The real story is a fascinating one its own right. In the mid-1950s there was a huge moral panic when the local children in the working class Gorbals area became convinced a vampire stalked the local cemetery called the Southern Necropolis and many of them tried to hunt it down. Parents, teachers and community leaders eventually put the blame on the imported graphic novels about vampires that were readily available, and parliament eventually made it illegal to sell them to minors. BUT everyone conveniently forgot that Glasgow parents regularly told their children to watch out for Airn Jenny and the same teachers who railed against the penny dreadfuls TAUGHT Alexander Anderson’s creepy little poem in literature lessons. The radio show showed up the hypocrisy and the insanity of that sort of moral panic, but couldn’t say if there was even the slightest truth in the Gorbals Vampire story.
I deviated from it a little bit. All along, the idea of a vampire was debunked. I introduced the idea of a Romany camp and the Mullo to explain what had happened in the 1950s, and to give some body to a slower bit of the story.
But in researching the story I found a lot of material about the Blazes Dixon ironworks. Google Earth, in fact, provided the first clue since the modern industrial estate is named after the works. There was plenty more to be found, though. And the idea of Airn Jenny being a robot invented by an industrious employee of the ironworks, with possibly a bit of alien intervention, took hold. The word ‘robot’, of course, only dates from 1920 when it was coined by Karel Kapek. Airn Jenny, built in the Victorian age, wouldn’t have been called that.
Semaphore, is the one form of non-verbal communication that dates back as far as Jenny. It was developed particularly by Napoleon for communications across the distance in his wars against the British. I originally had in mind British Sign Language, but I couldn’t find any definite date when it was invented. And in any case, Jenny’s iron hands might not have been up to it. Semaphore made a perfect way to communicate with the robot.
Jenny being an innocent bystander in the story was intentional from the start. She didn’t kill the security guard. It was a complete coincidence. He was squashed by a visiting alien ship! But it was enough to start up the Airn Jenny moral panic in a modern take.
JENNY WI' THE AIRN TEETH.
WHAT a plague is this o' mine,
Tak' him to your ain den,
Whatna noise is that I hear
Jenny wi' the airn teeth,
Dump, dump, awa' she gangs
Mithers hae an awfu' wark