During early to mid 1980s, Mum and I always visited 14 Strathord Street, Sandyhills, Glasgow. The home of my Grandparents Patrick Coyle and Christina Toll.
My Grandmother Christina Toll/Toal (1910-1991) sat at one end of the living room. Frail but sound in mind with a typical Glaswegian sense of humour. At the other end of the living room sat Patrick Coyle, my Grandfather.
Paddy, then in his late 70s did not say much. His appearance was of someone who didn’t care about washing or wearing clean clothes.
Tea And Woodbines
My mid 1980s memory of the Coyle living room was a sparsely decorated room. My Grandparents occupied two sofa chairs. Only they sat on those chairs. We sat on the comfy sofa. A Baird television sat lifeless in front of the living room window.
The air smelled of stewed tea and freshly baked cakes. But the comforting air regularly turned carcinogenic due to old Paddy’s woodbines, or menthol cigarettes. The latter a foolish attempt by my Aunt to clean up the air.
My Grandparents sat facing each other in that living room. Mum and I would be talking to other family members in the kitchen: My favourite place due to the amount of bakery products available for my stomach.
Cake in tummy, I left the kitchen to sit with my Grandparents in a silent atmosphere. I would notice Gran Coyle look at her husband, shaking her head and sigh under her breath.
My Grandfather did not acknowledge her.
The dominant sound in the living room was a carriage clock on the Mantlepiece recording the passage of time. As its hourly alarm chimed the silence broke in the Coyle living room:
Patrick Coyle: “Haud The Chain!”
Christina Coyle: ” Haud The Chain? Away n shite you silly auld bastard! “
Silence resumed between the Coyle/Toll union of 50+ years. This conversation was a regular occurrence. And without fail I always laughed.
But lets wind the clock back for now.. I wish to share with you what I know of Patrick Coyle’s life via family recollections and what I found in the records.
However, it is important to remember that not all family tree research yields positive stories about our ancestors.
Patrick Coyle: Early Life
On the 17th July 1905 Patrick Coyle arrived to the Coyle family in Newtown Street, Kilsyth. Paddy the ninth child of ten to Francis Coyle ( 1866 -1939 ) and Martha Haggerty (1866-1952) their youngest son.
|James Coyle||1896 -ABT 1969|
|William Coyle||1902 - Unknown. He disappeared in the late 1950s|
|Martha Coyle||1909 - ABT 1970s in Canada|
In Kilsyth, there were at least three different Coyle clans. Patrick’s Coyle family arrived to the mining town from County Tyrone – possibly Fintona, Ireland in the mid 1850s. I’ll explore the Coyle’s of Kilsyth story in a future post.
Family stories and local press articles found in the British Newspaper Archive form the image of a no-nonsense family, who were quick to settle disputes by the power of the fist.
One that springs to mind involved Paddy’s Mother, Martha in 1898:
Monday—before Bailie Murdoch—Martha Haggerty or Coyle pled guilty to charge of assaulting Mary Griffin or Compton. wife of John Compton. Street, by striking her the forehead with a stone, and also committing breach of the peace. She was fined 10s. Or seven days.
Falkirk Herald – Saturday 09 July 1898
There are similar accounts of Francis and Martha Coyle’s threats or acts of violent conduct in the British Newspaper Archive. It may explain Patrick’s volatile personality.
Domestic strife between Francis and Martha may well be the reason that the 1911 Scotland Census records different addresses for them. Martha, Patrick and some siblings are living at 70 Auchinstarry with her eldest son Francis. ( known as Francie )
Francis Snr is listed as a Boarder at 15 High Street, Kilsyth. Interestingly, the Enumerator recorded that Francis is married. But no details of how many years of marriage or number of children.
Kilsyth To Parkhead
Patrick Coyle left Kilsyth a boy during the 1910s and with his parents relocated to Parkhead in Glasgow’s East End. The Glasgow Electoral Register of 1918 lists the Coyles living at 102 Dawson Street, which is one of Parkhead’s long gone streets.
The Parkhead Forge Shopping Centre now occupies that area.
Parkhead is an area with strong ancestral links across my family tree. I wrote a post about that.
For most of his life, Paddy returned to Kilsyth visit family who remained in the town and surrounding areas. My Mother recalled he was seen as a god like figure to some relatives, to whom he could do no wrong.
My Grandfather followed the career of his relative, the accordionist Will Starr. They knew each other well in their youth and there are family tales of Paddy accompanying Will Starr to concerts early in Will’s career.
Later in life Paddy bought my Mother an accordion for her birthday, but she never learned to play it. We had the accordion until the early 2000s until Mum, for reasons only known to her decided to throw it in the garbage.
Paddy And The Glengarry
Patrick was too young to fight in during the Great War. His older brothers enlisted and Francie fell on 5th January 1917 during the Battle Of Delville Wood in France. I wonder if Francie’s death affected him. I have thought this due to an incident in Sandyhills during the 1980’s involving old Paddy and my Army Cadet brother.
Big brother entered the living room, resplendent in his Beardmores Army Cadet Uniform with Glengarry on his head.
Paddy noticed and jumped out of his chair shouting and bawling chasing my brother out of 14 Strathord Street.
My brother ran for his life down Amulree Street.
Patrick Coyle Marries Christina Toll/Toal
During the 1920s, Paddy lived with his parents at 23 Croydon Street, Parkhead, and worked as a steel work labourer. At the close of the decade he met Christina Toll/Toal, a brewery worker. From what I gathered from the recollections of my Mother, their courtship was brief.
They married at St Michael’s Church Parkhead on 1st February 1930. Christina gave birth less than nine months later to their first of four daughters.
Family recollections of the marriage’s early years did not paint a picture of wedded bliss. Paddy did not wish married life and tied down with a child. However the social etiquette of the day won.
My Mother told us that her Father struggled with being married and would take his frustrations out on his wife. Appalling behaviour in any decade.
Congratulations Mr Coyle..
When the Second World War was in full swing, Paddy became a Dad for the last time. A well-known family story documented this joyless ( for him.. ) event:
Midwife: “Congratulations Mr Coyle, you have a daughter.”
Patrick Coyle: “Aw naw another fucking mechanical arse.. “
My Mother, the “mechanical arse”..
In the 1940s Patrick worked in Beardmore’s Parkhead Forge. Incidentally he knew my other Grandfather Thomas Sherry another wartime employee at the Forge. During his life Patrick a had spells working as a Coal Miner, Rag and Bone Man and Steeplejack.
He partly owned a Horse with his friend Danny McGrath. My Mum remembered her Dad patiently tending to the animal when it fell ill. Paddy had his own homemade medicines to aid the Horse and would run up and down Duke Street at Parkhead Cross for the equine bowels to do their job..
My Grandfather kept pigeons. He kept pigeons inside his Croydon Street home. Racing pigeons was a regular pastime, and occasionally racing with other pigeon fanciers led to violence. According to recollections by relatives, Patrick Coyle was not a man who quelled heated debate with peaceful actions.
Actions spoke louder than words for Paddy.
Twinkle Toes Paddy
Patrick Coyle enjoyed a dance and had many dancing partners. Unfortunately, his wife Christina was not one of them. My Grandfather was an accomplished ballroom and tap dancer. Almost every weekend Paddy could be seen dancing the night away in Glasgow’s dance halls.
Getting ready for a night out to the dancing was a ritual that included filing his toenails.
What he never knew, was my Grandmother regularly took his best suit to the Pawn Shop due to having no money to feed their children. Christina saw little of her husband’s pay packet during working life.
Paddy’s daughters believed their handsome father still had an eye for the women. They would joke that it would be likely that Paddy sired more children in Glasgow.
Perhaps DNA Genealogy will prove that theory one day..
Paddy’s dance hall trips continued until my Grandmother found a love letter that was not penned by her. The letter displayed a local address, and my Grandmother confronted the author.
The dancing career of Patrick Coyle ended shortly afterwards.
An unsavoury incident involving Patrick and several Policemen in the lobbies of 23 Croydon Street ( Relatives from two different branches of the Coyle family recalled he got the best of them using his fists before succumbing to arrest ) ended his aggressive behaviour towards my Grandmother and others.
The mellow Paddy era began after a holiday at Barlinnie Prison.
The family left Parkhead during the 1950s and moved to the prefabricated housing in Greenfield residing at 20 Cockensie Street. In this decade Christina and Patrick became Grandparents for the first time, eventually having seven Grandchildren in which I am Grandchild number seven.
Paddy’s relationships with family improved to near normal levels as he mellowed over the years. Perhaps being a Grandfather tamed the hard man in him?
But Patrick took great delight in scaring the wits out of his Grandchildren. Occasionally he wore a Gas Mask and hid from the children, only to pop out from behind a sofa to surprise them.
I arrived too late to suffer Paddy’s infamous scare tactics towards his Grandchildren: The tales of ” Auld Aggie”. Whenever Grandchildren visited, Paddy would tell them that an old woman called Aggie lives in the attic and that they would better watch themselves.
Apparently he was so convincing that his Grandchildren lived in fear during their visits. My brothers openly feared him and Aggie. Today they still mention Auld Aggie when our Grandfather comes into conversation. With a nervous laugh.
Christina and Patrick Coyle left Greenfield , moving to Gelston Street, Sandyhills where they lived until the late 1970s. No longer able to climb stairs, they made their last move to a ground floor home at 14 Strathord Street, Sandyhills.
In retirement Paddy would sit smoking his woodbines, watching television. At the side of his chair a quarter bottle of whisky a constant companion. My cousin remembers our Grandfather becoming rather animated when Margaret Thatcher appeared on his television screen shouting: “Get that bastart aff ma telly!”
His appearance became more dishevelled and a slow decline began as the 1980s progressed. The once spotless man no longer washed. He sat on his sofa, smoking woodbines and not saying much at all to anyone.
He ate bland food and his favourite meal was a large plate of mince without gravy. In the middle of the plate would be a whole onion cooked with the mince. It was fascinating watching him eating the onion as he had no teeth left.
Sometimes, elderly people visited my Grandparents. Today I don’t know who all of them were. I remember the day my Grandfather’s old friend Danny McGrath visited the Coyle household. Paddy did not recognise Mr McGrath nor did any reminiscing bring back a memory.
Loss Of Identity
By 1985 Patrick suffering with Alzheimer’s was all but a destroyed man in mind and in physical stature. He did not know who Christina or his daughters were. He thought my Mother was his “Mammy”
I am too young to remember the often callous, hard and proud Patrick Coyle, the hard man from Kilsyth. The Grandfather who enjoyed the company of his Grandchildren and methods to occasionally scare them for amusement.
His decline was upsetting for most of the family who saw it and remembered the man before the disease stole his identity. The good and bad sides to his personality.
I last saw Papa Coyle in July 1985 in Belevidere Hospital. His mind gone and physically weak. I wished him a happy birthday – he just turned 80. But he just looked at me and shook my hand. His palm felt like a leather glove. And I’ve never felt a hand like that since.
An Old Flame That Kept Burning
Patrick Coyle passed away on the 19th August 1985 at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. His funeral was held at St Joseph’s Church in Tollcross. Paddy got a good sendoff as many people turned up including relations from Kilsyth.
However, when we arrived at the Church to take our seats at the front row an old woman was kneeling down there, looking upset but in silent prayer. I think my Aunt asked her who she was but I clearly remember the conversation. The old woman said she was a good friend of Patrick a long time ago. My Aunts reckoned the mourner was an old girlfriend of Paddy’s during his dance hall days.
My Thoughts On Patrick Coyle
I did not know the real Patrick Coyle. My memories are of a poor elderly soul broken physically and mentally who enjoyed smoking. And didn’t enjoy washing. I would listen to Mum and her family talk about their Father, the nice memories, but the bad memories dominated conversation.
I wish I could respect Paddy like others I discovered in my ancestry. As a family history addict, I am curious in learning more about his life. And perhaps that would help me answer what shaped Patrick Coyle’s personality.
The hard man from Kilsyth.