I found the following link this week and I wanted to share it in my own small way because it is so beautiful. It’s written by the head of a school in Livingston, Scotland, named Sean McPartlin. He has a lineage not dissimilar in some ways to mine. Though in my own case, living away from Edinburgh for most of my life for all these years I have remained a supporter of Hibernian Football Club from Scotland’s capital. This is just like my dad, my granddad, and undoubtedly ancestors even further back in our family home town of Musselburgh, but a few miles from Edinburgh.
This is not a tale about football in isolation, it is about family, love and knowing who you are and where you come from. There were so many overtones of how I feel about my family who are sadly not with us anymore and the tangible link and institution that is Hibernian.
‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ they say and back in the 1870s this football club sprung from the blessed Roman Catholic church of St. Patrick’s in ‘Little Ireland’ in the Cowgate of Edinburgh. The area was severely poor with survivors and migrants from the dreadful potato famine of Ireland crammed up to thirty per room with no basic provisions such as running water. Some slept under bridges in the Cowgate for shelter. Canon Hannan from County Roscommon (pictured right) along with Michael Whelahan decided to create an interest for the young Irish boys to keep them out of trouble, avoid drink and to attend Mass and so began the story of Hibernian FC. Many of the poor and distressed of the parish came to benefit from the benevolence of the kindly Canon and his club’s good work.
‘I don’t think I ever walk down to Easter Rd without giving a thought to those who went before me. It’s not a gloomy feeling, quite the contrary; it’s comforting and uplifting to know that I’m following in my dad’s footsteps.’
Though not always following football in general these days outside of the Hibs, I will always count myself a supporter of this club. This will never change as long as I am able to draw God’s sweet air into my lungs. The reason is partly because Hibernian was borne out of goodness and charitable intent to help those less fortunate and also because of the feeling of belonging and continuity which Sean talks about in his article. That is why my ancestors and now I called ourselves ‘Hibernians’. It is a love like no other and one which blows the history book wide open while affording the ties that bind us all together, forever.
‘And there will be lots of wee vignettes flashing in and out of my mind and heart – a slideshow of who I am and where I come from.’
Sean’s article is probably the most magnificent piece of writing I have ever read about my beloved Hibs. It made me very emotional just reading those words which in some ways sounded so familiar to my own thoughts and emotions. As May 19th, 2012 and Hibs’ day of destiny approaches after 110 painful years seeking the Holy Grail of the Scottish Cup, no matter what happens, we will remember who we are. Nobody can take that away from us.