It was good to see you, Joe, over these last few months. I know your memory had failed you but I wanted to remind you of some of the good times from a friendship lasting over 50 years.
I chatted to you about how we first met at the CSSM and Scripture Union seaside missions at Whiting Bay on Arran. I have such happy memories of these, especially when we stayed on for a few days afterwards to ‘wind things down’ - I remember the long games of tennis and living for days on a big pot of soup that you had made.
Then there were stays at your house in Barrhead. Did you remember the clutter of books and papers everywhere and cups of China tea? I hated China tea. What were you thinking of?
The next memory I shared was Elie and more seaside missions - just a change of coast. During all these years you continued putting the finishing touches to your PhD - I don’t think anyone ever took so long to finish one but then it didn’t stop you ending up an eminent professor.
Our politics were never really on the same page. You thought me a bit of a Marxist. I ribbed you for backing Roy Jenkins and the SDP in Hillhead.
How can you forget St. Mirren, the Alex Ferguson years? Saturday afternoons were for Love Street - Jimmy, you and me shouting on the Saints.
When you and Maureen decided to get married I was so proud to be your Best Man. Your apology for a Stag Night was you and me having a meal in the Ubiquitous Chip. Sandra and I enjoyed meals out with you and Maureen and nights in at Mitre Road in Jordanhill.
I had no hesitation in asking you to be my Best Man when Sandra and I got married in Paisley Town Hall. I showed you this picture of Sandra flanked by two very handsome men.
We lost touch a bit in recent years but never totally. There was the occasional function; lunches at Glasgow University, some phone conversations; and Christmas cards. When I tracked you down to Eaglesham I invited you over to Symington for a meal. It was just after Sandra had been very ill. We planned to go to the Wheatsheaf but I didn’t know you were bringing a dog with you and they weren’t dog friendly. So we had a nice meal at home instead. I was sorry to hear you had the beginnings of dementia. I made a clumsy effort at a joke about not noticing the difference. You had always been a bit of an ‘absent minded professor’. You were in good form that night bringing us up to speed with how the family were doing. You left the bottle of wine you had brought for us in your car which was parked a couple of streets away. You promised to give it to us when you were leaving - we never did get it. We both forgot.
It was the absence of a Christmas card that first concerned me, Joe. I tried to find out where you were but without success. Then thanks to Andrew Robertson, the Eaglesham Parish Minister, I traced you to the Three Bridges Care Home in Carmunnock Road. Trying to find out where you were also helped me get back in touch with the children, Katherine, Ali, Morven, and of course, Jimmy Gow, - all thanks to the power of Facebook.
I’ve been to see you quite a few times now at 3 Bridges and even have the pictures to prove it. We seem to have aged. How did that happen? You were always pleased to see me even though you couldn’t really remember very much from our past friendship. Just before Christmas I visited with your old friend Maggie Shearer. You had grown more frail and confused. You told us we would have to go as you had a plane to catch.
My last visit was without any conversation - that art had finally abandoned you. We sat in silence. I had tea and you cradled a mug of coffee in your hand. When I left you managed a handshake, a smile and a wave. I didn’t cry until I was in the lift. I was fairly sure I had just said a final ‘goodbye’.