Archives » 2009 » September

A Stroll Through The Eccentric Names Of Scottish Football Teams.

Last week I watched a TV programme fronted by Jonathan Meades which was an annotated travelogue through post-industrial Scotland. Meades’€™s starting point was the almost poetic litany of the names of Scottish football clubs as heard in the results on Saturday afternoons.

Unlike those from England, very few of whom have names that are geographically indeterminate, at least at first glance* (the exceptions are Arsenal, Aston Villa, Everton, Queen’s Park Rangers, Port Vale, Tranmere Rovers; at a pinch Crystal Palace) and most of which are relatively prosaic (Swindon Town, Derby County, Bristol City) – only Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth Argyle and Crewe Alexandra have any rhetorical flourish €“- a disturbingly large number of Scottish teams’€™ names give no clue to their geographical location.

*I know Arsenal were once Woolwich Arsenal and that Everton is a district of Liverpool – as Tranmere is of Birkenhead – but Port Vale (the club plays in Burslem) isn’€™t on maps any more – if it ever was – and the Crystal Palace is long gone: which just leaves QPR and Villa – which may well be a Birmingham geographical locator of which I am ignorant.

The list of obscurely named Scottish clubs is much longer.

I have already, of course, mentioned Kirkcaldy’€™s finest, Raith Rovers (dancing in the streets of Raith.) There are two Saints – of Mirren and Johnstone (and until World War 2 there was a third; of Bernard’€™s) – a Clyde, a Hibernian, two Queens, Queen’€™s Park and Queen Of The South – famously the only football team mentioned in the Bible – an Albion Rovers and two Easts, of Fife and Stirlingshire, which could be located anywhere in their respective counties. In the case of East Stirlingshire their peregrinations actually took them as far west as Clydebank for a season before returning to their Firs Park home in Falkirk, which they have now had to leave; renting space at Stenhousemuir’s ground nearby.

In this context Rangers and Celtic do not count as their full names include the prefix Glasgow. Similarly it is Greenock Morton. While Midlothian as a county no longer exists, Heart Of Midlothian – the actual heart of the county is in the centre of Edinburgh, not off Gorgie Road; and there is a mosaic over the spot which is supposed to confer luck if you spit into it (Edinburgh is not quite the douce place you might take it for) – are named for a Walter Scott novel, apparently via a local dance hall. Likewise the County of Ross is no more; in any case the eponymous club plays out of Dingwall. Was there ever a county of Stockport by the way? Yes, and no. A county borough apparently.

There is a Raith estate in Kirkcaldy – and a former Raith cinema – so the name makes some sense; but it’€™s not on any maps of Scotland. Clyde are somewhat disappointingly so called because they first played by the banks of that river, though they now rent a ground in Cumbernauld from the local council.

The Paisley club St Mirren are named after the local Saint, Mirin; St Johnstone from Saint John’s town (of Perth,) and the now long defunct St Bernard’s after a local well by the Water of Leith.

East Fife are located in Methil in – err – east Fife. Like (Glasgow) Celtic, Hibernian FC’s name reflects the Irish roots of its founders but otherwise has no relevance to Edinburgh, or Leith if you must, where they are domiciled.

Albion Rovers play home games in Coatbridge and were formed from a merger between teams called, rather prosaically, Albion and Rovers.

Queen’s Park is obvious but its city isn’€™t. (Compare Queen’€™s Park Rangers.) There was, too, once a King’s Park club, but that was in Stirling. Queen Of The South is an epithet given to the town of Dumfries by the poet David Dunbar. The club which took the name amalgamated in 1919 from other teams in the area including 5th Kircudbrightshire Rifle Volunteers and 5th King’s Own Scottish Borderers. In this regard the former Third Lanark team (based in Glasgow, not Lanark) were also geographically obscure, and were again derived from a military source, the Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers.

Historical teams in this vein are Northern, whose ground was in Springburn in Glasgow, and Thistle who also played in Glasgow at Braehead. This last is not to be confused with Partick Thistle whose ground is actually in the Maryhill district of Glasgow and not in Partick itself. Other former Scottish League clubs Solway Star, Nithsdale Wanderers and Mid-Annandale (originally Vale Of Dryfe!) had, though, some geographical pointer in their names, albeit to a wide area.

The daddy of all such non-geographically named teams is Royal Albert, for two and a half years in the 1920s members of the Scottish League. Based in Larkhall, they now play junior football. The name comes from a ship their founder also owned. They apparently bear a relationship to the Hawick team, Hawick Royal Albert, who were founded by a man from Larkhall.

I hope all is clear now.

More from P P Arnold: The First Cut Is The Deepest

This is Pat doing her Sandie Shaw impression.*

The song was of course written by Cat Stevens who transmogrified from a writer/performer of pop in the 60s to an acoustic singer-songwriter when they were in vogue in the 70s, then gave up music for religion (Islam) before returning in the noughties as Yusuf Islam – and now just Yusuf.

I bought his albums Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser And The Firecat at the time.

Ever since his criticism of Salman Rushdie over The Satanic Verses, where he appeared to endorse the fatwa, I’ve never been able to listen to them. I couldn’t bear to.

*Check out the feet.

Peterhead 1-2 Dumbarton

League goals against predictor:- 103

Balmoor Stadium, 26/9/09

Following on from last week I was going to start this week’s DFC post, “….with a blunt razor. It’ll be less excruciating than this.” But then we go and win away.

You just can’t trust anyone these days.

Seriously, though, well done the lads and to Jim Chapman for bringing on Stevie Murray and Derek Carcary who got the goals.

I followed this one on the videprinter as I was at Onebrow’s. He’d been watching the F1 qualifying and kept the TV on. Stevie Murray’s equaliser was a mild surprise but we’ve been losing quick goals in those circumstances so to see Del’s last minute goal come up was a fantasy. Then it was full time and Clyde had been beaten. Off the bottom; magic.

So, instead of existential gloom, I’ve spent the last 24 hours in a state of (no doubt misplaced) euphoria. It’s a welcome feeling.

But it’s only one win.

We’ve got the league leaders next week. If we can get something out of that, then I might begin to feel a corner has been turned.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

Harper Perennial, 2008. 411p

Meyer Landsman is a homicide cop in the Jewish reservation of Sitka – in Alaska. This is a world in which the Soviet Union seems never to have existed, the atom bomb was dropped on Berlin in 1946 and Jews decisively thrown out of Palestine in 1948; after which they were granted limited rights to live in the northern US province. As a result these settlement Jews are known in some quarters as the Frozen Chosen. Along with his partner – a half-Jewish half-Tlingit Indian – Landsman is investigating the murder, apparently during an unfinished chess game, of the son of a local gang boss who is also a chief rabbi. To complicate matters Landsman’s ex-wife has just been installed as a replacement for his immediate boss.

The book contains a torrent of Yiddish words and phrases. So much so that the effect is a bit like being battered around the head with Jewishness. Enough already. In this context it is just as well that Chabon has a Jewish background as the frequency of the appearance of the epithet “yid” is astounding. This is casually racist language which I suspect no non-Jewish author would nowadays feel comfortable in using.

The book is certainly a page turner but I am slightly puzzled as to why it has received quite so much acclaim. (Not so much the SF awards and nominations; the genre has what can seem a desperate desire for validation from outside and leaps at the chance to reward mainstream writers who stray within its bounds.) Yes, the writing is fine and the characterisation effective, there is abundant Jewish wisecracking and a knowingness about the noirish elements. (Chabon was deliberately echoing Chandler.) But….

It’s a police procedural which morphs into a conspiracy thriller. Landsman is a maverick cop with a drink problem, a failed marriage and a cavalier attitude to standard procedures. So much so familiar from the average TV cop drama. Landsman even has his badge removed. This confiscation leads to him at one point relying on his membership of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union as he is forced to produce his “Sons Of Esau” card when questioning someone. This incident did, though, allow me to hope that the fear I had that the book’s title meant that Landsman and Gelbfish would get together again by the book’s end may have been unfounded. (In this regard the title The Frozen Chosen would have removed any such temptation from the author.) There is, too, the rather clunkingly named government agent Cashdollar and the the fact that the conspiracy Landsman uncovers is more than a little far-fetched. The mind-set of the US government depicted – eager for the fundamentalist end times – will be more familiar to American readers but seen from the UK it’s a piece of not-even-half-baked lunacy. (It is possible that noting such ideas only encourages them, Mr Chabon.)

A minor thread running through the book is the chess references. Landsman’s father had been a keen player but managed to destroy any appeal the game might have had for Landsman himself. Nevertheless he is still familiar enough with its practices to recognise the game at the murder scene as important.

One curiosity. I’d never seen flautist rendered as flutist before.

Even with my predisposition to altered histories the scenario and setting didn’t really ring true to me. Would the inhabitants of such a settlement really be so despised? Be looked down on so much by mainland USA? They are still, after all, Holocaust survivors. And would Sitka society have evolved the way Chabon depicts?

Despite these caveats I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is excellent stuff.

Flaunting Ignorance

Gordon McDougall, chairman of Livingston Football Club, which was recently demoted two divisions for breaking insolvency rules, has complained that Brown McMaster, the Scottish Football League’s president, should resign as he is also in breach of SFL rules: to wit, he has a financial interest in two League clubs.

The rights and wrongs of this are not the subject of this post. What is, is the fact that McDougall says in the BBC clip (which I first saw on Reporting Scotland) that McMaster was “flaunting” the rules.

So, here is the image:-

Brown McMaster stands in front of the cameras with the rules held in his hand and says, “Here’s the rules. Get your rules here,” like the best street hawker.

Flaunt:- v. t. – To display ostentatiously; to make an impudent show of.

Flout:- v. t. – To mock or insult; to treat with contempt.

Do you think Mr McDougall might, just perhaps, actually have meant “flout” the rules?

Dunfermline’€™s Art Deco Heritage 1. The Fire Station

I did promise in my one year’s anniversary post that I would put up some pictures of Art Deco in Dunfermline. This is the first set.

Front View

Of 1936 vintage, this is very similar in style to the Fire Station in Kirkcaldy which, being constructed a year or so later, is said to be a copy. There is interplay between verticals and horizontals here but this building lacks the painted highlights, the ironwork balconies and the East Coast vernacular chimney stacks of the Kirkcaldy one.

Dunfermline Fire Station is being replaced by a new building lower down the town. It has been proposed that this present building should be turned into an Arts centre.

from west

The view from the west.

rear view a

Rear view. Typical thirties window styling.

detail on west side a

Detail on west side.

detail on brickwork a

Detail on brickwork at front.

pillar detail a

Pillar embellishment at front.

Fire Station from east (ii)

View from East.

Fire Station from north east

As this view shows the long window slopes and in its present form obviously dates from the refurbishment of 1986.

Misheard Lyrics: Angel Of The Morning

Coincidences and confluences. P P Arnold, who was the backing singer on The Small Faces’ Tin Soldier which I featured recently, also had a great influence on The Nice whom I mentioned several months ago now. They were formed to be her backing band. However they quickly broke off to do their own thing.

Angel Of The Morning is the object of the most spectacular mishearing of a lyric I have ever encountered. Someone I was acquainted with once asked the good lady and myself why the singer (Angel has been covered by just about everybody – I think it was the Merrilee Rush version) was asking her lover to, “just brush my teeth before you leave me.”

It is of course, “€œjust touch my cheek.”€

And yes, Jim, I did split an infinitive up there.

Just brush my teeth before you leave me….

Dumbarton 0-3 Cowdenbeath

League goals against predictor:- 105

The Rock, 19/9/09

Out of an irrational sense of optimism I checked the scores at half time. Fatal mistake.

So what parody of a defence did we play this week?

You can’t keep giving teams three goals of a start – especially at home – and hope to do well.

I’m searching desperately for positives to take but there are none.

Promotion has definitely been a poisoned chalice.

I’m just away to slit my wrists…

Scotland’s Art Deco Heritage 11a. Dumbarton!

I took these when I was over in May for the Elgin game. That now seems long ago and oh so far away.

They are all in the High Street or corner onto it.

Woolworths

This is Woolies. Note the similarities with the Dundee former Woolies I posted a while back.

Burton's

Burton’s. Firmly in the house style.

Claude Alexander

Former Claude Alexander’s clothing store. Just across Quay Street from Burton’s.

Former City Bakeries

Former City Bakeries building. The windows used to be lovely but they’ve been messed about.

the testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson

Penguin, 2006. 386p

Gideon Mack

From the first sentence of the framing device – a consideration by a publisher of a submission from a journalist – I felt on familiar territory; Scots Gothic. Echoes of Hogg’s Confessions Of A Justified Sinner – explicitly referred to in the main text – Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde and Angus McAllister’s Canongate Strangler abounded.

Yet this was something of a tease. The actual testament of the main narrator, Gideon Mack, a Church of Scotland minister, is a more or less straightforward contemporary tale of the unfolding of his life from childhood through adolescence, university and marriage with only the merest infiltration of weird when, out on a run, he encounters a standing stone that previously had not been there. Not till well into the book’s 386 pages do we encounter any darker mysteries.

Early on there is one glorious Scottish joke when Mack’s rigidly Presbyterian father allows television into the house in the mid 1960s in order to watch the news and football (but emphatically not any trashy American shows such as Gideon’s school friends enjoy) yet still treats it with suspicion. “and glowered at it in the parlour – as if it were only a matter of time before it did something outrageously offensive.” Which, of course, it did.

At the book’s crux – the turning point of the story is actually revealed by the fictional publisher in the prologue part of the frame so this is not a spoiler- Mack falls into a gorge called the Black Jaws while trying to save a dog and disappears for three days during which time he later claims to have met the Devil.

Taken on its own, Mack’s testament, while an enjoyable account of his crabbed childhood, his unsatisfactory adult life and the compromises with his lack of faith which are implicit in his choice of profession, is not really Gothic enough to carry the central conceit. The framing prologue and epilogue do something towards redeeming this, but do not do so entirely.

Perhaps Robertson meant to contrast modern normality with the sudden incursion of the old certainties – a C of S minister who had talked with the Devil would have had no quibblers in earlier centuries – and to emphasise how the past lingers and lies in wait to trap us. However, the encounter with the Devil (if it was he) is almost matter of fact – with only two insertions of strangeness, one when Gideon hirples to a sort of manhole cover above what could be Hell but could be just as easily be magma and the other when the Devil heals Gideon’s damaged thigh by the laying in of hands. (Yes; not laying on.) These passages feel divorced from the remainder and do not sit well with the main thrust of Mack’s narrative even though he is supposed to be relating it all as a result of his experience. Though having read the prologue we know it is coming, in the testament the meeting with Satan is not really effectively foreshadowed, despite some retellings of an old myth about what may lie beneath the Black Jaws.

There are occasional footnotes where the publisher comments on various statements in Mack’s narrative. Some might find this irritating but I didn’t mind.

The epilogue signals that Mack’s testimony is unreliable. Do we really need this spelled out? He does claim to have met the Devil after all. (Speaking of spelling, I would like to know why, in a book by a Scotsman, from a British publisher, is “mediaeval” rendered in the American way?) The final paragraph may have been one twist too many, however.

In the end we can make up our own minds as to whether or not Mack was deranged or suggestible, or if he really did meet the Devil lurking somewhere below a Scottish gorge.

In sum the testament of Gideon Mack is not as impressive an achievement as Robertson’s The Fanatic but for anyone interested in contemporary Scottish fiction, or indeed Scots Gothic, it’s a worthy addition to the canon. And it is eminently readable. It did keep me turning the pages late at night.

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