It was with great pleasure that I was able to contribute the following article for the return of the Hibernian FC fanzine, Mass Hibsteria, specially produced for the historic 2012 Scottish Cup Final between Hibernian and Hearts. History records that the quest for the Scottish Cup remains after defeat in the Final on May 19, 2012; I wouldn’t change a single word of the below however, the words and feeling are but magnified. And so it remains…
As I sit here and write with an MHHM deadline looming – a deadline I thought I’d never witness again – I’m attempting to comprehend the enormity of the historic occasion that approaches. The unimaginable has happened and we are (somewhat improbably) pitched against our oldest and most bitter rivals at Hampden Park in search of the Holy Grail of the Scottish Cup. You really ‘couldn’t make it up’ as they say.
The second semi-final day was a curious affair for me as I’d disappeared for the day out for a country walk, convinced that Celtic would do the needful and go on to meet Hibs in the final. I really should have known that an all-Edinburgh final was in the stars and the deeply emotional feelings that washed over me as I returned home to go online and find out the result will live with me forever.
As the planets slowly but surely move into line for this momentous occasion – probably the most important Hibs game of most of our lives – I’m drawn to thinking about a lifetime that led me up to this point of following Hibs. I’m sure it too is a pivotal moment in the thoughts of many other Hibees who are kind enough to read this.
There were hushed tones in the quiet Musselburgh household that early winter Saturday evening. The men of the house were holding what seemed like another post-mortem. I vaguely understood it was about football and football meant Hibs. All I knew at that young age was that the colours were green and white and that it was something our family ‘did’ – without question. School days were fresh and as a little time went on, and after a barrage of pleading, I was taken to Easter Road for the very first time by my dad. Memories of the game are few but some of the sights and sounds are etched into my soul. Walking part of the way from our town, stopping to view the dry dock with the little boats lying on their side and eventually turning the corner into what will always be to me the ‘heavenly boulevard’ of Easter Road. The lines of neat yet austere tenements seeming to draw us ever nearer to the source of the excitement beyond our view. An intricacy of smaller streets and my dad and I were inside this awe-inspiring place, inhabited by members of our family for generations. A small boy, I was in turns astounded, frightened and full of wonder at what surrounded me. A huge crowd, an even larger imposing terrace and a crackling of noise and anticipation filled my eyes and ears. We steadily picked our way to near the very top, me probably with my mouth open all the way. The smell of cigarettes, the laughter and banter, the tones of a distinctive dialect that is still in my head, wherever I may be.
A view of the old Easter Road stadium with the huge East Terracing to the left of the picture
Giddily peering down at the emerald green sward, yes, from my daddy’s brawny shoulders, I saw this phenomenon and cornerstone of my life for the very first time as the Hibernian players ran out to a huge cheer. There was never any going back. ‘This is what our family do son and this is where you belong’. The men in the beautiful green shirts with their smart white sleeves weaved their pretty patterns for us and I watched, enthralled.
Time moved on and so did our family, to the country of my mother’s birth. I was uploaded onto maternal uncles in a bid to quench my new-found thirst for football at the two Nottingham grounds. The men from the City Ground were exactly ninety places above Notts County who were in their annual bid to avoid the re-election process at the bottom end of the Football League. This family favoured the Magpies, the glamour club of the previous decade, the 1950s and imperious and idolised England spearhead Tommy Lawton but I was nonetheless introduced to both the red and the black and white sides of the Trent.
Something wasn’t quite right with my football world though.
Great excitement was forming on the south side of the River Trent and a dashing, brave and lightening quick centre forward was plying his trade in the Garibaldi Red number nine jersey. Former Hibs forward Joe Baker was leading the charge for the old First Division Championship for the provincial club against the might of Manchester United’s Best, Law and Charlton. History tells us that ‘The Baker Boy’ and his teammates or ‘Zigger Zagger’ as he was fondly known in Nottingham, narrowly failed in their quest. I didn’t care however; I had my own personal Hibs Hero playing just five miles away from our front door and I adored him. I still do.
Visits to the family ‘back home’ would be frequent and it was at these times I began to understand what I missed. A sunny early autumn stay back in Portobello, ‘Good Day Sunshine’ by The Beatles playing thinly on a nearby transistor radio and days back playing on the beach until the water finally, inexorably rolled in again for the day.
Then, inevitably, back to Nottingham.
It seems a little forlorn these days to say but my main contact in keeping Hibs and in some ways Scotland, alive in my life was through The Sunday Post which was not available in our local paper shop until Monday lunchtime when I would be sent to collect it. It perhaps appears a little funny to say in 2012 but I’d read it back to front and back again, devouring the pages word for word. Of course the sports pages always came first and the report on the Hibs game was the pinnacle of that.
It was all Stanton almost every week. The writers talked in wonder at his authoritative, composed and brilliant displays week in and week out. I almost knew what Jack Harkness et al. were going to say about him, along with their archaic prose of ‘onion bag’s and ‘stramashes’. I loved it. I also counted myself very fortunate to be taken to see the great man and his fabulous and exhilarating team on many, many occasions during our visits. If you’re asking me by the way, out of the many, I’d say Sodjer…
Darker days came along after the days of the Tornados, only punctuated by the incredible signing of Georgie Best who put the beautiful team in my heart firmly in the headlines in England. We all know the well-documented ups and downs of the Belfast Boy’s chequered time in Leith but just to say ‘thanks for the memories’ Georgie. I’m so glad you were one of us for a little while.
Life, relationships and jobs caught up with me, my parents passed on but still my deep feelings for Hibs and the family tradition endured, personally, privately. A grown man, I’d walk home on the dark nights after an evening out with friends quietly singing the old Hibs songs I knew to no one and sometimes in my head. In time, the younger team came along with a flow of ebullience, headed by the brash and confident talent of a young Johnny Collins. Stays back home ‘up the town’ by this time were punctuated by visits to Easter Road. In fact they were planned around them if truth be told.
A lull presented itself and the man who delivered me from the doldrums was Franck Sauzee. On first sight I really couldn’t take my eyes off the dominating quality of the great Frenchman who strolled around in the green and white adorned with a pair of black gloves, pinging 60-yard passes onto teammates’ toes. Thank you Franck, you brought me back from the wilderness.
Hibernian warrior: the iconic Pat Stanton
Of course by now the internet was making huge inroads into my relationship with Hibs. As a distant fan I could now keep much more in touch with my team and the people who surrounded it. First internet search: ‘Hibs’. First attempted download: a Hibs goal (which I gave up on after 45 minutes!) much more than this though it gave me some of the best friends of my life, back home as my relationship with Edinburgh happily travelled full circle, back into the fold of my own people.
As I sit here and write, my most recent emotions were over friends trying their very best to find me a gold dust ticket for our date with destiny on May 19th. Having all but given up any hope I was resigned to coming back to Edinburgh and travelling through to Hampden with the idea of standing listening from outside the stadium’s walls. I just wanted to be near Hibs at that time – ‘where I belong’. I know that my late father would have understood. He’s in these pages, with his dad too. They’ll be at Hampden.
A few days ago I received a message that brought completely unexpected news – I am to be there to witness the big day. A dear friend gained me that precious ticket to be with my team in their greatest hour. I don’t mind admitting that I shed a tear or two. ‘My tears are drying’ though thank you, thank you – beauty and kindness. I’d like to also thank all my friends back home for just being there and an especial thank you to the MHHM team for their hard work and vision in providing this opportunity for a few of us ordinary fans to express ourselves. The hour approaches. To my fellow Hibernians – ‘I will be with you’.
I’ll end by repeating something I wrote a few years ago. It still holds true and always will.
‘It still remains a love like no other. I can’t ever imagine Hibs not being a cornerstone of everything I stand for and come from’.
See you at Hampden.
God bless the Hibs.
It’s the day before catching the train back to Edinburgh for the Scottish Cup Final between Hibs and Hearts. I’m putting a few things in a bag – or trying to – I’ve been so distracted all week and hardly able to concentrate on anything bar this momentous occasion.
After a lifetime of following Hibs, this is the most important game of them all. It’s a mixture of emotions, pride, tension, joy, fear and everything in-between. To my friends: ‘Good luck’. To my ancestors: ‘You walk with me’.
I’m on my way.
God Bless the Hibs.
Have a few Hibs Heroes.
THIS TIME OF YEAR brings about a few firsts and one of the least welcome for me (and I suspect many other people) is the first time the lawnmower gets dragged out of the garden shed, resplendent in cobwebs and spiders. I managed to negotiate the ‘fuse test’ successfully this year with my bog-standard orange Flymo striking up at the first push of the button.
I’ve come to understand why they make these machines in orange, it’s so that I don’t lose them in the long wet grass of a British Spring time. I actually managed to get my lawns trimmed early in March this year during our traditional 1.5-week summertime. Since that time it’s been all downhill of course with the seemingly incessant rain serving up a gardener’s double whammy of not being able to step into the garden without getting soaked and the grass and weeds growing as fast as a very fast thing. Even my little pal who sits brightly in my garden through wind, hail and snow twelve months a year was beginning to suffer (though putting a brave face on as always).
Anyway, as I sit here tonight relaxing on a Saturday evening, my sore back tells me that the three cuts I needed to carry out on my lawns have been accomplished. I’m okay, I’m pouring a couple of bottles of cold Becks biers on my back and looking out on a May garden that has started to rise from the wilderness. A few wild elephants and tigers may have been displaced from the long grass but all is well. Even my little pal thinks so. Now for those weeds…
LAST EVENING I VISITED the Nottingham Playhouse to see the opening night of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (The Musical), a new serving of author Alan Sillitoe’s classic and gritty take on Nottingham life in the late 1950s. I’ll state my case straight away in the interests of fairness by saying that I’m not particularly a fan of musicals generally speaking so this will by no means be an attempt at a serious review of this albeit rather enjoyable production. Other will provide much more useful reviews, such as the one featured here in the Nottingham Post. I am however, a huge fan of Alan Sillitoe’s original book and the film derived from it and this is the reason I attended the pleasant arena of Nottingham Playhouse for the production’s initial showing.
The show is already in motion of sorts as the audience are still filing in, with the infamous Saturday night scene from the White Horse at Radford beginning to build. There’s a hubbub from the throng of drinkers and cigarette smoke filters on stage through the still half-full auditorium. There’s a couple of black and white Notts County scarves in the mix along with a few ladies head scarves that help paint the scene of a vibrant working class suburb of post-war Nottingham.
Image from: ‘Arthur’s Blog’
Our working class anti-hero, Arthur Seaton, makes his first appearance and is immediately challenged to a drinking contest which he proceeds to win before fully throwing up over an innocent bystander in the pub followed by the unfortunate’s horrified wife in quick order!
It’s interesting to note how Seaton is portrayed, cocky as always and full of himself, ‘out for a good time and all the rest is propaganda‘. A more sensitive side to the character is shown however in Arthur’s Sunday morning fishing trips down the canal bank where he philosophises about his life and lot in his now peaceful environ, rod and reel in hand, bicycle by his side.
The musical takes us on a fun ride through a Thursday night at the local Goose Fair, a Monday evening date at the ’Granby’ picture house and several scenes back in the White Horse and his parent’s parlour. There’s a large cast and the show is dynamic and fast-moving. Some of the most arresting scenes were the depictions of the Raleigh cycle factory where everyone of a certain age in Nottingham knew someone who worked. We see Arthur at his ‘lathe’ getting up to mischief upsetting a female worker and putting forth his views on lifestyle, his own particular variation on morality and the working classes. There were good attempts at the local (very difficult to imitate) dialect. Certainly, this was not the actor Albert Finney’s strong suit it has to be said in an otherwise fantastic and convincing portrayal of Seaton in the original film so it would possibly be a little churlish to pick up on the minutia here.
Arthur’s visit to Goose Fair and the hiding he takes from two squaddies for his philandering misdemeanours are featured along with a protracted scene of his bed-ridden few days convalescing after his beating. A tender visit from his girl Doreen and some love and biscuits from his ‘mam’ are punctuated by the comical scene where Arthur, aided and abetted by his visiting pal, shoot the local gossip in the back side in the yard below from his bedroom window with an air gun.
It’s well-documented that Arthur Seaton turns from the brash and boozy Saturday night womaniser and brawler to fall in love with Doreen and much of the second, shorter half of the production features this turnaround. One is reminded of the memorable closing scenes in the film epic as the young couple, with their lives in front of them, sit on a country hillside overlooking new houses being built in the far panorama as the 1960s dawn and the titles roll. It occurs to me that it would have been interesting to understand what happened to Arthur and Doreen in the ensuing years.
This story is of its time and was a landmark moment in literary and cinematographic history. It is however no less relevant in 2012 as was shown by this independent amateur production. It’s current short run ends on Saturday 12th May. If you like the late Alan Sillitoe’s portrayal of working class life in a Midlands city of the late 1950s it’s well worth giving this musical interpretation a visit.
YESTERDAY, MAY 6TH saw the annual Cowslip Sunday celebrations in the pretty local village of Lambley. Hoping for a break in the dreadful Spring weather that has seen us soggy for what seems like a month now, I set off with a friend for a pleasant cycle ride of a few miles along the country lanes to the festivities.
Cowslip Sunday is a centuries-old celebration, traditionally held on the first Sunday in May each year. For many years it had appeared only in very muted style with the ancient tradition only being resurrected fully in 2010 and each subsequent year.
From the mid-19th century, villagers, typically stocking frame workers in the little cottages, would send their children out to collect cowslips which grew in profusion around Lambley. The pretty yellow flowers were sold in posies on the day to the many in-comers to the village, often largely from Nottingham six miles away, and also used to make a strong wine. ‘Cowslip balls’ were also made by the village’s children – small balls of dried grass which were decorated with cowslips and sold to the visitors. It was all a pleasant diversion for the stocking frame workers and their eked-out existence of hard work and low pay. On the big day, a procession of the congregation from the local church would occur where the rector would bless the local Dumble, this being a locally-used word for a wood lined stream, usually sitting in a small, steep sided valley
Sleepy little Lambley, a village named in the Domesday Book meaning ‘Lea of the lambs’ – a clearing where lambs are kept, must have changed its complexion greatly for this annual celebration of Spring arriving in older times. It is reported that in the Victorian era the police would often have to control the rowdy celebrations. Quoted from a local newspaper from 1866 on the Lambley Arts Festival website:
‘…visitors on Sunday were quite in equal numbers to former years, though, if we must judge from the manners and customs of a great part of them, and their acts and language, we should conclude that the class has not improved since their last annual visit’
Thankfully the modern-day celebration give no cause to draw out the local constabulary as they once did in those joyous, hedonistic days on the strong and sweet-tasting cowslip wine. Arriving at lunchtime we visited the village hall for a fortifying mug of hot tea and a slab of excellent home-made cake baked by the ladies of the local WI. Craft stalls were set out along with a Punch and Judy stand in the next-door Primary School’s playground. Further beyond in Farmer Dickie’s field lay the stage surrounded by hay bales in readiness for the local production ‘Lambley Jack and the Golden Stockings’, billed as a ‘panto for Springtime’.
I really can’t tell you how much fun this was! ‘Lambley Jack’ according to legend was a local ‘footpad’ – basically a cross between a highwayman and mugger – all probably supplemented by a little poaching and other nefarious deeds to keep the wolf from the door. You could probably describe him as Lambley’s own Robin Hood figure who spawned the local phrase ‘he’s got the cheek of Lambley Jack!’ Here though we see Jack as a young man with his family headed by his mother ‘Lambley Lil’ played in hilarious panto dame fashion. A gent by the name of Roger was yanked out of the crowd by amorous Lil:
‘Where are you from Roger?’
‘Hucknall’ (an industrial town a few miles away)
‘I heard what you said the first time, I’m just sorry!’
Each of the cast played an excellent part in a production that was great fun. A special word for the youngsters who shone and pleased the healthy-sized and enthusiastic outdoor audience.
‘Lambley Jack and the Golden Stockings’
A walk afterwards across the fields and down the pretty Lower Dumble with it’s rookeries and little stream was punctuated with a drink in my favourite watering hole, The Woodlark, which I keep meaning to write about one of these days. Later afternoon approached and it was time to saddle up and cycle along Spring Lane away from the village for the day.
Let me recommend Cowslip Sunday at Lambley to you. Beware however, once in the confines of this attractive and quaint Nottinghamshire village in it’s little valley, you may never want to leave.
Sadly, the full celebration of Lambley’s Cowslip Sunday will not be repeated this year in 2013. However, there are plans to resurrect it in 2014 and there remain plans for some commemoration of the day this year, as below:
Extract from Lambley Parish News April 2013