First and foremost on my list of lovely ladies is my youngest sibling, Susan Fanning of Huddersfield. Susan is the youngest of seven children. She is of single status and lives in Golcar, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. She is a loving sister, aunt, mother, and grandmother and has worked in a senior area role of the Social Work Department in Leeds for many years. Have a nice day, little sis. Billy xxx
I also jointly dedicate today’s songs to the namesakes of my Facebook friends I have called Sue, Susan, Susanne or any derivative of Sue. In this list, I include Susan Marie Rowe from County Waterford in Ireland: Susan Norris from London: Sue Doyle from Brighouse in West Yorkshire, Susanne Abbottt from Bridlington: Susan Susan M.Boon from Ontario in Canada…and… Susan McDonald Mendes from Ontario in Canada. Have a nice day, ladies, and thank you for being my Facebook friends. Please note that none of these lovely ladies were ever ‘runarounds’ (AS FAR AS I KNOW, THAT IS).
My song today is ‘Runaround Sue (hence the appropriateness of the dedication). This song was arranged in the modified ‘doo-wop’ style and became a Number 1 hit for the singer Dion during 1961 after he split with ‘The Belmonts’.The song ranked Number 351 on the Rolling Stone list of ‘The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time’. The song was written by Dion with Ernie Maresca, and tells the story of a disloyal lover. UK singer Doug Sheldon’s version reached Number 36 in the UK charts in 1961.
The lyrics are sung from the point of view of a man whose former girlfriend, named ‘Sue’, was extremely unfaithful. He warns all potential lovers to avoid her at all costs, as Sue ‘runs around’ with every guy she meets and never settles down with any man. He advises; "Now people let me put you wise, Sue goes out with other guys" and suggests that potential suitors should "keep away from Runaround Sue". Dion stated in his autobiography ‘The Wanderer’ that although his wife's name was Susan, ‘Runaround Sue’ had nothing to do with her. However, during a 1990 interview with his wife on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’, they presented the story that the song was indeed about her.
When I was a teenager going out dating the local girls at the Cleckheaton Town Hall dance on a Saturday night, my mother would watch me get dressed and doll myself up as I combed my hair. She would laugh at the way I polished my black leather shoes until they reflected the face of anyone who looked might into them as clearly as any mirror could.
I was my parent’s firstborn of seven children and my loving mother had always reared me to think highly of myself and never to believe my worth as an individual to be less than any other person on the face of the earth. I was also a young man who’d narrowly escaped death at the age of 11 years when a wagon ran over me, leaving me with life-threatening injuries and a damaged spine that prevented me from walking for three years. I defied death following my extensive injuries; I lived to tell the tale and after three years of immobility, I learned to walk again. While others knew not what had brought about this miracle, my mother knew. She had not the slightest doubt. It was because the gypsy’s palm reading had come to pass as was foretold. #
According to my mother, a gypsy prophecy which she received when she was pregnant with me in 1942 in Portlaw, Ireland, indicated that she would have seven children and that her firstborn would be ’a special child’.
I was indeed ‘special’ in my mother’s eyes and heart the first time she ever set eyes on me and I remained ‘special’ in her eyes until the day she died in April, 1986. For the price of a silver sixpence that exchanged hands between my mother and a peg-selling Romany traveller in Portlaw during 1942, the gypsy foretold of my ‘specialness and mum went on to confirm me as being her ‘special child’ thereafter. I would be almost thirty years old before it dawned on me that mum had told me the truth about my ‘specialness’ but it was only ‘a part truth’. I always accepted that I was ‘special’ as mum had said, but I had also come to know over the years that every other person and creature on God’s earth was also ‘special’ in their own individual way!
Every day of my youth my mother reminded me that I was ‘special’ and therefore it wasn’t surprising in the least that I lived all my life thereafter believing in my own ‘specialness’. Like any mother, my mum was no less proud of protective of her oldest child than any mother is of their firstborn. I was ‘special’ in mum’s eyes and because she reminded me of my ‘specialness’ daily, I naturally came to believe in my own ‘specialness’ the older I grew. Mum thought that no girl was ever good enough for me and she was always warning me to ‘hold out for the best’ as well as advising me how to spot the worst.
One of her sayings was, “Always climb to the top of the tree, Billy if you want to pick the best apple. Don’t ever settle for the ones lower down the tree. They are always the first to fall from grace!”
Every time and place has its scapegoats who are picked upon and held in higher disparagement than the rest. In my young days living in West Yorkshire, national prejudice was held against the Irish and the Pakistani immigrant, of which I was one of the former. The most significant way that such prejudice initially affected me after my parents and their first three children migrated to England for a more prosperous life in 1945 was to make me a tougher person and a better street fighter. Boyhood prejudice taught me to stand up for myself and my beliefs at every opportunity because nobody else ever would if I didn’t.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, men and women lived vastly different lives in England. The country was steadily arriving at the tail-end of centuries of female discrimination in all major areas of life, whether it was Church, State, Law, Education, Politics, Workplace, and even the Home. It mattered not whether a family was rich or poor, aristocratic or plebeian, educated or illiterate: from the moment of their birth, boys took precedence over girls and men over women, ‘in all things’. Such had been the natural order for centuries and there was fierce resistance by all males of ‘any change about to come’ in their manmade world.
In my youthful days, doctors, surgeons, engine drivers, architects, policemen. vicars, politicians, air pilots, lorry drivers, any trades apprentice of a builder, joiner, electrician or plumber were always men, and never a woman. The only profession that an educated woman ever broke into was education, and then, she rarely progressed in the profession beyond that of being an infant teacher, whatever her abilities. That is why famous women throughout history always had ten times more ability than any famous man of their generation. What they did was done with their hands tied behind their back while surmounting and evading every obstacle men deliberately placed in their way.
In the lives of the poor, it was no different. Only men dug coal from the bowels of the earth, built bridges, canals, and roads. Only men drove our buses, while women were eventually allowed in the late fifties to become clippies (bus conductresses) to collect the fares!
In short, the highest expectation of all parents for their daughters in the 1950s was for them to get an office job or become an apprentice to a hairdresser or study to become an apprenticed typist. For most young women from the working classes, it would be a job serving in a shop or working in a mill ‘until they married.’ Indeed, the greatest ambition for any mother of a daughter in the late 1950s was that their female offspring would find themselves ‘a good man’ to marry before they entered their twenties and risked becoming an old maid who’d missed their boat.
The general description that made one ‘a good man’ was to become the sole breadwinner of the household, the undoubted boss in all important decisions made, the sole arbiter and disciplinarian of one’s children. Providing the man of the household kept his mistress secret from his neighbours and didn’t beat his wife too often because she’d failed to please him in all things, he was considered to be ‘a good man, a good husband, and a good father’.
This background of the times hopefully provides you with an accurate historical backcloth of both male and female ‘expectations’ that then existed. This is largely why young women would never be likely to ever get anywhere in life unless they were prepared to give up something that all young men wanted. Sadly, ‘getting somewhere in life’ was too often seen by the teenage girl as ‘getting herself married’ by the age of twenty-one! Her best hope was that her partner would love her as an individual and treat her as an equal ‘in most respects’. Notice that I use the term ‘most respects’ instead of being equal in ‘all respects. It was virtually impossible to find a man before the late 60s who would treat his wife or his woman as being ‘equal in all respects’ if the truth be known.
Before I went out the door to my Saturday dance at Cleckheaton Town Hall, dressed to the nines, my mother would kiss me and give me some of her motherly advice. “Whatever you do, Billy, have a good time and don’t disrespect the family name. Don’t get stuck with one of those ‘runaround girls’ from Heckmondwike. All they’re after is finding themselves a husband to father the baby some other man has given them or to get a free ride on the chuck wagon!”
I was never quite sure where and who these ‘runaround girls’ ran around with and what for? Did they work on the fairground? Were they road travellers? What was it that led my mother to think that all such bad girls originated from Heckmondwike (three miles away from the family home in Hightown)?
When I asked for greater clarification of ‘why they were ‘runarounds’ my mum simply replied, “They run around with every man they can get their hands on ever since they started wearing nylons, Billy. They run from man to man like a scurrying rabbit always looking for a new hole to set up home! They run away from home at the first opportunity, and before long they find themselves running away from everything that is right and proper! They run away from every responsibility they are asked to face and undertake. They’re ‘runarounds’, Billy. Stay clear!” (Mum’s message but expressed in my written words).
When ‘Runaround Sue’ came out, this song always reminded me of Heckmondwike girls whenever I heard it on the café juke box, on the radio or played at the dance hall. The sad irony of my mum’s prejudice against Heckmondwike girls is that I married one at the age of twenty-six years. The marriage soon ran into difficulties and we were separated and divorced thirteen years later. Mum obviously knew something I never took on board. Perhaps I should have listened harder and picked a wife three miles nearer home and the values I held?
Love and peace Bill xxx