Easter 1985 saw the Scottish CND annual march and rally come to Dunoon. Easter Alert took place on Holy Saturday: April 21.
The rain is falling steadily as I walk down to the coal pier in Dunoon. Upstairs in the Queen’s Hall, our local MP, the Conservative John Mackay, is fending off Mr B, who is questioning him about Environmental Impact Statements and the like, while a colourful crowd pours off the ferry and mills about in the road. Eventually we march off, with me as one of the speakers at the head along with Keith Bovey and Michael Pentz. My boys are there too – chaps welcome on this occasion. We are filmed for the TV evening news (we’re home in time to see it) in Argyll Street and spirits are high as we strike out over the High road to Sandbank.
Apparently there are 2,000 marchers by the time we snake round via the American Base (Keith Bovey hands over a petition and a letter to the commander) and back along the shore road to the Black Park in Kirn. Despite my best efforts I have been unable to secure the use of the stadium: it is being used by the American Wives for some event. This makes for a good opening crack in my Welcome speech – I am the first speaker, standing on the back of a lorry with a magnificent sound system which has my words reverberating around the houses in Ardenslate. The rain has almost stopped, though I notice my children, their grandmother and Mr B still huddling under a large umbrella. I wonder if it is shame that keeps them hiding there, but by this time the crowd is laughing at my jokes and applauding the odd bit of demagoguery and I realise I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. The other speakers – Bovey, Marjorie Thomson and the actor Bill Patterson – follow; we wander round chatting as the sun comes out and begin to think of tea.
As often on such occasions, I reflect that the best bit of the day is the march. Rallies are often quite tedious, unless there are stellar speakers, and when it is over there is this sense of anti-climax. The boys, however, are keen to get home and see if they’re on telly. They are. The day has been a success, and I have discovered the joys of public speaking. I shall never be the same again.
And in the evening, at the Easter Vigil service, my no.1 son is confirmed. In the light of what will soon happen in the church, it is a strange juxtaposition. But at the time it seems a fitting end to such a day.