Ian is Billy's son and Alec's cousin. The boys are about the same age. Ian's function in the play is to provide a contrast to Alec, and this is largely because of his father’s influence. At first, the boys play together but, while Alec is a dreamer and keen on stories, Ian is a realist with a more practical ambition.
When Alec finds the broken yacht, Ian sees it simply as,
It’s got nae sails or nae mast or nothing whereas Alec sees an opportunity,
Ah’m gonnae get my da tae fix it up. Ian tries to stifle Alec's pride when he points out that Alec's father is not a sailmaker any longer but a 'tick man', and questions whether he wrote the ‘poem’ which Alec quotes.
He makes it clear that he intends to work with his father as a painter in the future as
Ye need a trade.
The boys share an interest in supporting Rangers Football Club, but Ian's views are narrow-minded and sectarian, whereas Alec is willing to look beyond the constraints of the stereotypes. When Alec finds the
holy medal, Ian
recoils in horror at the sight of it, whereas Alec admits he likes it. Ian criticises Catholicism when he teases Alec
Next thing ye’ll be carrying a rosary and crossin yerself.
Ian's lack of imagination and inferior intellect are clear in the scenes where the boys are playing or when Alec remembers being confused when hearing the word “bookie” as a child. Ian's response is to tease Alec, largely because he doesn't understand him. However, the boys work well together when they make bows and arrows.
In Act II, when Alec matures and tries different experiences, such as the Mission, Ian remains with his childhood games of playing football in the street. In keeping with his character, he teases Alec for going to the Mission and complains
Ye never come oot wi us these days. This attitude is seen again when he and Alec discuss the private school.
Ian hates school and is desperate to leave at the earliest opportunity and go out to work:
Soon as ah’m auld enough ah’m chuckin it. Getting maself a job. He doesn't understand why Alec would want to continue with his education and criticises the private school boys’ uniform, sports and sexuality,
ah’d watch ma bum if ah was you!
This point marks the end of their relationship: Alec is going to private school and Ian and his father are likely to be moving away to find work, as Billy is facing redundancy.
Soon after we see Billy and Ian working closely together on a painting job; their close relationship contrasts with Alec and Davie who are drifting apart. Ian has changed his priorities and is willing to forego the football match in order to earn money working overtime.
Their cheese or spam sandwiches link them to the working-class. Ian has some ambition to be his own boss or experience working in a different environment, such as the army. These ideas, however, are not encouraged by his father who believes that Ian has no idea what the army is really like.