I am often told that I speak like the Reverend I.M.
Jolly, but the man was far too jovial and optimistic for my liking.
The other day I was driving a bus out of Edinburgh when a rough
looking family of five boarded in the city centre, the youngest
being a very loud young lad of about three. The wee boy decided
it was time to check whether the rivets on the inside of the bus
were all secure. He set about wailing continuously in a voice that
sounded as though he had been smoking 30 a day for 50 years, despite
his innocent youth. His father, a shaven headed male with tattoos
covering his other tattoos and more jewellery in face piercing
than most women have at home, was becoming very agitated. This
was because the boy’s behaviour was annoying two Burberry
bunneted Neds at the back of the bus, who began to “perform” to
draw everybody’s attention away from the wee boy towards
them. They started shouting abuse at people walking past in the
street through a window they had opened.
The father of the toddler, despite his intimidating appearance,
picked him up and began to sing “The wheels on the bus” song
to the wee boy, who eventually calmed down and began to join in
with the song. We were leaving the urban area by this time and
the neds, two skinny wee boys of about 14, had run out of people
to shout at so they engaged in an extremely vocal game of berating
each other for the apparent entertainment of others on the bus.
A recent company circular has highlighted the fact that passenger
complaints about the behaviour of other passengers has increased
lately, and this has prompted the company to instruct drivers to
take appropriate action, including telephoning the police if necessary.
Problem is we’re not supposed to eject 14 year old kids
from a bus under any circumstances, and I’m sorry to say
it but I spent the best part of 30 years as a police officer trying
to do my bit to sort out the Ned problem. The result was :-
NEDS= 6,743 COP= 0.
What is a Ned?
The word appears to have originated in the Glasgow area to describe
a young hoodlum, referred to as a“yob” in England.
I’ve seen the term “Non Educated Delinquent” used,
with the inference being that “NED” is an abbreviation
of that term. I’m not inclined to believe that, however,
as I’m sure the term dates back to the days of the Teddy
Boys, when they were often called “Teds”, and the term “Ned” appears
to have crept in as rhyming slang as in, “Look, there’s
Ned the Ted”.
Anyway, regardless of his ancient and historic origins, the Ned
tends to be a youth who is usually disadvantaged by an upbringing
in the poorer areas of the country. In Scotland our housing schemes
(housing estates to non Scottish readers) are the cradle of the
Ned, who is usually aged anywhere between 10 and about 30.
In Teddy Boy days the Ned wore drainpipe trousers, brothel creepers
and other “Ted” gear. Teddy Boys were not necessarily
synonymous with causing mischief, but their image suggested that
they were men of the world, and a force to be reckoned with. By
the time I was old enough to be a Ned the typical “ Glesca
hard man”, or Ned of the time, was wearing hand made
suits with blazer style patch pockets and 18” bottom Oxford
bag trousers. The shirt usually had to be a Ben Sherman with a
button down collar, and hair was worn shortish with a high parting.
Moccasin shoes and a sharpened steel comb “chib” in
the inside “patch poaket jaikit” were optional extras. Was
I a Ned? Sorry, but despite the fact that I was brought up in a
housing scheme on the fringes of Glasgow I never quite managed
to qualify. I simply never had the brass neck required to terrorise
the general public in the manner perfected by Neds.
Today’s Neds are immediately recognisable by the baseball
hat worn on the back of the head, and the designer sports clothes
that they wear to everything from school to funerals. The baseball
hat can be optional, especially if they go for gel on their hair,
and some of them wear enough gel to have greased the wires of the
entire former Glasgow trolleybus system. If they are Neds on the
pull then they will reek of some macho male body spray, with
maybe just a whiff of Buckfast, special brew lager, or cheap vodka
topping it off. Those of you who don’t know what Buckfast
is shouldn’t be reading this as you don’t live on the
same planet as I do. If you are in fact from another planet, Buckfast
is a tonic fortified wine made by monks in the south west of England
for the avid consumption of Neds and persons of general
alcoholic disposition in the poorer areas of Scotland. It is believed
that the wine was in fact originally made for tonic purposes but
these days the monks and the Neds appear to have given up on who
is kidding who.
The Ned instinct develops as he realises that he hasn’t
been dealt a very favourable hand in this life, when he becomes
old enough to look seriously at the surroundings in which he lives.
If he lives in the Calton area of Glasgow then his average life
expectancy these days will be 53. And people wonder why Glaswegians
queued up in their thousands to enlist underage by giving false
dates of birth in the Great War? My great grandfather proved
everybody wrong as he used to smoke 40 Capstan Full strength cigarettes
and drink the best part of a bottle of cheap whisky every day of
his life. He confounded medical experts on Glasgow life as
he only managed to live to the grand old age of 37, despite being
in otherwise excellent health, having never consulted a doctor
in his life. The truth was that he couldn’t afford the consultation
fees due to the exorbitant price of whisky and cigarettes.
With factors such as the above coming into play, the Ned resolves
to show society that although he realises he is not likely to make
the big time at much, he is nevertheless somebody to be reckoned
with. This is achieved by putting on demonstrations of what people
in authority call “bad behaviour”, and is carried out
to best effect when performed along with some fellow Ned actors.
Unfortunately, one of the best platforms for these shows, which
to be fair are carried out free of charge, is on the bus.
The Bus Stop Shuffle
When waiting for a bus the Ned starts to go through his shuffle
routine immediately he sees the bus approaching. His appearance
begins to transform from a perfectly normal looking individual
in sports gear with a funny hat, into a swaggering swashbuckler
ready for anything. The feet start moving like a boxer’s
and the arms start to swing loose like Pinocchio’s. Then
the shoulders start swaying from side to side ready to give the
driver the “Clint Eastwood” squint as the bus comes
to a halt at the stop. As the driver concentrates on stopping the
bus without hitting the dancing puppet on the pavement, the Ned
will have given the bus the once over, checking all of the windows
to see whether his granny or his mother’s auntie Mary is
on the bus. If he detects the presence of a non-friendly ned, or
group of neds on the bus, then he will decline to board and shout
something like “Sorry, wrang bus, big man!” to the
driver, even if that’s the only bus that travels along that
road! Neds are incredibly streetwise and appear to have the
ability to observe grasshoppers copulating at 400 yards. If the
Ordnance Survey employed Neds then the city maps would show every
dog turd, cracked window pane, and discarded cigarette end on them.
“It’s a Zone Ticket Pal”
However, we’ll assume that the bus meets with the Ned’s
approval, and he gets on. He’ll either grunt the amount he
is going to pay or state his destination to the driver. The bus
driver is either “Pal”, “Mate”, or “Big
man”, even if the driver is female. This tells the driver
he is not dealing with a clever Ned. The clever Ned will have produced
a crumpled zone ticket which he will have held against the clear
UPVC panel in the driver’s “bandit screen” in
case the driver takes it off him to scrutinise it further. The zone
ticket might have been bought by his pal, wee Tam, whose Giro had
come through. Tam had used the ticket to go and “score” and
had no further use for it. Tam gave the ticket to his sister who
used it to “go up the toon” and she met our Ned in
the toon. She likes our Ned and gives him the ticket because she’ll
meet up with him later on that night in the pub and get it back
again. If the ticket is out of date then it is easy enough
to rub the ink on the date so that the driver can’t read
it and most drivers of advancing years (including me) will not
want to go through the pantomime of challenging the validity of
a ned’s ticket when he’s “oot his face” on
whatever substance may be his pleasure. The Zone Ticket was designed
by ordinary naïve clever University types in an effort to
make the use of public transport easier to people of a like mind.
They have certainly succeeded, as it’s now a dawdle for the
Ned to abuse the system and travel for nothing.
Some drivers pit their wits against the Neds in what they perceive
is a battle for supremacy. It’s a battle they cannot win,
and here is an example of why:-
Ned:- “Half intae the toon”
Driver:- “How auld ur ye son?”
Driver:- “Whit’s yer date a birth?”
Ned:- “Whit’s that mean?”
Driver:- “When’s yer birthday?”
Ned:- “16th March”
Driver:- “Whit year?”
Ned:- “Every year ya numpty!”
The Role of the Ned on the Bus
As a fair percentage of Neds are under 18 then their first priority
is usually to smuggle a bottle of Buckfast onto the bus.
This will help them with the other tasks that they feel obliged
to perform. The usual targets are the bus seats and seatbacks which
they will either simply cover in graffiti or kick the back out
of the seat in front. They also like to carve slogans on the window
glass. As the Buckie bottle starts to empty so does the content
of their bladders onto the floor. A decent Ned might urinate into
the empty Buckie bottle and put the screw top back on it. One recent
innovation is to steal 2 litre bottles of Coke and pour the
contents onto the bus floor. This creates a hell of a mess when
trodden upon by other passengers, but this is good Ned fun. Is
that pish, or what? Sound effects are provided by one or more MP3
players turned up full blast playing some silly tune sung by what
appears to be a Smurf (remember them?), or some modern equivalent.
The shouting and swearing also comes free of charge. When some
punter (passenger) voices objection then they have achieved the
desired result and the passenger receives the abuse that the Neds
feel he or she deserves. The passenger complains to the driver,
who is expected to do what?
Why are neds allowed to misbehave
The short answer is that they are to all intent and purpose untouchable,
and the powers that be in society allow them to do what they like,
including the commission of petty crimes and offences. If successfully
prosecuted most “punishment” will run off a Ned’s
back like rainwater off his Burberry cap, including short custodial
sentences. A custodial sentence will merely elevate his status
amongst his peers. Any witnesses involved will probably have been
subjected to the ordeal of court and being humiliated in the witness
box by the Ned’s lawyer, who will make more money from Legal
Aid in a year than a bus driver will probably see in five. Even
if the Ned is convicted he and his friends in the gallery will
be ecstatic when his lawyer makes all of the prosecution witnesses,
especially the polis, look stupid. The average cop is a fairly
clever being, but usually cannot compete with the University educated “brief” in
court. The lawyer is in court every day and knows more big words
than the cop, who may attend court about once a week. The defence
lawyer is respected by the judge as a fellow Law graduate. The
cop is regarded as an over zealous oaf on a mission to better himself. It’s
like sending a Sumo wrestler into battle with a Scud missile. The
Sumo, looking impressive at first, goes through all of his elaborate
moves with pomp and ceremony until the Scud comes up behind him
and blows him away, arse first.
Successive generations of authority have tried in vain to contrive
a viable system to deal with misdemeanours committed by youths
to the point that there is now no practicable deterrent in most
of Western Europe. In the dark past the authorities had to resort
to corporal punishment, which deterred all but the most determined,
but the hard core Neds still persisted even then.
Also, almost every Ned is the pride and joy of his mother, who
thinks his behaviour is purely a normal masculine trait, and she
would still be wiping his arse when he was 25 if the sun shining
out of it didn’t dazzle her! I found as a police officer
that some Ned’s mothers were more feared by the local populace
than mass murderers, and twice as dangerous. These formidable matrons
have without doubt had a bearing on the general approach of the
authorities unfortunate enough to be tasked with addressing the “Ned” problem.
When a 14 stone lady with a tongue like a barber’s drawer
full of razors starts complaining that the police and other authorities
are harassing her vulnerable son, then stand back and watch. The
odds are simple. The game is portrayed as a 15-year-old victim
being harangued by every hairy arsed 16 stone copper and vigilante
with a stick with a nail in it in the neighbourhood, and I think
you can guess what happens next!
The modern Ned knows the status
quo all too well and constantly challenges authority at all levels.
If the police and court systems cannot sort them out then neither
can the humble bus driver, and neither should he or she be expected
to do so. Given that most of them only travel on short town and
city journeys then the usual philosophy of the bus driver is just
to let them do their Ned thing and get on with it. Physical
intervention is on a par with a game of Russian roulette, and if
you get it wrong the same passengers who complained are as likely
to be witnesses against you in any subsequent enquiry.
Therefore, can you blame the bus driver who decides that it is
not worth speaking to the Neds or phoning the police? In this area
they can take up to four hours to attend a call to a bus if nobody’s
life is at risk, and can nowadays also justify their reasons for
so doing (remember I once was a police officer and know this for
a fact). Some bus drivers with the attitude and physique of King
Kong may well get away with shouting down the Neddery, but the
majority of us are simply not up to it.
CCTV? We don’t have them on our buses, but even where they
do have them, how do you identify one hooded terror from another?
Some Neds go on to commit real crime and end up in jail. Some progress
to being alcoholics or drug addicts, and some end up hanging up
their Burberry caps as early as their late teens when they become
the fathers of children. Some persist and achieve honours degrees
in Nedology which they use to educate the younger Neds. These Neds
can still be seen, sometimes into their 40s and later, replete
with Burberry caps and beer guts, sometimes never really losing
that Ned trait at all.
One thing is certain. The Ned in whatever version may prevail,
will still be around after my ashes are scattered in whatever midden
my living relatives prefer. To be fair, in the area where I work
they are not a major problem, but I do believe they are a major
pest in Glasgow. I also know that in Livingston they put
barriers across the road then stone any buses that stop at the
obstruction. My last incident involving Neds was when I got my
bus windscreen smashed by a crowd of stone throwing Neds in Jedburgh,
of all places. Yes, there are Neds there as well, even if they
were only about 13.
In case you were wondering, there does exist a female form of
Ned, the “Nedette”, but their behavioural traits are
essentially the same. They can often be especially “over
the top” as they believe that their femininity gives them
more protection than their male equivalents. Oddly enough, in the “Nedette’s” case
it is usually the father who will fight a cage full of lions to
plead her innocence. Students of animal behaviour may well see
For most of us, it would be a better life without Neds, but it
would appear that for so long as the cheap condoms sold in Scottish
Housing Schemes keep bursting then we are bound to suffer their
Copyright © 2007
Walker Who would love to hear from
other platform staff.