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The Alexandria Friday Night Group
The Alexandria Friday Night Group of Alcoholics Anonymous meets at the Drop-In Centre at 87 Bank Street, Alexandria. The group started in June or July 1969 and was the second 'young people's' group to open in Scotland, the first one being in Edinburgh.
The group came into being just after I had come into AA. I was back living with my mother after my marriage had fallen apart as a result of my alcoholism. She owned a building of four houses, three of which were lying empty. A local young man in the Fellowship was looking for premises to start a young people's group and my mother said he could have one of the empty houses. That was all he needed to start the group. Before I knew what was happening, people found furniture and the rest of the things needed for a group to function. I’m not too sure who all the founding members were but I remember most of them and a great many of the others who regularly attended.
One thing I do remember is that I thought they would have taken the house next door to ours which was round the back and up the stairs but they didn't. They took the premises on the main road in Bank Street. I was new in AA so I nearly had a fit when they painted the front door bright green and added the number 194 in bold white numerals. The Alexandria Young People's Group at 194 Bank Street had arrived.
From its very first meeting the wee group was a huge success. Oh, the happy Friday nights we would have during and after the meetings. When the meetings were finished everyone would come upstairs to our house and we talked AA all night into the wee small hours. This was fireside AA at its best.
After the group had been going for a few years the council came along and demolished the building. The meeting moved to 85 Bank Street which at that time was our local clinic. Sometime later the local health board told us we would have to move out as they were moving to the new health centre which had been built at the top of the street. I remember well our last meeting in the clinic - the electricity had been cut off, we held the meeting in candlelight and the taxi office next door gave us hot water for tea and coffee. It was a sad night for us all. We left Bank Street and moved up to the annexe at Christie Park. When we left the clinic the vandals moved in and what a mess they made of it.
I was about five years sober at this time and had started working in a shop in Renton. I spoke to a councillor, told him about our group, how it all started and how we would love to go back to Bank Street. The councillor and a local headmaster set the wheels in motion and the clinic was taken over by the council and rebuilt.
A lot of the group did the spadework to make this possible. When the clinic was rebuilt the NSPCC moved in and we were given permission to hold our meetings there on a Friday night. The number of the clinic was 85 Bank Street. When it too was eventually knocked down we were given new premises at 87 Bank Street where we are to this day. The NSPCC moved out many years ago and, as I said at the beginning, it is now an Alcohol and Drug Addiction Centre.
I know we are very lucky to be back in Bank Street but oh to have the old times back again when we sat in that wee kitchen with the coal fire roaring up the lum and the kettle whistling on the cooker.
I am fortunate to have been to AA meetings in many different places and, although a considerable number of the early members have gone to meet Bill and Dr Bob, I still meet up with people who talk about attending the group all those years ago. They always mention the 'wee hoose' or the 'hole in the wa' and my wee Maw. Oh, the love and nostalgia!