The greatest battle that ever was fought
Shall I tell you where and when?
On the maps of the world you will find it not
It was fought by the mothers of men.
– From Rita McClory's square on a remembrance quilt, made in memory of those who have died of drugs. The quilt was sewn by members of the Glasgow Association of Family Support Groups and is on display in its premises in the city's West Street.
Mother of Robert who died in February 1995 aged 23
I feel that they glamorise this drugs carry on. It shows you raves on television and they're all enjoying themselves. But that's not the way it is. They should show you the other side of it.
I knew Robert smoked hash. He used to say, 'Oh ma, I think hash is better than the drink.' And I could see that, up to a certain point, because I always worked in bookies and if folk who had smoked hash came in, they weren't as bad as drunk men.
But then it started that someone he went about with got one of those furnished flats up in Castlemilk and I feel that that's when the trouble started. The boy had got this flat and they all went to the dances and then went back to that house. And I knew they took ecstasy, so from the ecstasy they went on to the temazepam to bring them down.
But Robert was a family boy. He used to take his wee brother fishing. I felt that Robert would go on a bender with drugs, like others do with drink. He'd go to Castlemilk and do that, and at other times he'd watch his wee brother while I went to bingo. He'd take the woman downstairs' dog out. Things like that. He never, ever stole. You hear of ones that start stealing for drugs.
I couldn't understand why he had to take anything at all. I was the kind of person who could get up and sing. It wouldn't bother me – I didn't need drink or anything. And I stopped smoking 13 years ago because I was feart. I didn't want to go away and leave my weans. I used to say to Robert: 'Why do you need anything?' He'd say: 'Ach, ma, they're all doing it.'
It's hard to get on with life now. It's just existing.
There's an awful lot of hurt out there. You don't realise until you're in an organisation like this. The hurt out there is terrible. Poor mothers. Poor fathers. You get phone calls here and it's the same story – 'I've just found out…I've never had this in my family…I don't know what to do.' And they're sitting there telling you, and you feel you could rhyme it off, you've heard it so many times.
Robert was lovely. He loved fishing and he always worked. And I think back and I get dead sad. I mind quite a few years ago he went out selling kitchens. It was one of these jobs advertised where you were only in the job for a week and they made you a supervisor. You had to chap folk's doors and see if they wanted a fitted kitchen. Robert was very big and he had big feet and he had to wear a suit for this job. And I mind this particular time he had on size 10 shoes, and they should have been size 11. And he came in that night and his feet were killing him.
I've got all his report cards and they all say things like 'Robert is a pleasure to have in the class.'
I used to sing a lot. I used to love that Rose Marie, the Irish singer. I would sing to Robert 'When I Leave the World Behind Me,' never thinking for a minute…
I always worried about him. He would go out and play and it would be, 'Mrs Johnston, Robert fell.' And he would have broken his arm or his leg.
See Robert with drugs, he used to say people who injected were dirty junkie B's. Robert thought that was the pits. It is so sad – when he died it was his first time with heroin. But my daughter said: 'Mum, if it had worked, what like would Robert have been six months down the road?'
He would have turned into a boy that probably I would have had to put out because most of the mothers' boys are stealing and surely these boys don't want to steal. I could sit and go, 'My boy would never steal.' But, had that injection worked and started him, I would have had to put him out for his wee brother's sake. I couldn't have allowed it, much as I loved him.
Sometimes I say to myself, well, I'm glad I didn't have that decision to make because it would have broken my heart. But other times I think if only I could have had him here, maybe I could have helped…and that's when I get angry. I say, Robert, why did you go?
It's terrible when you think: is this my life? Without my boy?
I was so proud of him.
When he was born he was 12 pounds. I've got his clinic card at home. See when he was three weeks, he was 19 pounds. He was a cracker.
He was on the building site up at East Kilbride – up there labouring at the big new tax office. And he says, 'Ma, there's a canteen up there. You should come up and get a job.' I was in school dinners at the time. So I went up and got a job, and he'd be in the queue at lunchtime, head and shoulders above everybody else. So we worked together for the last couple of years and going back to work without him was horrendous.
I've been very greety since last Thursday. I was off work and I've got Robert's clothes in a drawer under the bed. But when he went missing I must have washed the clothes he had put off and put them in a cupboard and forgotten. I got a letter and a black sack from ChildLine asking for clothes so I went into the cupboard and came across Robert's tee shirt. I took it out and I was smelling it, and I put it back. I wasn't greetin' then, but ever since…
It's just a nightmare. I went into hospital at the beginning of February. There was a lovely doctor in the Vicky. My daughter came with me – I took ill at the back of 10 at night. And when the wee nurse came for me my daughter said to me to mind and tell her everything. So the nurse asked me what did she mean. So I started greetin' and the doctor sat for about half an hour and he said to me to tell him how did I feel. And I said I didn't want to die, but it's hard to live.
Robert had never even been on an aeroplane. You greet about the things you wish you'd been in a position to give him. I sat my test in November and I passed it but I've got a lot of sadness because I know Robert would have loved the motor and he would have been so proud that I'd passed. And he was very skinny and he would always say about the Westpoint, that hotel in East Kilbride, that if only he had money for the membership of the gym…He would have loved to have built himself up.
The pain rips a hole in you. I kept thinking once I got past the first year I would feel better because I would think, well, Robert wasn't with me this time last year. But I can't see it getting any better. Last summer I felt the sun shouldn't have been shining. I felt maybe in the winter it wasn't so bad because it was miserable outside. But when it's nice, you think: my boy should be out in this.
You know how they keep on about the wee fish [the small-scale drug dealers]? I say, aye, give the wee fish 10 years and they'd soon stop getting more wee fish. I think it's terrible. They laugh at the justice system, and when they go inside they get playing pool and making phone calls.
And see that lassie in Bangkok? She might come to Britain to finish her sentence. I get so angry. That bitch knew what she was doing. The mistake she made was she got caught. Some of that heroin could have killed my Robert or someone else. They don't care these people. I think they're scum. Really, if I was starving, I wouldn't sell a drug.
For the lost generation
There will be no celebration
For the friends we have lost
At such a great cost
Yesterday Today Tomorrow
They will never be forgotten
– from the GAFSG remembrance quilt
Mother of David who died in August 1995 aged 24
I used to look at him and I would talk to him and he'd say he was only smoking hash. But, I mean, I knew he must have had more than that. His eyes would be kind and funny. Sometimes he couldn't speak.
It causes a lot of animosity in a house. It's hard when you're trying to help them and trying not to let their daddy see what's happening. You're always frightened that they hurt themselves or someone else hurts them. It's a nightmare.
I did everything I could do. I used to go to the Southern with him, to the drug clinic there, twice a week. And then he went into Rainbow House [a rehabilitation unit]. He'd moved in with his girlfriend by that time and his wee daughter was born when he was in there. After about six weeks he came out and he was looking great. He'd put a lot of weight on. He was big – quite tall.
And then he started using again.
Then he had another two children and I think he saw the state he was getting into and he went away down to England to try and get better. He didn't want the children to see him like that. And he would come up maybe every month to see them.
My daddy died in May and he was here at the time and after the funeral he said that he'd been for his assessment and they were going to get him into a rehabilitation clinic in a couple of months, and I said I'd come down with the children every month to see him. So he went back down to England and came back up once more after that. The 3rd of July, that was the last time I saw him.
The police came to my door through the night and when I asked what had happened they said to phone the coroner in the morning. The coroner said it was methadone and alcohol. He was on temazepam and valium from the doctor as well, but they said no, that had nothing to do with his death. How could they have given him all that stuff? I don't understand it.
I went to see the doctor when I was down for the inquest and the doctor said that he needed it all.
The coroner said he had enough alcohol in his body that he would have been charged with drunk driving. But I've spoken to a few doctors and they've said that didn't need to be a lot. My son didn't drink. He didn't like drink. What's maybe happened is that he's been sitting with his wee friends and maybe had a glass of cider and then gone up to his room and taken his methadone and gone unconscious.
He actually lay in that bedsit for two days.
It's terrible – a child dying. I'd say to him, 'You're going to kill yourself with all these tablets.' He would say, 'But the doctor's given me them. It's okay.'
He didn't hide anything. He said, 'Mum, I'll need to go in and try and get off this and get back home.' Because he loved his children. When he stayed here they were always with him.
It's just a waste of a life. I find it hard to believe. I still think he's in England. He was a lovely boy. He really was. He wasn't a bad boy. It was just, I suppose, once he got in, it was hard for him to stop. He was kind enough. He loved music – Bob Marley and UB40, he liked all that. He used to be an altar boy. He used to away and play football – just normal things that boys do.
There were 11 boys in his class at school. David was the ninth to die of drugs.
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