Sean Connery was a Rose when he was a good bit younger. Along with mine and factory workers, he was a right winger in one of Scotland's oddities – the football teams that are called after flowers. It is an enigma that seems to defy all logic. Why did the Scots, and particularly Easterners, choose names like Rose, Mayflower, and Bluebell for their junior football teams? They did not do it in England, Ireland or Wales. They did not do it in the North or West of Scotland.
The football flowers bloomed, almost exclusively, around Edinburgh, Dundee and in Fife. Linlithgow Rose, Ormiston Primrose, Loanhead Mayflower, Wallyford Bluebell, Easthouses Lily, Crossgates Primrose, Dundonald Bluebell, Lochgelly Violet, and Dundee Violet.
The oldest clubs were formed in the 1880s and it is difficult to visualise the founding moment. A group of of hardy Victorian workers sit round a table, probably at an inn, and reject sensible names like United, Athletic or Albion in favour of dinky wee flowers. There was a theory that these miners and heavy industry workers saw their playing fields as things of beauty, naming the teams in contrast to their working conditions. If so, it was only in the East. Stonehouse Violet is the only petal amongst the Rangers, Victorias and Alberts of the West.
Another theory was in heraldry where flower shapes go back to the Aztecs. The register of Scottish coats of arms, however, only offers primroses linked to the Earls of Rosebery and lilies in the Arms of Dundee. The Victorians were keen, though, on the language of flowers. Primroses meant early youth, bluebells constancy, roses romance, war, and unity, violets faithfulness. A possible link there? One suspects we may never know the truth. Beauty-loving Easterners with a vision unmatched in the footie world or something nasty in the heraldic woods? Answers on a tapestry, please. And Sean Connery in the Name of the Rose
is no help at all.
Looking in the attic for a lockdown read, my brother discovered The Herald Book of Scotland
, a glossy coffee table tome dating from 1992 edited by Arnold Kemp, arguably the greatest Herald
editor, and his deputy Harry Reid, containing articles by The Herald
writers of the day about Scotland past and present. I had, the inscription showed, given it to our father for Christmas – the reason being that I got to write the Envoi as the odd man out – the others all worked in Scotland and, Anne Simpson apart, were Scots. I worked from the London office. I had completely forgotten about it but the photographs are terrific and the list of writers amazing company to be in – Julie Davidson, Willie Hunter, Lesley Duncan, Murray Ritchie, Derek Douglas, John Linklater, Jack McLean, Alf Young, Allan Laing, Graeme Smith and John Fowler to name but some.
You can still buy it on Amazon and elsewhere but search for the best price. Since I could not sum up what had gone before, as I had not seen any of it, which an Envoi should do, I gave instead 'the view from down here' – in other words London, where I spent all but two of my working years on the paper. At one point, I quoted Disrael's novel Sybil
in which his hero Egremont talks to a young man about the greatest nation that ever existed. The young man replies: 'Yes – Two nations between whom there is no intercourse, no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts and feelings, as if they were dwellers on different zones or inhabitants on different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws'. When Egremont asks who the young man is speaking about he says: 'The rich and the poor'.
I suggested then that the answer should be: 'The Scots and the English'. That is as true today as then and as for the view from down here, it was then, and still is, that the grass was greener on the Scottish side of the fence. 'It may not look like it to you, but that was ever the way about the greenness of grass. I can assure you it is. Much, much greener,' I wrote. Some of what I said takes my breath away, some I agree with still – the awful heuchter, teuchter tourist tat, the wallowing in nostalgia for a past that really never existed and was, at times, pretty grim. But about the present, then I had no doubts: 'From down here it is clear that Scotland's cities are not in crisis, whatever difficulties faced. London is grinding to a halt, is a dirty, violent, unhappy, expensive place... From down here one gets the feeling of a people who are at last doing something about things for themselves: there is a vitality in the air which used to be so noticeable by its absence... the most striking thing is this is a cohesive society'.
Make of all that what you will. But the rest of the book, which was published by Mainstream, is a jolly good read. You never know. Could be in your attic too.
My family, or using the latest parlance, household, consists of my wife, three boys and the other female in the house, Daisy the Dog. So, all in all, decent scope for a few presents on Father's Day. Naturally, I decided to forgo my usual 'lie-in' on Sunday in order to check out the spoils on offer and so rose at the crack of dawn.
As a man of a certain age (59), I tend to know what I like and like what I know. So the short, blue summer raincoat which was a joint effort from Mark (youngest) and Dominic (middle son) was very welcome. Okay, it is exactly,
and I really do mean exactly, the same coat as the one I already have in black, but as I said, I have a particular style and so that is why I ordered it online and then suggested to them that they might want to take the tab for it. Naturally the cards I received, contained insulting messages, particularly focusing on my age, weight and growing bald patch. My wife reassures me that I should ignore them and that it is hardly noticeable, unless, that is, in her words 'you pay any attention and look'.
Next, a variety of things from Daisy consisting of traditional toiletry products, which were much appreciated (though it dawned on me that this may have been a subtle message with regard to my personal hygiene during the lockdown period). The packet of Wagon Wheels which was also included in her present put a wee smile on my face and it was reassuring that they are still being made by Burton's (who have employed a fair number of people from my home village, including members of my family).
Then, this morning, a parcel containing two books by the acclaimed Irish writer, Kevin Barry, arrived from my eldest son Nicholas. Nice, until I looked closer at the parcel, which was addressed to 'Franky Bhoy Eardley'. Respect indeed!
The Keep Out sign came as a shock. We had been walking through birch wood. Old trees lay like fallen warriors, with mushrooms for shields. No paths. Mossy ground the consistency of wet cushions. Two deer slipping away at our approach. The air pristine, cold, green. A wood to get lost in, though with the reservoir always in sight, we were never really lost.
We spotted a strange pale tree on the far shore. White among large green conifer. More like a spirit than a tree. You told me the story of Circe, the enchantress living on an island, who could change humans into animals. This felt like her kind of wood and those two deer, were they human once?
And then the Keep Out sign. A green cabin set behind a patch of grass not far from the water. Keep Out, CCTV in Operation. What for? The deer that might break in? The trees that might intrude?
A man came out. He was smiling ominously. He is coming to tell us to get lost, I said to you, to go back the way we had come. But he was chatty, lonely perhaps in his fairy tale cabin; he could see we were not going to burn it down like vandals did a few years ago. He explained he was managing a fishing business on the reservoir. He had stocked it with trout and pike. The Americans liked pike-fishing. I asked him about the white tree at the far end of the loch. Was it a fire? No, cormorant shit, he said. A colony of 14 or 15... Eating the young fish-stock. Even the big pike have chunks out of them. Damaging his business interests. Need to get rid of them. His smile hardened.
Beautiful wood, I said wanting to change the subject, so unspoilt.
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