The Bye Bye Hen Man

Posted by in February's Magazine

My wee mate Willie McManus died the other day. He was small, even for Glasgow, five foot two of close-cropped, ginger headed, weegie. (When he was younger, he would tell the lassies, “It isnae ginger it’s spun gold.”) He was built like a racing whippet that had spent far too much time in Weightwatcher’s classes. Likely tipped the scales at shy of 112lbs, which was even more remarkable given that his nickname ‘Guinness Willie’ was well merited. We met in bars, one in particular, or at least particular to us. The Alan Breck ‘no swearing please we’re a lounge’… Bar.

I know what you’re thinking; surely you mean an acquaintance or a drinking buddy? No, we were firm friends. For sure we kept different hours, but we always managed to catch up at some point in the day. In the week following his passing I found myself popping in during his favoured times, just to check whether he was sitting on his customary stool at the centre of the bar reading about Celtic or helping Elaine with the crossword. But he never was. No ghosts here.


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Willie lived just past a retirement that he had many plans for – the crafty little sod had pensions coming out of his ears. He was going to explore the white villages nestling behind the tourist belt of Costa Del Sol. (As a teenager he disappeared to Spain for a bit, neglecting to tell his family.) Moves were, literally, afoot to use his free bus pass to “…jist get drapped aff somewhere up north, walk for a bit, and then get oan another bus.”

It was not to be, his problematic breathing rapidly became full-blown Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Every coordinate on the map changed. It was all he could do to get to the pub, but he hated being home alone – he was that curious contradiction, a garrulous loner.

The photographs on the Funeral Order of Service were surprising, glimpses of another life lived: Willie with a woman, presumably his much-loved second wife – taken from him too soon; a young Willie looking for all the world like the very image of a bodybuilding Neil Lennon

All deaths bleed into the fabric of the lives of those who remain. Particularly Willie’s for he was well loved; it was standing room only at the Cloister Chapel: Over there, former workmates; to the side a contingent from his London days; to the left and right – behind the Reverend Ian Y Gilmour and the catafalque – a parcel of likely lads and lasses from the Alan Breck and, sardined into the front pews, his extended family from (Springburn?).

When Fiona’s daughter saw her getting dressed up on the Saturday morning of the funeral, she said:

“Where are you going mummy?”

To the funeral of a man called Guinness Willie.

“Did I know him?” Pause… Frown. “What did he look like?”

He was short, with a ginger crew cut and glasses.

Frown… Pause. “Ah, I remember, ‘the bye bye hen’ man.”

The what?

“The ‘bye bye hen’ man. That’s what he said instead of cheerio when we met him in the Kirkgate… I liked him.”

That’s nice.

“What time’s he getting buried at?”

Half past ten.

“I’m going to do a minute’s silence at exactly half past ten.”

That’s a nice idea, but you can’t, you’ll be at your dance class. What happens if the teacher asks you a question?

“I don’t care, I won’t answer.” Determined look. “I’m not going to speak one word for a whole minute.” Thoughtful now. “Because I liked the ‘bye bye hen’ man… He was nice.”

2 responses to “The Bye Bye Hen Man”

  1. homework help says:

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  2. Eleazar Do Rego says:

    I always spoke to him on my way past the pub, it was always something of Interest and I was wondering where he was. He will be missed by all he knew him.

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