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The Doc

So 2020 continued to be a miserable sod right till the end, when it took Tommy Docherty away from us.

The Doc was probably most famous for being manager of Manchester Uinted though he had previous spells at Chelsea and other clubs, plus as Scotland manager. After Man U he managed seven more clubs.

His senior playing career began at Celtic but he could not displace Parkhead legend Bobby Evans from the team and moved south to Preston North End and later Chelsea.

He played for Scotland 25 times including in the 1954 World Cup (but we’ll swiftly draw a veil over the 7-0 defeat to Uruguay – I read once of a player’s recollection that the Scotland team were in heavy woollen jerseys as if playing in winter rather than the heat of a Swiss summer and were shod in big old-fashioned boots – with the Uruguayans in more modern footwear he described as like slippers in comparison. We were lucky it was only seven was the verdict.)

It was as a manager that The Doc made the most impact, taking over a very declined Man United and not able to turn the club’s fortunes round till after a relegation but leading them to a swift – one season – return to the top flight and then to an FA Cup win against Liverpool (denying that club what would have been a first ever treble by any English side.) Who knows what might have transpired if The Doc had not had an affair with the wife of the club’s physio Laurie Brown and as a consequence got the sack? (I note from the obituaries that Docherty was still married to Mary Brown when he died.)

Despite plying his trade mostly in England Docherty, like most of his ilk, remained a proud Scot.

There was a tale told – I think it was of Joe Donnelly, Dumbarton’s perennial substitute in the 1971-1972 season (only one sub allowed in those days and that for injury) that the player had once been involved in an altercation with an English team mate who had called him a “Scottish b*****d.” Docherty, as their manager, took them into his office, got them to settle the matter reasonably amicably then let the Englishman leave the room. Whereon he immediately turned to Donnelly and said, “You didn’t hit him hard enough.”

A character, then.

Thomas Henderson (Tommy) Docherty (The Doc): 24/4/1928 – 31/12/2020. So it goes.

2022 World Cup Qualifying

Gosh, it comes round again.

The draw for the European qualification round for the 2022 World Cup (to be held in Qatar) was made today.

Scotland’s fate could have been worse I suppose – we managed to avoid holders France, world ranked no 1 Belgium and also Spain, England, Germany, Italy and Portugal, nemeses in previous qualification campaigns, but Denmark, Austria and Israel (yet again drawn in a group with Scotland) are no mugs; and I always get the fear over games against countries like the Faroe Islands and Moldova.

Our last two games were 1-0 defeats too let’s not forget, but I’ll give the team a pass on those as they were hungover (in the nicest sense I hasten to add) from managing to reach the Euro finals.

Serbia 1-1 Scotland (aet 1-1; 4-5 pens)

Euro 2020, Path C, Final Play-off, Rajko Mitić Stadium, Belgrade, 12/11/20.

Well this was nail-biting stuff.

I hadn’t watched Scotland live for a very long time before this game. For one thing it wasn’t really worth it, for another the games were behind a pay wall and I’m not temperamentally happy with companies charging you for access and bombarding you with adverts for the privilege.

Anyway, Scotland were surprisingly on top in this game – not at all what you’d expect from an away tie. Serbia looked all-but toothless for most of the match. There was a mystifying graphic during the first half which stated that Serbia had had 55% of possession. It hadn’t looked like it. Scotland only really had one effort on goal for all the good play, John McGinn’s shot which the keeper parried to ground but at the other end David Marshall hadn’t much to do.

Second half we dominated Serbia for the first part. When Andy Robertson was set up by Lyndon Dykes it ought to have been 0-1 but Robertson somehow managed to balloon it well over. I thought then that it wouldn’t be our night. It wasn’t long though till Ryan Christie scored a magnificent individual goal, dragging the ball from behind him, side-stepping a defender then cutting it back through his legs in off the post.

Even though Serbia began to push (they had to) it wasn’t till very late they threatened our goal.

Then came the substitutions, taking off our two main attacking threats and midfield driving force. I couldn’t see us creating much from then on and it seemed as if coach Stevie Clarke had decided to hold out for the win.

Their goal was typical Scottish stuff, conceding late. The momentum swung then and there. As did the emotions.

Extra time we weren’t in it. Glorious failure once more beckoned. Still, David Marshall had a very good save indeed from a long range effort. But the boys dug in and took it to penalties.

And what a performance they were. Five banged in all but perfectly. And David Marshall’s apotheosis with the save of Serbia’s last. Cue bedlam.

History made. First qualification through a play-off. First major tournament in 22 years.

We can all relax now for the months until June. (Except there are two games to come in the Nations League on Sunday and Wednesday.)

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland

In The Grampian Quartet, Canongate, 1996, 88 p, plus 2 p Author’s Foreword, 1 p Contents and v p Introduction by Roderick Watson.

 The Grampian Quartet cover

One of the hallmarks of Scottish writing (or I should say good Scottish writing) is its facility for landscape description. In The Living Mountain, a non-fiction work of virtually nothing but description, Nan Shepherd elevates this to an outstanding degree. Here is the Cairngorm plateau in all its glory, beauty and menace; its prominences, its rocks, its shifting hues, its changing moods, its sparkling waters, its light and air, its sudden vistas and deceptive perspectives, its capricious – and dangerous – weather, its plants, birds and deer, its people, its effect on the senses, its being. If Shepherd had set out to write a love letter to the Cairngorms she could not have succeeded better. Her immersion in and knowledge of the landscape is profound. That it did not find a publisher on being written towards the end of World War 2 is amazing. It did not see the light of day till Aberdeen University Press published it in 1977. Shepherd’s foreword to that edition refers to the changes that have occurred in the Highlands during the interim. But her feelings about the mountains remained the same. They are where she seemed to be most at home, at one with herself and the world.

Pedant’s corner:- In the Introduction; a closing bracket without a previous opening one. Otherwise; “Its waters are white” (if they were tumbling over rocks, yes; but this is in a passage about clarity. The last thing an utterly transparent medium is is white. You can not see through white. Try looking through a piece of paper,) acclimitisation (acclimatisation,) felspar (feldspar.) “In December an open heather” (in open heather.)


And so on our journey through Dumfries and Galloway it was on to Whithorn.

Whithorn has an important place in Scottish history as it was the location of the first Christian Church in Scotland after St Ninian crossed over from Ireland in the year 397 or thereabouts and the ruins of the mediæval Whithorn Priory stand in the town.

Architecturally Whithorn is a typical small Scottish town with stone built houses. I wasn’t really expecting any Art Deco but it does pop up in unlikely places.

Charles Coid, Butcher:-
There is a hint of eastern influence to this but the date in the cartouche is 1934 – slap bang in deco times – the geometric surround to the proprietor’s name with its mosaic construction and the towered roof line give it the look.

Art Deco Style in Whithorn

What looks like an old Woolworths; now houses “The Whithorn Story”:-

Old Woolworths, Whithorn

Georgian house:-

Georgian House, Whithorn

Memorial plaque to George Dickie, “Jack Brent,” member of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War:-

Spanish Civil War Veteran Memorial, Whithorn

Pend leading to Whithorn Priory:-

Pend Leading to Whithorn Priory

The coat of arms above it is the Royal Arms of Scotland:-

Coat of Arms, Whithorn Pend

Priory side of pend:-

Pend in Whithorn, Priory Side

Shutters on pend windows:-

Shutters on Pend Windows, Whithorn

Independence by Alasdair Gray

An Argument for Home Rule.

Canongate, 2014, 130 p.

(This was published in 2014 in the run-up to the Scottish Independence Referendum as a companion piece to Gray’s earlier book Why Scots Should Rule Scotland. I bought it a year or so ago in a second-hand bookshop and took it along on our recent Baltic Cruise.)

 Independence cover

There are many differences between Scotland and the more southerly parts of the British Isles. The geology differs between Scotland and England and land usage is more problematic – one of the factors which led to the Romans withdrawing from what they called Caledonia to behind Hadrian’s Wall. Different attitudes to education (deriving from a desire in mediæval England to keep the lower orders in their place, whereas the Scots valued an educated populace especially after the Reformation in order that the people could read the Bible for themselves) persist to this day. Gray says, “When writer in residence at Glasgow University I was amused when a lecturer in English from Oxford or Cambridge told me, ‘It is amazing that someone of your background knows as much about literature as we do.’ Many Scots friends thought my learning considerable; none thought it strange I had it.” The prospect of a generally poorer standard of living due to agricultural factors led many Scots with a good education to venture abroad.

This book is not an argument that only “indigenous” Scots ought to be allowed to have positions of influence here. Gray is clear about the difference between what he calls settlers who wish to make their lives in Scotland and colonists who will sweep in (and out again) in order to promote their careers. He gives examples. Glasgow European Capital of Culture hired English administrators who did not organise any festivals or exhibitions featuring local or even Scottish authors or artists since they were mostly ignorant of anything good that had been made here. At least two such appointees announced they knew little about Scottish culture but “looked forward to learning about it.” Any such ignorance of English culture on the part of a Scottish administrator wishing to work in England would be laughable – and is difficult to imagine. Nor does Gray ignore the fact that many Scots did very well indeed out of the British Empire.

There is the occasional further barb, “one of those who were then reviled as middle men, and since Thatcher’s time have been praised as entrepeneurs“.

Gray’s argument is well set out but I doubt, in these times, it would convince any who are of an opposite persuasion.

Pedant’s corner:- CO2 (CO2.) “The warlike Irish kings left these monks in to promote their religion in peace” (no [first] “in”; or else, “left these monks in peace to practice their religion,”) Charles’ (Charles’s,) the Scots parliament accepted it and were denounced” (the Scots Parliament accepted it and was denounced,) Burns’ (Burns’s.) “The Jacobite invasion of England by a mainly Highland force, which hoped to succeed with English support, but finding they retreated back to Scotland” (but finding none they retreated.)

Alan Gilzean

So Alan Gilzean, whom Jimmy Greaves said was the greatest foootballer he had ever played with, has gone.

I never saw him play in the flesh, his time in Scotland being before I started watching football regularly and he was in any case in a different division to Dumbarton but he was a byword for accomplishment.

Before his move down south to Tottenham Hotspur Gilzean played for a great Dundee team, so great it won the championship of Scotland in 1962 and a year later reached the semi-finals of the European Cup. That was, of course, in the time when other Scottish clubs could compete almost on a level playing field with the two Glasgow giants. That success came in a remarkable 17 years when Hibernian (1948, 1951, 1952,) Aberdeen (1955,) (Hearts 1958, 1960,) Dundee (1962) and Kilmarnock (1965) became Scottish Champions. An incredible sequence: between the wars only Motherwell, in 1932, had broken the monopoly of Rangers and Celtic on the League Championship and subsequently only Aberdeen (1984, 1985) and Dundee United (1983) have performed the feat.

The power of money and the lucrative nature of European competition for the big two brought all that to an end. We’re unlikely to see anything like it again.

I’ve strayed somewhat from the point.

Gilzean was a great player, one whose movement on the pitch (from televisual evidence) was deceptively effortless looking, he seemed to glide over the ground in that way that only accomplished players manage to achieve. His scoring record isn’t too mean either; 169 in 190 games for Dundee, 93 in 343 for Spurs, 1 in 3 for the Scottish League and 12 in 22 for Scotland.

Alan John Gilzean: 22/10/1938 – 8/7/2018. So it goes.

Beating Them at Their Own Game

Scotland win by 6 runs

Scotland win by 6 runs.

Over England. In a form of cricket, a game which England invented, at which England are at present the best in the world.

(Well, not now. Now Scotland are surely unofficial World Number 1 in One Day International cricket.)

This is a stunning result, as far as I know the first win Scotland has had over England in any form of cricket.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. Cricket is not really alien to Scotland. There are many practitioners of the art throughout the country. (I was one myself once, playing not only for my school but also for Dumbarton Cricket Club way back in the day. Not in any great capacity; I was only really there to make up the numbers. My proud boast though is that I never scored a duck when batting for the club.)

But back in the nineteenth century Scottish cricket matches used to attract crowds in the 10,000s. J M Barrie (of Peter Pan fame) used to be a member of a travelling cricket side known as the Allahakberries. (Possibly not a name you could get away with these days.)

It’ll be a heady day or two until normal service is resumed.

Kemback Waterfall 1

This waterfall at Kemback is to the left of the Community Hall:-

Waterfall at Kemback

Kemback waterfall

Reverse View:-

Kemback Waterfall Reverse View


Kemback Waterfall Video

Video reverse view. The building in the background is the Community Hall:-

Video of Waterfall at Kemback

The waterfall goes into a gully that goes underneath the road and into the Ceres Burn:-

Kemback waterfall


Kemback Waterfall into Ceres Burn

Fortingall and the Fortingall Yew

This is a bridge on the road into Fortingall:-

Bridge at Fortingall

As well as some Arts and Crafts houses –

Fortingall Arts and Crafts

some with thatched roofs

Fortingall Arts and Crafts

– the village has this idiosyncratic building:-

A House in Fortingall

It also has a unique claim to fame. It is home to supposedly the oldest living thing in Europe, the Fortingall Yew, which can be seen to the left of the church in the link at the top of this post and here:-

The Fortingall Yew

The plaque informs us that The Tree Council designated this one of fifty Great British Trees, June 2002:-

Fortingall Yew and Plaque

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