When I were but a lad, a chap called Bill Knox used to do a spot on Scotland Today called Crime Desk. This was where there was a round up of all the stolen compressors and cement mixers from various building sites, with an appeal to the public for information as to their whereabouts. There was usually a tag line that a reward was being offered for information. It was like a low-tech regional predecessor to Crimewatch I suppose.
Of course there were other crimes too such as vandalism and sub post-office hold ups for which the police were looking for the public to assist them with. These were the type of crime for which Bill could barely conceal his contempt for the perpetrators. He would explain thus: 'Now to a tale of the sub post office in Toryglen. Mrs Simpson the postmistress was just getting ready to close at 5:00 on Thursday when a couple of (slight pause and gritting of teeth)…neds (the word was almost spat) burst in and demanded money. They brandished a firearm and escaped with a three figure sum' (brandish is a wonderful word isn't it?)
I couldn't find a picture of Bill on the net but during my investigation I found out that sadly he died in 1999. It turns out he had a very distinguished career as a crime writer (both fact and fiction) as well as his broadcasting work. His name seems singularly apt. William Knox – a dour presbyterian type, almost peculiarly Scottish, with the kind of stiff upper lip disdain for anyone who would stray from the straight and narrow. It was Bill who introduced me to the word 'ned'. I wondered then if it was short perhaps for ne'erdowell.
Step forward almost three decades. The term 'ned' now refers to an uneducated yob of the age group 14-28 (or thereby) who stereotypically drinks Buckfast a tonic wine made by a monastic order in Devon, and generally makes a nuisance of him/herself with anti-social behaviour. Buckfast is a 'Tonic Wine' originally formulated for old ladies to
get ratarsed have a small tincture for 'medicinal purposes'.
It is however extremely strong in alcohol and is loaded with caffeine. Thus the 'double hit' for those who partake.
Somewhere along the way it has progressed from the libation of choice for genteel old ladies who wished to take a walk on the wild side to the badge of identity for the bored and ignorant progeny of the underclass in post industrial central Scotland. I heard a statistic recently (although I'm not certain of its validity) that 90% of the Buckfast Abbey output is sold in Lanarkshire.
MSP Rosie Kane famously expressed sympathy with neds a couple of years ago. She speculated that ned was an acronym for non-educated delinquents but this is in fact a 'backronym' which means simply that it is a description made to fit. David Cameron , with his 'hug a hoodie' exhortation was perhaps sympathising with Rosie's sympathy!
I doubt that mind you. It seemed that Rosie was almost citing racism for those who spoke out about neds. After all here is a group with their own culture and almost their own language. Certainly the whining delivery of their speech is a phenomenon I have only noticed in the last 15 years or so.
The apparel of the ned can vary but they tend to favour shell suits and or designer clothing, particularly Burberry. The baseball cap is also greatly favoured.
For more photographic evidence
The ned phenomenon has also now made its way into mainstream culture. Ford Keirnan and Greg Hemphill have regular ned sketches on 'Chewin the Fat' and the following video by 'The Wee Man' sent Youtube in to overdrive and was the catalyst for many single and ringtone sales.
What would dear old Bill Knox have made of it all?