Yogi himself was not in the pub too often especially on Friday nights. He left most of the running of the actual bar to his mum and dad, along with an aunt and uncle. The only time I actually spoke to him was on a Saturday evening after the first game of the 1968/69 season. We had won 2-0 at Ibrox and when we got back to Coatbridge I decided to pop in for a quick pint before heading home. The pub was quieter than usual so I got the chance for a brief chat and his autograph on that day’s match programme.
That brought me into line with Michael Boyle who had acquired a Yogi autograph by different means. In his last year at St Pats he was given a textbook on “Hamlet” in the English class. As he was inscribing his name on the gummed label inside the front cover he looked up to see who else had used the book. There he noticed the signature of “John Hughes” from some years previous and before handing the book back in at end of term he “acquired” the label.
What Yogi’s lacked in plushness it more than made up for in friendliness. With Yogi’s relations working there you could even say it had a family atmosphere. I found the 2 ladies, Margaret and Mary, especially helpful. They always ensured that my lager came from the Harp tap! And there were a few characters in the place too. One of the most recognisable was Jimmy Ramapu (I never saw his name written down so could have the spelling wrong and I imagine Jimmy was not his actual first name anyway) As far as I was aware he was from Burma and had come to Scotland sometime after the War.
One of the aspects of life in Coatbridge that he took to was the love of Celtic. He had become a Celtic Pools agent, he always seemed to have a copy of the Celtic View in his pocket, and regularly round his neck was one of those silk type Celtic scarves that was quite popular in the 1960’s. As well as drinking in the pub he often gave a hand to the staff. It would often be Jimmy who would answer the order bell in the rooms. And on at least a couple of occasions when he was popping round to the chip shop he came into our room and asked if any of us wanted him to get something for us.
There were a couple of wee older guys who always stood at the corner of the bar who fascinated me. Typical of the time they always wore suits, shirts, ties to the game and in the pub. Their hair was ” brylcreemed” into shape. I loved listening to them order their drinks. The one with the specs drank the standard whisky with a half pint of heavy chaser. The other drank what in most places was called a Black and Tan. However that expression had very negative connotations in Coatbridge. Instead people would ask for a “Guinness Tan” or a “Sweet Stout Tan” but mostly it was called a “half n half” . So listening to these guys order their drinks was like poetry ” Ah’ll hiv a hauf n a half an he’ll hiv a half n half!”
There was a Supporters Club based in the pub and a bus would leave the pub on match days. As I was in a group who used our cars for away games I only used Yogi’s bus on a few occasions. Pittodrie (as nobody fancied doing the driving for that journey and not being able to get a drink), and some Rangers games (safety in numbers). One of those days, due to building work at Celtic Park the home game with Rangers was switched to Hampden. As Queens Park had a game later in the afternoon the Old Firm kick-off was moved to midday.
The police also suggested this time to see if it would help with crowd problems. With pub opening times being 11.00am there would not be much time for anyone to get a drink before the match. Several pubs, including Yogi’s, solved this problem by the ingenious method of opening the premises an hour or so early. When I got to the pub just after 10.00am the bar was already busy. It was too early in the day for me though so I joined a few others who were already on the bus including old Geordie McGivern and his young nephew.
Suddenly a police car turned into the street and a couple of officers got out and when into the Circle Bar next door. Geordie told his nephew to let Yogi’s know. The young fella jumped off the bus and raced into the pub shouting ” the Polis are in the Circle!”. Yogi’s immediately emptied and by the time the 2 officers got to the door they met around 30 innocent looking guys chatting away peacefully in the street while waiting board the bus. Later that night when I got back to Yogi’s for a few celebratory Harps there were a stream of punters coming in and explaining how much Guinness or Buckfast had been in their glasses when they had had to evacuate the premises earlier in the day! Margaret and Mary did their best to recompense them in the way of topped up drinks.