get out?
PRISONER: Am I seeing things?
WIFE: Is it you, James?
PRISONER: Is that you Ann?
WIFE: Am I hearing things?
PRISONER: How could you leave me when I needed you most?
WIFE: How could you leave me when I needed you most? The weans need a daddy. I need somebody. I waited as long as I could.
PRISONER: I got your letter. Now I know what a paper cut is. It went through me like a knife through butter.
WIFE: It was as hard to write as it was to read.
PRISONER: All I had left was my family. Who’ll visit me now?
WIFE: Everything begins and ends with you.
PRISONER: You never had the guts to tell me to my face.
WIFE: You wouldn’t have the spine to take it. Hard man my arse. You’re as soft as shite.
PRISONER: I worry about you darling. Out on your own.
WIFE: Don’t worry.
PRISONER: It’ll no be long till I’ve finished my sentence.
WIFE: You never let me finish a sentence.
PRISONER: I love you.
WIFE: Heard it. You never showed it.
PRISONER: We’ll start over again when I get out. I’ll go straight.
WIFE: You’ll be as straight as a spiral staircase.
PRISONER: You cannae take my weans away from me.
WIFE: You took their daddy away from them.
PRISONER: I’m being punished enough as it is.
WIFE: Poor you. You’re used to propping up bars. A big man with a drink in you. Sober, you’re no so big.
PRISONER: I’m all alone.
WIFE: I’m lonely.
PRISONER: I live for your visits.
WIFE: That’s no a life. It’s mental torture. The weans greet non-stop on visiting day. It’s tearing them apart. I knew what I was getting into. They deserve better.
PRISONER: Don’t you judge me. Where do you think you’re going? Come back here and give me a fair hearing.
WIFE: You never listen.

Scene 8
PRISON OFFICER: Scumbags the lot of them. No loyalty among thieves. Sell one another for a cigarette. Too many bleeding hearts these days. What about the victims? What about their families? There’s open visits at the cemetery. They do it to their own kind as well. No fucking loyalty. Colleague of mine lost an eye. Some monster with a coat hanger. Can’t trust them with anything. If they’re no wanking and working-out, then they’re up to something. Okay, so I’m bitter. But that disnae mean I’m bad, does it? We’re not all brutes, ye know. We’re not the way we’re made out to be. I take my kids to the pictures. To the park. I prefer the park. I like open spaces. Truth be told, I’m a bit of a fresh air fiend. A bit of a one for the great outdoors. Well, you don’t get much fresh air in the tin pail, do you? Not when there’s people emptying their pisspots over you. Kicked a young fella to death, so they did. Nobody lifted a finger. They won’t grass. Grassing’s worse than murder in their book. If they want the prison population reduced and our job made easier, then give the public what they want. Bring back the noose. The only place they bastards should be kicking is at the end of a rope.

Scene 9
GOVERNOR: Scottish Prison Service Report 1990. Nice and glossy, eh? “The Secretary of State for Scotland has expressed his concern that steps should be taken to minimise the harmful effects of the prisoner’s removal from normal life (particularly in terms of family responsibilities and job prospects). Paragraph 4 – Access to Families. We agree the prisoner must have greater access to his family, however, it would be very difficult to provide the additional visit facilities within already cramped prison sites, and it would also be very expensive. We feel that this approach would, in any case, only increase the artificiality of the prisoner’s access to his family.”
Can you imagine the mental torture of having your wife and wens an arm’s length away from you, once a month, for five years, without being able to touch them?

Scene 10
[Women in visits. We hear snatches of their side of conversations with men]
1st WOMAN: … I’m no going through all that again … I know it helps you sleep; you told me that … Awright. One more time, but that’s your last … You only say that when you want me to do something for you … It is true … Look, have I ever missed a visit before? … Well then … I know it’s hard for you. Do you think I’m living the life of Riley or something? I’ve got more locks on my door than you. I couldn’t afford to feed a dog … It’s no easy being a woman on your own … Don’t start that. It’s not a fucking man I need. It’s a babysitter and a job … Aye, he came round with it last week … Of course I appreciate it. It got a bag of messages … It’s called inflation. You wouldn’t know much about it … I’m no raising my voice …
2nd WOMAN: … The wee yin’s with her granny … It’s no exactly a day oot, is it? … I wasn’t well … That’s you all over. Act first, then have a wee think about it … What do you mean, am I no looking after myself? I’m doing the bloody best I can … No it’s no easy … Is that right? Your nose’ll bleed for me in a minute … Damn right I will … You dare … What did you do with the last one I gave you? … In that case you can look at a magazine instead. I’m no posing like that again. I couldn’t look my sister in the eye … Alright. Calm down. I’ll see what I can do … You bought me that six years ago. It didn’t so much wear out as disintegrate … ! wasn’t your baby doll five minutes ago … You look sorry … You’ve lost a lot of weight too … We should be touching, no talking …
3rd WOMAN: … How did you get they marks? … see you, you could start a fight in an empty house … Then you’d be better off in solitary … Are you kidding? What would I want you out the way for? You’re already out the way as far as I’m concerned. It took me six hours to get here … No if you meet me with a greetin face it’s no … You cracked up the last time when Big Alex gave me a lift … That’s your problem … Every man’s your enemy or your friend. There’s nobody in between. It’s a feast or a famine with you… I dream about you, too. Though God knows at times it’s more like a nightmare … George was asking for you … Aw, has he been excommunicated as well? … They’ve got lives to live the same as you … No, they’re no doing a lifer, but they cannae just drop everything and come running because you need them … No, neither can I …. Exactly, “Till death us do part”, no “till Peterhead do us part”. There wisnae any provision for this … I know you didnae plan it. I didnae plan to marry you either … That’s no what I meant. We’ve made our beds now … Mine’s might as well be a jail bed for aw the warmth there is in it …

Scene 11
GOVERNOR: You know, it’s alright knocking authority. Lampooning leadership. Mocking management. Taking the mickey out of your superiors. Who was it said, “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit”? Some sarky bastard, no doubt. Satire is the sport of the impotent, that’s my view. My humble opinion. We all have our crosses to bear, and if society washes its hands of these people, somebody’s got to step in and take control. Somebody’s got to put their shoulder to the wheel. It’s alright kidding and swanking, joking aside, though, it’s a bit of a cliche, call me old-fashioned if you like, but at the end of the day, when all is said and done, the buck stops here, with those who bear the burden of responsibility. Of course, maintaining order in an establishment such as this is no easy task. The prisoners are often recalcitrant, anti-social and disruptive towards the prison community – staff and other inmates alike. Firmness is essential when dealing with cases like the one I am about to hear this morning. A vicious, sustained and unprovoked assault upon an officer during a mail call. Bring in the prisoner!
[Prisoner – John Morrison – brought in by warder, obviously in some pain]
PRISON OFFICER: Stand to attention, back straight, hands out of pockets – prisoner Morrison, Sir!
GOVERNOR: Thank you, officer. Morrison?
PRISONER: Yes sir?
GOVERNOR: Morrison, you are charged with… This prisoner appears to be experiencing some difficulty in standing upright, officer.
PRISON OFFICER: Prisoner Morrison required some considerable restraint, sir.
GOVERNOR: I see. You know what Rule 42 is?
PRISONER: Yes, sir.
PRISON OFFICER: Silence when addressing the Governor!
GOVERNOR: Rule 42 – our disciplinary system revolves around it and it’s eighteen sub-sections. Where would we be without it, officer? Where would we be?
PRISON OFFICER: Drowning in a sea of chaos, sir.
GOVERNOR: How true, how very true. I’ve said it so many times myself. Drowning in a sea of chaos. And the particular brand of chaos you instigated yesterday was of a sort I will not, I repeat, will not tolerate under any circumstances. I regard an assault on a member of my staff as an assault not only on the officer concerned, but as an attack on the very fabric of our establishment, of our authority, of our system of criminal justice which is our only bulwark against … against…
PRISON OFFICER: Mindless anarchy and mob rule, sir!
GOVERNOR: Thank you, officer!
PRISON OFFICER: Sir! Stand to attention, Morrison!
PRISONER: Yes, sir.
GOVERNOR: Yes, mindless anarchy and mob rule. Therefore I have no hesitation, in view of our…Aw fuck it! All this sanctimonious patter’s fine for the cameras and the Scottish Office but you cannae talk to scum like that, they’d think you were a poof or something – anyway, I’m new here and I don’t want anybody thinking that they can take advantage. I’ve got to make it crystal clear to all and sundry that I’m the Governor. I’m the daddy in here, biggest barn on the block, as hard as… as… as…
PRISON OFFICER: A very hard thing, sir?
GOVERNOR: Aye, that’ll do. The likes of him would never respect you otherwise. Okay then, big man, fill me in?
GOVERNOR: Tell me what happened. Slag’s going to solitary anyway.
PRISON OFFICER: Right then sir, for the record. I was handing out the mail and I called out this one’s name and he went for us.
GOVERNOR: Oh, did he now? This wee bastard thinks he can gub one of my officers, does he? Do you, Morrison? Do you really think you can get away with it? Do you?
PRISONER: Sir. No I don’t, sir.
GOVERNOR: So would you care to attempt to explain yourself to me?
PRISONER: Well sir – I was in the hall – mail came round – and this officer shouts us over – says it’s a “Dear John” – and – sir …
GOVERNOR: A “Dear John”? Is this correct, officer?
GOVERNOR: A “Dear John” prisoner Morrison!
GOVERNOR: What’s your name, Morrison?
PRISONER: Sir, my name sir? It’s Morrison, sir.
PRISON OFFICER: The prisoner is being disrespectful, sir. Shall I. … ?
GOVERNOR: Not just yet officer. I meant your first name, Morrison.
PRISONER: Sir, my first name, sir?
PRISON OFFICER: His name is John, sir. John Morrison.
GOVERNOR: I see. Get him out of here. Oh, and officer …
GOVERNOR: No accidents, please. Just re-acquaint the prisoner with our regulations.
PRISON OFFICER: As you say, sir.
[Prisoner is led away]
GOVERNOR: A new broom. I’ll show them who’s in charge here. There will be no fucking about in my jail!
[Prison officer strikes prisoner, who falls]

Scene 12
[Woman and man seated at table]
MAN: Any other mail?
WOMAN: Just bills. That bloody Poll Tax as well. I’m no paying it anyway. Neither is anybody in the street.
MAN: You tell them.
WOMAN: That tea’s like tar.
MAN: It always is.
WOMAN: You were always complaining about mine being weak, too.
MAN: Hot water knocked stupid.
WOMAN: It was you that was knocked stupid.
MAN: You’re right there.
WOMAN: I was always right.
MAN: How’s Daniel?
WOMAN: The usual. Never in. Takes after his father.
MAN: Tell him I’ll take after him.
WOMAN: You’d have to be fast to catch him. He’s like a bloody whippet.
MAN: Sure, I raced whippets for years, did I not?
WOMAN: I’m getting a new bed from the social.
MAN: What are you telling me that for?
WOMAN: I thought you’d be pleased. The springs were coming through on the old one.
MAN: Happy days.
WOMAN: It’s nearly time.
MAN: It flies when you’re enjoying yourself.
WOMAN: The weather’s been a lot better. In Glasgow anyway.
MAN: It’s been miserable here. What I’ve seen of it.
PRISON OFFICER: Finish off your visits now please!
[The couple clasp hands and stare at one another]

Scene 13
PRISONER: They fucking beasts. Hanging’s too good for them. Fucking castration, that’s what they want. Let’s fucking riot and fling them off the roof along with the slates. Scumbags. Slags. Rides. Fucking perverts. Them and the grasses. Rapists. Muggers. Fucking low-lifes. Over the bannisters with them. That one Tarzan’d a wee boy. Him there raped a lassie then beat her to a pulp. We’ll be the fucking judge and jury with they bastards. Take a razor to their balls. A sheet with a knot in it. Under the ear. Watch them kicking, and screaming, and shiteing their trousers. Fucking vermin.
Scene 14
WOMAN: You’ve got that look in your eyes again. It’s getting stronger every time I come. What’s this place done to you that you can’t even trust your wife? You keep saying I don’t understand. Of course I don’t. How could I. But I am trying. I am trying to see what they have done to you that’s making you a stranger to me. My eyes are searching yours, looking for some sort of sign, but the shutters are down. I can’t see past the “Trust no-one” signals that are flashing as strong as the love that once used to be there. Of course I long for someone at night, to wake up in the morning and feel wanted instead of lonely, to love and be loved. But you won’t believe me when I tell you again and again it’s only you I yearn for. Have these bastards degraded you so much that you don’t feel human any more? That you don’t believe I could still love you as wholly and as consuming as before. The mental barriers are closing down slowly, bit by bit until one day I know I will be told to go away. It’s you that’s leaving me not the other way round. I hope those bastards can sleep at night, cos I can’t.

Scene 15
[Psycho in Solitary – poem by Tommy Campbell]
PRISONER: I wish I had a spider
I’d feed it your guts
Fucking wee fly bastards
I’ve never liked you much
There goes another one
Zap! Oh! What fun
scatter little insects
I’ve got you on the run
Did you see that there? I walloped two in one
Wouldn’t like to see what I could do
If I had a gun
Backhand, forehand
Gee whiz I’m some kid
Is anybody watching this?
I’m full of little tricks
See that little fucker? Nearly got away
These wee cunts are getting flyer
But I’m getting flyer tae
Aw – Biff!
Little suckers, another two-er tae
man! That makes way over fifty
and nothing’s getting away
man oh man! So nifty
psycho in solitary.
WOMAN: It’s called sensory deprivation, you know. It’s torture of the mind. Keeping him locked up. It’s no right. He wisnae bad, he was just sick with the drugs. And to see the weans and that, the way they were. They had nothing. Stealing for need, is that a crime? Christ, what chance did he have? Keeping him locked away, it’s no right, so it’s no. That’s all he ever did. Folk that wanted to turn the key on him. In the cupboard under the stairs. Locked in the headmaster’s office. Stuck in the jail for Christ’s sake! Just a wean too, so he is. Jails for weans, for Christ’s sake.
Still jail weans now too, so they do. They do, you know. or maybe we do, you know. In our names. You used to only have to be late in, in the old days, and they could jail you, so they could. Call you a whore and jail you. Well, they cannae do that now. And one day there’ll be no more jail, so they’ll no. One day, somebody up there, it’s going to dawn on them. And they’re going to have to say, “That was barbaric that, wasn’t it? How could they have done that to folk? That was terrible, that”, they’ll say, “bit short-sighted”, they’ll say, “in the long run”. Aye, one day, and I’ll tell you again, there’ll be no more jail. “They couldn’t have known about it”, they’ll say. “Jailed more young folk than anyone else in Europe. It’s hard to believe. No the Scots. They were well-educated. Had a sense of nationhood, so they did. They probably didn’t realise. Aye, that’s it. It was probably kept secret from them”. “Or maybe they were just feart, somebody else will say, “you know, temporarily lost the use of their imagination… and their compassion… desensitised to the horror… it’s called sensory deprivation, you know…”
PRISONER: You fucking looking at, eh? What are you fucking looking at. What do you know, eh? What do you care? Who the fuck are you? See me. I’ve done more time than Big Ben. I’ve had more porridge than Goldilocks. I’ve done more solitary than Howard Hughes. What do you know about me, eh? Do you want to welcome me back into your community? Oh, welcome home, son. All is forgiven. Well, answer me this. What fucking community? Eh? What fucking community? Community care? Community charge? Community policing? Community service? That’s all that’s left of your fucking community! Reform? Rehabilitation? Resettlement? Care? Who cares? Reform yourself, ya slag! Rehabilitate yourself, ya bastard! Resettle you, ya hopeless case! It’s got to be bad in here. Sure it’s bad in here. It’s got to look bad in here. That way it doesn’t look so bad out there. Am I right? Just tell me! Where do you live? How much freedom have you really got? How much time? How much space? How many visitors? How do you sleep? What’s your number? I don’t envy you. I don’t need your sympathy. The only place I want your bleeding heart is on the end of a fucking skewer. What are you fucking looking at, eh? Don’t look at me. Look at you. There’s your fucking prisoner! You’re doing life, ya mug. You’re doing a seventy stretch, but you don’t even know it!
…Who rattled your cage?
[Poem: Take Heed (Ode Note – to my children) – Tommy Campbell]
PRISONER: This is the dungeon
In which I reside
These are the bars
Which keep me confined
This is the slab
Upon which I sleep
This same cold stone
Where the cockroaches feed
This is the ceiling
This is the floor
This is the spyhole
my steel-studded door
These are the walls
all spattered in spite
This is my world
this is my fight
This is the wind
that roars so loud
As scavenger gulls
screech all around
This is the salt
I smell from the sea
This is my vault
And yes!
This is me
This is forever
This is for real
This pain of my vision
The sorrow I feel
This is my tomb
where tumbleweed blow
Dark side of the moon
Where you must not go
This is my anger
this is my pain
This is my hunger
For freedom again
These are my bones
my skull, my teeth
This is my heart
I beg you – take heed
[Cast cross the stage repeating lines from earlier scenes]
PRISONER: Having your liberty taken away is punishment enough, because it’s not just today, it’s tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day…etc.
GOVERNOR: Slag’s going to solitary anyway…etc.
WOMAN: Making people understand is like giving them a blindfold and saying ‘“Now you know what it’s like to be blind…etc.
WOMAN: They’ve made prisoners of us too…etc.
PRISONER: Hate factories … etc.
[Riot scene and gunshot. Freeze]
1st WOMAN: Rooftop protests.
2nd WOMAN: Ugly suicides.
3rd WOMAN: Cries for help we never hear.
1st WOMAN: voices in the wilderness.
2nd WOMAN: Like a seabird in a storm.
[Song: Sandman of Peterhead – solo by Derek Lang]
Close your eyes now, have no fear,
The Sandman will soon be here, etc.
[Song: We’ll Take Our Chances]
Is there a man these days that has no trouble brewing
Taking hame a pay the way that maist men should
They say a government is there to do you good
Do you think those crooks in London really could.
Can you tell me how it came to be this way
You try to drag us down and take our pride away
Do you really think your kind is here to stay
Well we’ll march until we see our light of day.
We’ll take our chances on our own
We’ll make a stance ‘till every working seed’s been sown
And tae hell and back I’ll roam
Just to see a crooked system overthrown.
And you tell me that these bad times soon will change
You patronize your lies and try to shift the blame
You’ve got to understand that every man’s the same
Well you’ve got to work to feed your wife and weans
John Maclean would say the same.
We’ll take our chances on our own, etc.
So get tae fuck and leave us all alone,
We’ll take our chances on our own.