AT first, some dismissed it as a more than just a publicity training.
But when 60-year-old crooner Frankie Vaughan built the Easterhouse to ask gangs to lay down their weapons, he put decades of important work into the community that still continues to this day.
It was the summer of ’68, and excitement crowded the streets of Glasgow’s east end.
Young people were injured in gang fights, with dire consequences, and the reputation of the whole area was tarnished by the fighting.
Our sister newspaper The Herald noted in an article written many years ago: “The Easterhouse and the surrounding area where members of the rival Drummie, Pak, Rebel and Toi gangs performed were particularly badly affected. of a reign of fear. Until, that is, the coming of an unlikely peace. The consolation Frankie Vaughan, better known for his high kick stage habitual than his practice of mediation, offered to visit Glasgow and talk to gang leaders. ”
He seems to be a likely hero. Frankie was an easy-to-listen singer, regularly topping the bill in all major British cinemas-he also became the first British singer to star in Las Vegas. He broke house records at the cabaret in New York Copacabana and had two as a hit, Tower Of Strength and Garden Of Eden.
But gangs are not new territory for the boy who had a tough upbringing on the streets of Liverpool and for many years was involved in trying to offer young people better opportunities to by Boys Clubs of Great Britain.
“Against a background of suspicion and publicity-seeking accusations, Frankie flew into the city and made gang rounds,” The Herald reported.
“There was also support, from powerful allies in the Scottish Office and Glasgow Corporation. He even invited some of the gang members to meet more in Blackpool where he was appearing in the summer.”
In fact, four local gang leaders headed to Blackpool for a successful ‘peace conference’ with Vaughan. Frankie organized a fundraising gala – Not the Gang Show – at a Glasgow theater, and the Easterhouse Project was born. With the help of commercial and army sponsors, a youth club for the community was built at the heart of the housing scheme to offer young people an alternative to street fighting.
On July 13, 1968, senior police officers and Scottish Secretary of State Norman Buchan, urged Easterhouse residents to avoid a local vacant lot between 7pm and 8pm. night “to give disarmament a chance.”
Frankie met the gang leaders on their home turf, who told the Evening Times: “I feel like I can do good because the boys like and respect me and I know I’m just not better.”
On Saturday morning, teens leaving on vacation deposited a cache of weapons with a social worker who was the link man between Vaughan and the gangs. The weapon included three 12-inch daggers and a hatchet.
Three binfuls of ammunition reached amnesty. The housewives later complained that their children raided their kitchens for knives so they could get their picture with Frankie.
The Evening Times reported that this was “at least a start,” and that work could now begin in phase two of the plan, the construction of a ‘gang hut’ center at Easterhouse. Hugh Brown, Labor MP for Pollok, who witnessed the amnesty, said he believed it had achieved a real victory, and would report to Mr. Buchan.
At the time, Frankie was a big star in Britain, so his high -profile visit was a big help for the place.
The Evening Times reported that the singer’s intervention, and heavier sentences passed in Glasgow High Court, were said to have contributed to the quietest opening of the Glasgow Fair weekend that city police will remember.
Frankie’s visit is only part of the story – once the star is gone, the effort began and the community worked together to support its young people on a raft of innovative and exciting initiatives. But the singer was in touch with developments and regularly visited the venue until his death in September 1999.
* Were you there when Frankie came to the Easterhouse? Contact Times Past to share your memories and photos.