Happy so glad to get the hang of it with Marty

AMONG the avalanche of telegrams to Martin Scorsese for his Best Director Oscar, one from Edinburgh actor Alex "Happy" Howden. But was that "if you've another part for me, Marty, you've got my number" PS really necessary?

I'm joking but life for Happy's fun anyway. He was a comic on the social club circuit for many years before he turned thespian.

"I played the hangman in Gangs of New York for Marty. Four weeks working for him in Rome two years ago was a privilege and a pleasure. He was 'one of the boys'. As everybody's saying, his Oscar was long overdue."

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Happy's role in Wedding Belles, an Irvine Welsh one-off to be screened on Channel 4 soon, finds him in a wheelchair. "It's set in Irvine's preferred territory, Leith, and it was a bit strange for me to be filming in Henderson Street, opposite the church where Freda and I were married nearly 50 years ago," he added, entertaining the company at a dinner hosted by local businessman Eddie "Cheque Me Out" Ramsay.

Mr Scorsese might consider making a film of Happy's life. A miner aged 15 in a Loanhead pit, five years an Edinburgh bus driver, five years a whaler with Salvesens in the South Atlantic. And for 12 years he was an amateur boxer.

The club comic in him persists. He had the dinner guests falling about with a torrent of gags, most of them familiar to me but still comical enough to raise a guffaw.

He quit the buses because everybody was talking behind his back . . . when he was boxing he was nicknamed Sweet Chariot because he was always swinging low . . . he named his dog Blacksmith because every time he skelped the mutt's backside he made a bolt for the door . . . and a teenager asking mother: 'I'm 16 now, can I wear a bra?' Mum: 'No, James.'

Social Masons dig deep

Maybe most sociable of what's left of the social clubs, the Edinburgh Masonic have been splashing their money around. Secretary Jim McLean has presented five 1000 cheques to Lord Provost Lesley Hinds.

The beneficiaries: the One City Trust, the Ark Trust for the homeless, St Columba's Hospice, the Bethany Christian Trust and the Provincial Grand Lodge of Edinburgh.

Cash raised over the years by the members, currently all happy bunnies because their club in Shrub Place, off Leith Walk, will be born again in redevelopment of the area.

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