From Park Benches to Silk Sheets

My name is George McGauchie. I was born in the Scottish Town of Dumtries in 1947. I was brought up in Clerk Hill, just oft the Brooms Road. I had three sisters - Margaret and Irene, who were older, and my wee sister Ethel. My dad and mum were hard workers, he a coalman, she a laundry maid at the Crichton Hospital and later at the Hygenic Laundry in St. Michael Street. They both liked a drink, but more in a social sense, like most people. As I came through the local school system, it was very evident that I was an excellent football player. I could make a goal out of impossible odds, and never said die in any situation. My dad and other friends encouraged me to stick in at football, genuinely believing that I was good enough to make a career out of it.

Unfortunately, when I reached the age of 14, I began hanging out with older company and eventually began to drink. It started with just Friday and Saturday nights, but soon I was drinking far too much. Alcohol is so sneaky, and before you know it, it takes over your whole character. My football was affected, I was missing training, getting into arguments, even fighting. At 16 I began getting into trouble with the police, usually drunken fights. I began running with a local gang, "The Border", and was forever in scraps and full-scale battles. It was not that I was so hard, as much as I was unafraid of anybody or anything. Eventually I was sent to approved school (The Kibble). Fortunately while in approved school my football and fighting ability saw me through. Only out of "Kibble" a few months and I ended up in Dumfries Prison on Borstal reports. I was sent for Borstal training. Polmont Borstal was pretty tough, yet I got through it because of football. As captain of the Borstal team I helped win many cups for the jail. Unfortunately on release I drifted back into the drink, which brought on the violence. So it was Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow, which became my usual residence, I just could not get away from booze - it became my whole life. In and out of dry-out centres, being arrested for drunkenness, jail became my existence. Sleeping rough in Dumfries after drinking all my money was usual. My marriage failed because of drinking and after nearly 25 years on alcohol I ended up in hospital with frostbite (brought on by sleeping rough). I was the youngest man in Scotland ever to be given two plastic hips. Even this did not stop me. Drink had become my whole character - so alcoholic was I, that without it my confidence was zero. At the end of the nineties, I managed to get a house, but was very afraid that I would lose it through drink. My doctor (who was very good to me) said that if I lifted another drink I would not last 6 months more.

About this time I had a visit from two members of Troqueer Church, who asked if I was willing to watch a Jesus video. I said yes, and can only say now that God spoke to my heart through it. I began to realise I would die one day, and that I was not prepared. The video spoke of why Christ came, to save souls through his sacrifice on the cross on *my* behalf. It said that our goodness is not going to take us to heaven, and that Christ alone is the only sacrifice God will accept on our behalf. It suddenly struck me how lost I was, how I had ruined the life God had given me. A few months before, I remember a local Christian saying to me (when I said this is a Christian country so I must be one). "If a man is born in a bakery it does not make him a baker!" All of a sudden I saw that Jesus died for my sins on the cross as if I was the only one. When all is said and done, we die alone.

How wonderful that I am heaven bound now, and not because I'm good, but because Christ was good for me. So I joined Troqueer Church and found happy fellowship with local Christians from all walks of life. I believe that the two visitors (Mr and Mrs. Alf Marshall) were sent by the Lord Jesus to give the gospel message to a poor lost sinner. Now I am a saved Christian, born again with Christ's good grace, and I know that the man above (and everywhere else) has given me a second chance, and through his mercy I've grabbed it with both hands.

Recently I made a short video, where I sing a gospel song called "My Friend". I heard this 40 years ago - it was sung by a "Con" - yet I never forgot the words. I would never have believed that it was possible to start afresh, yet it's so, so true. I have new friends, new opportunities, and most of all, new life. The people at Troqueer have been, and are, just wonderful to me. Yet even more than that is the Love of God over my soul. No wonder I'm a changed man by his grace, yes his amazing grace.

George McGaughie