Act two

This Act begins some time after the end of Act I. Alec has changed and matured, and has new interests. He zealously attends the Mission several times a week, and has come equal first in the Bible exam. This contrasts with Ian, who still wants to play football and is annoyed when Alec does not and mocks him.

Davie is not entirely supportive of his son either, although he too participated in church activities when he was younger. He attended the Boys’ Brigade, rising to the rank of sergeant and earning a long-service badge.

Davie reminds us he is well-educated, having read The Life of David Livingstone and, at one time, dreamt of a life as a missionary. He sees the value of education and encourages Alec to work hard and secure a decent job.

In a soliloquy, Alec reveals he had found peace in his religious faith, I felt this glow, which he struggles to explain both to himself and to Ian. He is seen to reject Ian's pastimes such as football and playing in the streets. However, Alec's interest in the Mission comes to an abrupt end when he is challenged with a probing question by Mrs Latula, an African visitor.

It becomes clear that Alec has been looking for ways of occupying his time and is content to learn his bible by rote, but has not yet matured enough to form a religious faith that would stand up to scrutiny.

He runs away from the Mission and, symbolically, kicks over a midden bin. On his return home, Davie asks him about his mood and the two engage in playful sparring. This leads Alec to wonder whether he should join a boxing club, only to be discouraged by Davie who tells him Boxin’s a mug’s game.

In the next part of the scene, Alec is about to sit the entrance exam for a private school. He is seen struggling with the maths paper and does not believe he has passed. His cousin Ian mocks private education and the pupils who attend the school. A short while later, it is revealed Alec's fears were unfounded and he has passed the exam. This move will create a divide between him and his family.

In contrast, Davie and Billy learn that they are being made redundant as the factory is closing down. Alec is frustrated that his father seems unable to return to his trade and the subsequent argument over what to have for tea illustrates these frustrations. His financial problems are further highlighted when Alec discovers:

quote
Electricity got cut off son. Couldnae pay the bill.

For Billy and Ian, things are different. They are working together as painters and are taking advantage of Saturday overtime to complete the work on a new licensed grocer’s. Billy recalls a time after the war when he and Davie considered going into business together, but Billy was not prepared to take the risk, thus he is unsupportive of Ian when he considers joining the army. Despite their disagreement, there is still a closeness between them that is less apparent between Davie and Alec.

Davie enters having had a small gambling win, which he has spent in the pub. He asks what book Alec is reading, and on hearing David Copperfield enthuses about the character Mr Micawber, who displays similar traits to Davie. Despite financial setbacks both are eternally optimistic that something will turn up.

Davie's high spirits are deflated by Alec's anger that he didnae know where ye wur and frustrations spill over into an argument over money, then about Davie and a woman. Alec recalls a time when he was a child and Davie teased him about playing kissing games at a party. Embarrassed by this, Alec recalls hitting his father who shoved him away and told him he was a bad, bad, bad boy. He challenges his father about giving up and criticises the untidiness of the house, with echoes of the opening scenes of Act I.

Soon after Alec, as an older teenager, is seen with Davie looking through items in the glory hole, many of which were mentioned earlier in Act I. One by one the items are cast into the fire, symbolising the end of an era for Davie and Alec. This is reinforced when Alec tells his father he wants to find student accommodation when he begins university. The final item to be burned, symbolically, is the yacht Davie never repaired.

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