Seldom can such an epitaph have been written to a faithful friend. Byron was no ordinary poet though and nor seemingly was his loyal, Boatswain an ordinary pet in his eyes and heart.
‘Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.’
When Byron wrote his moving words in 1808, he had deep financial problems. His beloved Newfoundland dog, Boatswain, had died after being bitten by a rabid dog in nearby Mansfield Market Place. The poet concluded to a friend that he had now lost most everything.
Despite his acute pecuniary problems, Byron was driven to demonstrate his love and affection for his dog by commissioning an impressive marble monument at the poet’s ancestral home, Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire.
Boatswain was buried in an elaborate tomb, which was indeed larger and more impressive than that erected for Byron himself in St Mary Magdalene’s Church at Hucknall, after his passing in Missolonghi in Greece in 1824.
I have many times, when wandering and dreaming through dear Newstead’s remains, admired this monument and its fine and devoted words, many of which were faded over the years. I am very happy to read today of its refurbishment.
Dedicated to the memory of my late friend, Alistair Tait. The kindest and warmest dog lover it was my great pleasure to know.
I like this man. Dave Bartram, The ‘Cockle Man’ has been a familiar sight and local character around Nottingham’s pubs since before my first student steps into the city’s many and varied hostelries in the mid-seventies. Dave’a cry of ‘cockles, mussels’ often bringing a response of ‘alive a live-oh!’ in the likes of the Elizabethan Bar in the Bell Inn where I would often see him and the many other public houses where Dave can be found doing his rounds, as he has been since the 1960s
Additionally, each pot of seafood sold to people in Nottingham’s bars these days sees a donation heading towards the Rainbows Hospice for young people and children.
Dave Bartram, Nottingham’s ‘Cockle Man’
I applaud these fabled great characters of the city like the Cockle Man, people such as Sally the ‘painter girl’ and the late Frank Robinson, also known as ‘Xylophone Man’. In a bland generally characterless modern society these individuals bring colour, fibre and identity to a city.
At the age of 70, Dave, walking along a precinct from The Thurland Arms to The Old Dog And Partridge, was jumped and attacked. As he has professed before, he tried to protect himself with his big basket, what a man. After the incident, whilst being examined by doctors at the Nottingham City hospital, Dave was found to have a cancer diagnosis. Crucially however, a very treatable one that was fortunate enough to be found in its early stages.
I’m happy that some somewhat unlikely good has come out of this story.
Long live ‘The Cockle Man’.
I’ve no idea where this is, or is supposed to be, more accurately but I’ve decided that I’d really, really like to live there, especially if there is a beach to walk on nearby too.
World: ‘(Knock knock) Hello, are you in there, Stuart?’
Stuart: ‘No, go away’.
PAH! NOTHING new about ‘ice bars’ in Nottingham. As a lad doing my drinking apprenticeship in the late 1970s, several pubs here were absolutely freezing in the winter. I even recall a portable calor gas heater being wheeled into one hostelry, The Wilberforce Tavern, as the landlord fought valiantly to stop friends and I from entering an extreme hypothermia induced coma. (It was either that or the local, infamous Shipstones bitter which owned an over-optimistic anagram of ‘honest p*ss’.)
The former Wilberforce Tavern, Wollaton Street, Nottingham – several Trent Polytechnic students may have perished on these premises in the 1970s. At least there was a good chippy next door for the wake.
Actress, Shilpa Shetty has an interesting conception of book reviewing. I had never in fact realised that George Orwell’s classic political satire, Animal Farm, written in 1945 was about animal husbandry.
I’d like to offer a one line book review of my own too and would like to encourage you to do the same…
‘Oliver Twist – a book about a young boy named Oliver who invented a dance craze popular in the early 1960s.’
Nottingham Goose Fair memories: ‘Big George, The Gentle Giant and my dad.
UP UNTIL THE EARLY NINETIES, ‘George the Gentle Giant’ was a Scotsman who would visit the fair each year who I remember as a youngster being a travelling attraction. Big George Gracie was a Lanarkshire man who measured fully 7ft 3ins tall, weighed 28 stone and stood in size 18 shoes. His size was caused by a brain tumour in his pituitary gland, as I understand.
Gentle Giant – George Gracie
The big man’s living was to allow people to come and stare at him on a fairground sideshow stall for a few pennies. People would pay their money and file around his pen. The big man was a most affable fellow, in spite of it all.
I recall dad took me to the Goose Fair one early October Saturday afternoon. After the various round of coconut shies, rifle ranges, Waltzers and confectionery, dad decided we would go and see George after spotting a garish ‘Scotland’s Tallest Man’ sign..
What followed was extraordinary to my young eyes. Dad walked in, me trailing behind him hand in his huge strong hand and greeted George like he had known him all his life – as he did everyone in fact. Big George instantly recognised dad’s very strong Scottish accent and they began talking like two brothers…far from home. It should be remembered that this was the 1960s when distances had a different conception and where having family 300 miles apart in England and Scotland, as I did, felt like having relatives on the moon.
George was from the village of Forth in Lanarkshire whilst ma daddy and me had family just a few miles away in Uddingston and Bellshill. The two men sat and talked and talked for what seemed like a very long time, maybe an hour passed instead of the prescribed two or three minutes, everyone else,the sightseers filing past being ignored, These two ‘brothers’ from the auld country, talking of young days, people, places. In a world of kinship and brotherhood, of blood being thicker than water. Two Scots lads who had found themselves meeting in strange circumstances.
I learnt something that day from this extraordinarily tender scene between that giant of a man and my big rough, tough dad.
‘We must always love our own, Stuart’ John said as he bade a fond goodbye to a newly met friend in George,
And I always have…
In 1993, after having mobility issues from an overworked heart, gentle George passed away from cancer, the same illness that had made him so large claiming him at the age of 53 years.
God Bless, George.
I WAS GLAD TO HEAR that Jeremy Corbyn won his ‘re-election’ today. It had seemed totally unfair to me that he had to go through this process after his resounding win to become leader just a short while ago – just because some Labour people didn’t agree about what he had to offer and weren’t prepared to accept him. Or the fact that the media and to some degree the electorate, seem to believe that owning a somewhat unkempt beard and not dressing in power suits are relevant political portents in a leader. We rue the fact that Jeremy is not a ‘smart young man’, like Blair and Cameron for example. Excuse me while I rid the thought of them out of my mind… Jeremy Corbyn however, appears a thoroughly decent, fair-minded and scrupulous individual by comparison. That will never do in 2016.
What’s noticeable is the miserablist attitude of the losing Labour side today who seemingly would happily like to see him hung out to dry in a General Election as they were unable to divorce him from his position – by quite some margin actually. Albeit, I do agree with reservations regarding Jeremy’s leadership abilities. Another of the many reasons why the Labour Party is heading nowhere – apart from oblivion, sadly.
I’m afraid though, after being a solid Labour supporter all my life and a member in the past it all leaves me somewhat cold these days and it is unlikely they will ever receive my vote again. Their duplicitous attitude, when they stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories over the Scottish referendum has seen to that. Many of us will not forget talk about armed border controls between England and Scotland by the ridiculous Labour leader of the time and the sickening deceit and lies of Gordon Brown. I have family in both countries and this is unacceptable to me. I actually spoiled my voting slip for what it is worth at the last General Election, scribbling the candidates out and adding SNP – this in Gedling Borough constituency in the heart of England.
Good luck Jeremy, you’re going to need it, my friend. Far from being the raging lefty you are presented as, you merely represent what a mainstream Labour Party should be all about. As distinct from the red Tories they have scandalously become Labour died in this decade I’m afraid. They are sadly, no longer.
‘Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.’
IN THE 1960s, when game shows were king, perhaps one man stood out for the sheer bulk of presence on our television screens. Hughie Green a Canadian born in London, UK hosted Double Your Money a show that ran for fully 260 episodes until 1968. Based on the US 64,000 Dollar Question the programme was the required viewing on ITV when there were but two and latterly three channels only to choose from as many families would gather to watch Hughie’s antics.
His popularity went from strength to strength as a household name and celebrity as he then hosted Opportunity Knocks the classic talent show which then ran on Thames TV up until 1978 with Green at the helm.
Green, at times, displayed a less savoury side to his character and many were the stories regarding his heavy drinking and generally obnoxious behaviour. The former was said by some to have been the reason that the popular show took a hiatus and he lost his position heading it. Green complained bitterly, even to the degree of a remarkable display of self interest on-air at the end of the final episode when he waxed lyrical, boasting about his wartime service as a veteran.
He was central to something of a scandal at the time when it was revealed that he was the biological father of TV presenter, Paula Yates – a fact she found out through the press.
I recently came across a recording of Green making a personal appearance at the Cavendish Woodhouse furniture store in Nottingham at the time, when he had recently had his show taken off the air and was not at all happy about it. I recall it being reported at the time in the local press that local radio station, Radio Trent, had been there to cover the occasion but refused to air the recording made of journalist, John Darby, also a Canadian, as Green rounded on him in bizarre fashion. The recording can be heard here and is transcribed below.
Green seemed to take umbrage straight away at being corrected on the name of the radio station. He then pounced on where interview Darby hailed from:
Green: Hey listen, we’ve got John Darby from Radio Nottingham, is that right?
Darby: No, it’s actually Radio Trent.
Green: Oh, it’s Radio Trent so…It’s Radio Trent we’ve got John Darby from…and we’ve got some special customers here this morning, John.
Darby: It’s rather fun to be here but one thing I was just thinking about and that is that we’re both Canadians.
Green: Well that’s great, where are you from?
Darby: I’m from Toronto.
Green: You’re from Toronto, well I’m from Montreal so let’s fight. We’ll have a fight right now and have a fight between Montreal and Toronto. So go on, what else have you got to say?
Darby: Well, we want to know what you’re doing now?
Green: What am I doing now? Well look at me, I’m surrounded with beautiful women. The most beautiful women in the world of course come from Nottingham and we were really having a marvellous time, are we having a marvellous time? Come on over here madam (interviews an onlooker).
It was at this point that Darby, unintentionally or not, somewhat hamfistedly admittedly, found Green’s achilles heel when he mentioned the loss of the presenter’s show:
Darby: Hughie, do you think that now that the show (Opportunity Knocks) is now over you may be forgotten?
Green: I couldn’t care less whether I’m forgotten or not, I mean that’s that, doesn’t matter, you can see all the people (shouts) have you forgotten me? Have you forgotten me? I mean that’s the kind of a snide remark you would get from someone from Toronto. That’s why people in Montreal hate Torontonians. They all say you know (affects voice) ah so and so, you’re all so and so. And we’ve got a much nicer city in Montreal than you have in Toronto. Now go on, ask something else nasty.
Darby: Well what are you going to be doing now?
Green: That’s none of your business. Now ask another smart question.
Darby: You must have some future plans?
Green: Never mind. Now may I ask you a question?
Darby: You certainly may.
Green: Why don’t you shave? Ladies and gentlemen, we have just been talking to the four-eyed interviewer from Radio Trent and it has been a delight. We are all enjoying ourselves, now why don’t you go back to your morgue and bury yourself. Thank you very much indeed.
Hughie Green spent his latter life as a recluse in his Baker Street flat. After a life time of heavy drinking, pipe smoking and a latter recreational barbiturate habit he was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away in 1997 at the age of 77.
Today marks the first day of Suicide Prevention Week 2016 in the US and World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th. Much is said about talking to people who are in difficulties and appear in need. I’m going to add to that the suicide survivors – those who survive the suicide of a close one, whose life changes forever and who are dropped into a strange and frightening world of self-survival, grief, trauma, guilt and anguish.
I unfortunately, became a member of that group over two years ago and the attached article from that time illustrates just some of the myriad ways it affected my life.
The only benefit I understand is that in my work, it has allowed me to talk to people who have suicidal feelings, clearly, concisely and without judgement.
I kindly ask you to talk similarly to these people. Please help them the best way you know how.
In those momentous days afterwards, I called The Samaritans – not primarily because I wanted to die but because I wanted to understand how to live. You can find them on:
Tel: 116 123
NOTTINGHAM’S OLD MARKET SQUARE has been central to the city’s life and times for approximately a thousand years, formerly as a large outdoor market as the name suggests, home of the historic Goose Fair each October and a meeting place renowned over the city and wider county. The wide area, arguably the largest market square in Europe reputedly, now changed from it’s last design of a handsome processional way with trees, fountains and plentiful seating for the public was much-loved by Nottinghamians but is now comparatively sterile and bland in appearance. The re-design, reputedly ordered to allow more freedom and capacity for the various events that are held in ‘Slab Square’ as many local people have called it over the years and a is somewhat controversial decision some years later still.
The lions, known perhaps most commonly as ‘Leo and Oscar’ are also known by some, more grandly, as ‘Menelaus and Agamemnon’ and also ‘Lennie and Ronnie’, take your pick . They were sculpted by Joseph Else, the Principle of the Nottingham School of Art at the time. His name is now commemorated as the name of a public house nearby in the Square.
This quite severe looking chap below is the ‘Left Lion’ and whilst both lions have been used over the decades as traditional meeting places it is the Left Lion that holds the greater popularity. ‘See you by the Left Lion’ a (or the lions) has especially been a place to meet a romantic date. I’m told it’s ideal to check out a blind date from a distance and it has been my observation that people circling in the nearby vicinity are occasionally apparent. Other than that I couldn’t possibly comment…
Another piece of historic Nottingham folklore was that the lions roar when a virgin walks past. i couldn’t possibly comment on that either.
The ‘Left Lion’
In the 1920s the former Exchange Building overlooking the Square was replaced by the current Council House construction designed by architect, T. Cecil Howitt, with its 200 foot high dome housing the ‘Little John’ clock, weighing in at over ten tons, which chimes throughout the day as a backdrop and part of the soundtrack to Nottingham city life. Outside the building, two large stone lions stand sentinel, guarding the grand old building opened by the Duke of Windsor in 1929.
Nottingham’s Old Market Square has seen much activity and a few joyous occasions in its history. The annual Goose Fair, so named due to poultry being walked to the event from deepest Norfolk and Lincolnshire was and is a huge landmark on the Nottingham calendar, continuing as it does on the Forest Recreation Ground around a mile away and now over 700 years old. ‘Gooseh’ must have been quite some occasion in the old days as not only did it have such ground breaking innovations as the early travelling cinemas but one could buy practically anything there – even a wife! I think the latter custom has discontinued now.
Football and other sports celebrations have always been a nice feature as the Champions are paraded on the Council House balcony. Notable were celebrations for Nottingham Forest’s European Cup winning teams and, before my time, their great 1959 FA Cup success after they had won their Wembley final with nine and a half fit men on the field. Perhaps Slab Square’s greatest celebration occurred on May 8, 1945, when the war in Europe was over and the people of Nottingham let heir hair down in grand style.
Walking through the square these days I am always disappointed at it’s bland, grey appearance – which cost the council an awful lot of money incidentally. There is a water feature but it isn’t handsome as the previous fountains were – even when students chose to create a bubble-a-thon with washing up liquid emptied into the originals! The seating is at a minimum and the vegetation that saw the Square win awards for its attractiveness is no longer. Instead there are ‘events’ which leave the area looking a little forlorn when they move on.
Other random memories of Old Market Square come to mind of Mods and Rockers gathering there in the 1960s in their two factions at either end of the Square, shepherded apart by the local constabulary. One of the latter’s number was ‘Tug Wilson, a formidable and well known character, standing some 6ft 8ins and fully 7ft 2ins in his policeman’s helmet!
The fabulous mosaic of the Nottingham heraldic crest has disappeared and the ‘feel’ of Nottingham’s Old Market Square appears long gone and spoiled. In balance, there are some good points though. A German Christmas Fair appeared some years ago and was a pleasant winter addition. These days the ‘German’ has been taken out of it and, to my eyes, ears and taste buds has unfortunately become not only expensive but mediocre too. A great plus though is the outdoor ice rink which adds significantly to the winter atmosphere.
Conversely, each summer now, the Square welcomes the ‘Nottingham Rivera’, an urban beach constructed for some weeks in the high season with its sandy beach, padding pool, funfair rides and popular beach bar along with special events throughout its duration.
As a visitor to Nottingham, it is difficult to become lost in it’s concise city centre as all roads lead to the Square and its dominant Council House dome. Unlike many cities, it is easy to discern exactly where the centre of ‘town’ is and for that reason and a few others, wherever I roam in the world, the Council House and it’s lions will always symbolise Nottingham to me.
I really want to like some of these Monty Python reunions and various documentaries that keep getting aired on the Gold channel and elsewhere. but I’m struggling with them. I loved these guys and grew up with their amazing humour and sketches, recited the lines with pals in the school yard religiously and carried it through the teen years and beyond, like so many people.
Now it feels as though it should just be left alone. Like telling the same gag over and over but it just doesn’t ‘fit’ or feel fresh any more. Nor perhaps should it after all these years.
The re-runs are classic, ground breaking and wonderful and I’d like to make the distinction there – they always will be, the reunions though with the troop on stage in their dinner jackets hamming it up for a late pay day (and who can blame them) seem to amuse the Python members more than me, sad to say. It feels tired and the laughter forced. There’s no shame in that I suppose – they are arguably the greatest and most innovative comedy group of all time. Indeed, it is difficult to comprehend that those genius sketches are the best part of fifty years old.
Luxury…when I were a lad…
THE SAD NEWS reached me from Burbank, California this week that a much-revered old friend and correspondent of mine had passed away.
Jim Murtha was a man like no other – totally unique. A good man, an intelligent man – and one who possessed the heart of a lion.
His genuine, raw courage was a sight to behold in the way he faced cancer on more than one occasion. I recall him reporting to me that the cancer had returned in his little finger, if I recall correctly,, and his saying to the doctor, ‘just cut the f*cker off, doc, I don’t need it’ – as if it was an absurdity for the cancer to challenge him in such a ridiculous way.
Jim brought a different way of thinking about things in general, to read his words was absolutely inspirational.
I can barely believe that cancer had the temerity to return to his world but it did and for that I shall be eternally sorry. I guess Jim had already had his fun kicking it’s ass on several occasions and ‘opening a can of whoop-ass’ to it as he would tell us.
What a man. What a great, great man. He will be sorely missed but never, ever forgotten.
My deepest condolences go to his family, friends and all those who loved him, of which there were many.
Rest in Peace, Jim. The memory of your courage will live on.
A few words I wrote back in 2008 about Jim’s story and in particular, his Marathon in Dublin:
More than two weeks on and I have barely known what to say about the passing of my friend Ali Tait, so shocked was I at his death. it seems so many feel the same way and during these recent days there has been an avalanche of love and respect for him like non I’ve seen in the Hibs community and wider social media among people that knew him.
I called Ali a friend and met him a few times. Like many others we talked and shared comments online frequently. One evening we were pondering our shared background with both our families originally having people from Fisherrow. We mused that, living very close together, our grandfathers couldn’t have failed to know each other and be friends – just like we had become a couple of generations on. I couldn’t have been prouder or more happy at that thought because I loved the guy.
Ali’s politics, football favours and music tastes are documented widely and it’s perhaps for those things that many people will remember him. They were certainly all things that bound he and I together. Those of us who were fortunate enough in life to have met him and known him will remember his tremendous warmth and intelligence. He was an entertaining man and one you always wanted to listen to at length, so much did he have to say.
The next time I’m in Musselburgh I’ll raise a glass in his favourite, Staggs, to our old friend.
I’ll sink another one to you in our favourite Cafe Royal too if that’s alright, Ali?
God rest and keep you pal. There’s none like you.
Deepest condolences to his dear wife, Tiina, his family and friends and all who knew him and loved him.
I do enjoy the scarecrow competitions around the local villages in the summer. This is ‘Sister Mary’ from Caythorpe Nottinghamshire who was abducted two years ago. Last seen with her feet ‘poking out the back of a grey car’. Sister Mary’s owner offered free cupcakes to anyone with information, which seemed quite appropriate…
It’s recorded that although the ‘nun-nappers’ had taken Mary away she still finished a creditable joint second in the competition alongside a ‘zombie scarecrow’. First place went to a witch stuck in a tree, accompanied by a sign saying ‘Don’t drink and fly’.
Bless you, Sister Mary.
THOSE WHO KNOW ME will understand that I have a special affinity with some of the pretty villages local to me. This relationship has been formed over many years of running, walking, cycling, eating a drinking around those villages which I have a I have come to think of as my ‘playground’ since being a youngster.
Early days in and around Lambley village meant a cycle with schooldays pals to the Lambley Dumbles. A dumble is a local word for a steep-sided stream. We would play in the dumbles – and my favourite, the ‘Little Dumbles’, making dams, rafts, climbing the overhanging trees, wading, fishing and generally getting lost in those hazy 1960s endless summer days as they seemed to me. The limited sustenance taken on these all-day country safaris tended to be a jam sandwich and some fizzy water. Our bikes consisting of all shapes and sizes – mine had just the one pedal – were the only things we needed to transport us to this heavenly weekend delight. We usually arrived home at dusk, exhausted and hungry. Muddied, sometimes bloodied, unbowed.
This very afternoon I took myself in my car down to lovely Lambley, beginning at a favourite tea-stop, Floralands garden centre, ‘Wickes’ as we used to know it. These days, as is the way of garden centres generally, there is modern decking to sit outside and take tea and a bite to eat. What remains the same though are those beautiful emerald green rolling hills of my youth to look out to.
Today there is a petting zoo for the children and not-so-young children right here! Goats, ducks, chickens, lamas. A peacock is screeching insistently in the distance.
Descending the intriguingly named Catfoot Lane, I entered the pretty and ancient village of Lambley, ‘Leah of the lambs’ by origin and named in the Domesday Book. Nestled in its cosy valley are a church built around the 13th century and the Woodlark and Robin Hood inns. I pass by the footpath to the Lambley Dumbles, perhaps less known to the cars that cruise steadily past in 2016.
Further on in years, I used to walk these hills as a young teenager, with my favoured notebook and pencil, to settle in one of the many sweet-scented grassy meadows in the sunshine and write my early young poetry. I yearned to be a Byronic figure, writing romantic poetry as Lord Byron had done a century before, leaving his indelible mark on the Nottinghamshire landscape and around the world.
THIS WEEKEND HERALDS the annual Nottinghamshire Pride march through the city and its surrounding festivities. The March began at Castlegate in the city at 11.30 am and concluded a short distance away on Broad Street in the ‘Creative Quarter’ of Nottingham around and about the nowadays, trendy Hockley area. Along the way, near Thurland Street, a minutes’ silence was held for the victims of the recent sad atrocities in Orlando, Florida. A street fair and entertainment is part of the celebrations in a day for everyone that chooses to let their hair down a little.
In my view, these types of events add a significant and vivid splash of colour, energy and vitality to the city centre and should be welcomed. I observe at times though that this particular event draws some mixed reactions which extend across the full spectrum of tolerance and acceptance. I occasionally despair for the state of humanity when we cannot manifest those qualities to any degree, to understand and acknowledge diversity in all its hues, to open our minds and, where necessary, build bridges between older thinking and new conceptions.
A couple of days ago, I read an internet forum thread which focused on the subject of Nottingham Pride’s annual March and festival. Among the highly predictable, monumentally unfunny and ignorant, 1970s stand-up comedian terminology and general ‘Angry of Tunbridge Wells’ bristling was one splendid individual who actually ‘hoped it would rain all day’. How very, very bitter. That someone should actually wish the participants’ special day and celebrations to be ruined by bad weather.
Homophobia, racialism and a wide range of other general bigotry are unfortunately part of our daily lives to some degree but this single comment really struck me for it’s ultimate sadness and lack of generosity of human spirit. I feel that, especially in a world clouded by hate, fanaticism and animosity, love – in all its forms – can never, ever be a bad thing.
Peace, love and understanding.
When I was a very young boy, barely old enough to understand, I was informed by my dad and my granda that there really was only one team worth supporting, that it was the only true way. This especially applied in my family where tradition lay strong and was not in any way to be tampered with.
Not in the least.
All these years later that feeling remains strong and true. Down through the decades those colours green and white have woven themselves through my life. That makes me happy.
I love this team and all it has stood for, both widely and personally for me. I will always love this team, especially for the reasons it was formed which are dear to me. I love the people that support it.
I’d like to wish all my Hibernian brothers and sisters a wonderful day out tomorrow and the best of all incredible conclusions to it. As my good pal likes to say to me, ‘I hope your team win’.
Dedicated to the bravest Hibby I know, Shaun McKinley. Keep your chin up, pal. I’m thinking of you.
ON OCCASION, I mentally register a subject to write about and file it away until a window of opportunity and the inclination to explore it arises. This might be some record for me as I began writing these words some five years ago, for what it is worth. These years later and with much water having flowed under the bridge I still feel it is a subject worthy of talking about.
At that time, in October 2011, I attended a function for Mental Health Awareness Week which was being held in the excellent, independent Broadway Media Centre in Nottingham. The film, Arise You Gallant Sweeneys! had been organised as a private showing for the Framework charity’s 10th Anniversary celebrations at the cinema and I was fortunate enough to receive an invite due to my research work in the area of mental health. Framework, should also be commended here for the excellent work they carry out with the homeless and the vulnerable.
Arise You Gallant Sweeneys! was a small budget documentary film that told the story of four elderly Irishmen living in a hostel in Nottingham, who left their home shores for economic reasons during the United Kingdom’s building boom of the 1950s and 1960s. None of the men, for disparate reasons, had ever returned home to Ireland since migrating all those decades ago, living the rest of their lives in exile for different reasons in different parts across Great Britain.
The four now-elderly alcohol-dependant men whose tale was documented were Sean Lynch, who was but ten years old when he left his home, Tom Coffey, who departed at just eighteen years, Tom Sweeney, who was of similar age and lastly, Pat Kelly, aged twenty four when he bade farewell to his home country.
The story documents a road trip to their original homeland for the four men and relates a poignant tale of homelessness, penury and alcoholism against a background of exploitation as ‘navvies’ creating the roadways of England, Scotland and Wales with its hard labour and equally hard drinking. Tangentially, folk singer Ralph McTell told an echoing lamenting story in his beautiful and haunting ballad, From Clare to Here:
‘There’s four who share this room as we work hard for the Craic
And sleeping late on Sundays I never get to Mass
It almost breaks my heart when I think of Josephine
I told her I’d be coming home with my pockets full of green
And the only time I feel alright is when I’m into drinking
It sort of eases the pain of it and levels out my thinking’
In the Broadway Cinema as I took my seat, an Irish fiddler played at the corner of the auditorium. Maybe it’s just me or maybe it’s because of my own origins but there is something that seeps into one’s very soul when the strains of Celtic music sound, it’s lilt, it’s sadness, sometimes it’s pure joyousness too. Presently, after a , heartfelt and dignified spoken introduction, the film began and we saw the inception of the road trip – men who after a drink or two would always talk about home – how they’d perhaps like to see it for one last time before it was too late and they met their maker. To the good people who organised it, great credit, including Framework I understand. Soon, a small party including the four men set sail with a provided mini-bus, back home to Ireland after all those years.
One might be forgiven to imagine this to be a sentimental story but this is not the case. The men’s humour and character serve to make it not so.
Of course things had changed for the men over many years. Families had become fractured and information was hard to find in some cases, even to the point of one of the group discovering that the brother he had thought was long passed away was in fact still very much alive, leading to some emotionally draining scenes. The returning brother showed little love for his long-lost sibling, even claiming he should be ‘drowned in the Atlantic’.
‘Come all ye loyal heroes and listen on to me.
Don’t hire with any farmer till you know what your work will be
You will rise up early in the morning from the clear day light till the dawn
and you never will be able for to plough the Rocks of Bawn.
Rise up, gallant Sweeney, and get your horses hay
And give them a good feed of oats before they start away’
(From The Rocks of Bawn by Patrick Kelly)
The little film, whilst roughly-hewn was extremely moving as we were taken through the decades and on the road, explored each of the men’s home towns. It engaged and yet was disturbing at times, even by turns wickedly funny. As a viewer, I had the feeling that I wanted to somehow ‘make it right’ for the men and to understand the real reasons they had never returned home before.
Many men of this ilk worked their hearts and guts out in those days, they took their pay, often drank it and lived from week to week or from day to day. The men in our story it is explained now lived in supported accommodation in Nottingham. One is no longer with us, God bless him. The others’ road will most likely end here. Thankfully though, after this one final visit of their roots.
It would be true to say that there was little sentiment in the film. It was nevertheless, an engaging one, at times unsettling and more than anything, ultimately a moving one.
Watch the original trailer here:
I WAS CONSIDERING THIS subject recently after reading the question on an internet forum, ‘Do we live in an unheroic age?’. In answering this, I suppose it all depends to some degree on your conception of what constitutes a hero. Acts of bravery, selflessness, possessing a special talent etc. Maybe manning a lifeboat, fighting for a just cause or quietly going about the business of being an unsung hero, helping others.
‘Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished’ – Madiba
In a looser sense, where we might think in terms of simple admiration, I have many ‘heroes’ if you may term them that way. Sporting heroes such as dynamic Scottish football legend, Denis Law, Canadian, Terry Fox and his beautiful and heart-rending ‘Marathon of Hope’ and Finnish middle distance running phenomenon, Lasse Viren. Then there are the musicians, the likes of Otis Redding, Peter Green and so on. There are revered literary figures to me too such as Oscar Wilde, Dylan Thomas and Byron and perhaps most significantly, the inspirational figures that, in my belief, are/were an unstoppable force for good, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. but then we’re moving into a different area in my humble opinion, that of sainthood.
It is interesting to note that some of these people and examples no longer walk among us – but that their legacy lives with us and affects our lives. Perhaps that legendary eminence is part of the necessary make-up of a ‘hero’, I’m really not sure.
For me personally though, my real heroes were my mother and father. For their selflessness, courage, principled ways and strength in what were at times life threatening situations in their own acutely difficult situations at times in their years. In addition, for all the lessons in life they taught me which were many.
I’m going to suggest that there are countless other mothers and fathers out there all over the world, doing the same for their children, every day, doing those things for their children out of selfless and pure love.
For that reason alone, yes, for me, we still do live in heroic times.
SO CURRENTLY, we have the world’s oldest league football club, Notts County negotiating stormy seas by way of the club being for sale and the team toiling somewhat in the lower reaches of League Two, it’s play-off hopes diminished to a practical state of no return. Unpopular Chairman, Ray Trew has been quoted as saying that ‘oh so brave keyboard warriors’ and their comments on social media about him and his family have finally drawn the conclusion that he wants out – at a price.
On the opposite bank of the River Trent, Nottingham Forest flounder listlessly mid-table with perhaps greater concerns over the ownership of the club than on the pitch. My understanding is that £70m is still owed to former owner, Nigel Doughty’s estate and that a sum in excess of that is owed to the current ownership in loans. I stand to be corrected. Court appearances for non-payment of debts are now becoming a way of life for the City Ground club with the latest set for March 14th for an unpaid tax bill. Only last week Forest were in the media for late payment of their staff which chairman Fawaz claimed was due to a Bank Holiday in his home country of Kuwait. In addition to this, the club still find themselves under a transfer embargo with no guarantee of emerging from it at the end of the season, or if they do, to no great avail.
On the pitch, Notts County have a huge squad of players, particularly at that level of football, who have underperformed and not gelled by all accounts. It would be easy to suggest that it is a case of ‘quantity not quality’ but the truth is that the club acquired some useful signings for this campaign. They have though shipped goals consistently throughout the season and are now struggling manfully under new manager, Scot, Jamie Fullarton’s stewardship. The ex-Forest coach is arguably the least popular manager in County’s long history whilst the atmosphere at Meadow Lane is absolutely poisonous.
Angry scenes as trouble erupts between the Notts bench at spectators during Bristol Rovers’ visit
Forest’s quite recent unbeaten run, characterised by many uninspiring draws is now a memory and the support appears increasingly unhappy and disgruntled about manager, Freedman’s cautious ‘style’ of play which encourages teams to come on to them and take majority possession of the ball whilst the Reds sit back and wait for a break.
This is clearly not Nottingham Forest football.
Back at Notts and one thing about this whole sale matter that appears to have emerged is that although chairman Ray Trew claims it is personal abuse that has driven him out of Meadow Lane (and I have no truck with that) it appears emphasised that this kind of thing has become much more apparent since his appointment of Fullarton as Notts’ Manager which is a deeply unpopular decision among the support. We see from reports though that Trew was actually in negotiation with a ‘Danish billionaire’ before Christmas. to take over the club.
Trew has done some good things for Notts County, especially initially when he basically rescued them from administration and possible oblivion and that should be recognised but his apparent arrogance and inadvisable decision making has since caused the club great harm. I do believe, for example, that a great number of the support have viewed the appointment of Fullarton as a ‘two fingers’ at them and this is one of the reasons for the angry ructions at Meadow Lane since. There is a huge gap between the ownership and the support causing a divided and aimless club.
What’s more, I wouldn’t particularly trust Trew as far as I could throw him the way he is conducting business to sell the Magpies. Only when he finally leaves can that club turn a corner and begin rebuilding this great damage sustained. Hopefully a sale will happen sooner rather than later.
What with the happenings on the black and white side of the local football community and Forest’s apparent inability or refusal to pay their bills on time and now the delayed payment of their staff due to a Bank Holiday in Kuwait. I have no confidence in the state of the way either of our city clubs are being run. I particularly felt for the rank and file staff at Forest, in ordinary jobs, waiting to be paid what they have earned last week. In Forest’s case I think the owners are beginning to make a fine old club look a little disreputable and it’s not good to see. On a practical note, potential signings for the club too will make themselves aware of what is happening in terms of the financial irregularities at the City Ground and be much less likely to sign for Forest.
Sad stuff then from both sides of the Trent. Let’s hope both clubs can turn a corner at some point in the near future.
MINORITY CHANNEL, BBC ALBA recently excelled themselves once more after other excellent documentaries about Scottish football legends, Jim Baxter and Jock Stein when they produced a beautiful step back into post-war Edinburgh and five of Hibs’ ‘greatest men’.
These were some of my personal thoughts on an emotional viewing of it to my good friends on the Hibees Bounce website:
‘I recorded the documentary last night, went out for a drink and sat down to watch this alone when I got home around midnight.
It’s a little while since I have been touched by anything about Hibs so much – even though I am used to a great emotional closeness with the club since being a young boy.
I understand the criticisms (in the true sense of the word) regarding the production but for me they were easy to put to one side as I was given the privilege of an insight into some of the sights and memories of people intrinsically wrapped up in my club. Who could not feel for ‘Nicker’ Johnstone’s daughter, Nicola as she lovingly spoke of her father and his teammates and suddenly and obviously in front of the camera, felt a sense of loss for her dad. The word ‘Family’ is occasionally an overused one when referring to this wide and disparate group of people we are that follow this club down its generations and enjoy it’s meaning. It’s in brief moments like that though that I really understand and cannot deny it.
The background of Meadowbank was not significant for me. A great story can be told anywhere and I really liked the way the young team assumed a fun and youthful swagger as they emulated our old heroes. I thought they looked great and played their part well. Well done lads. The simple and striking kits were a thing of beauty too against the sepia backdrop. Hibernian kits are invariably a thing of beauty.
So, as you can see, I’d rather celebrate this documentary for what it was – a loving and affectionate glimpse into a time before many of us knew. Yes, it was one or two things short of the full and complete story but much more significantly, it carried and nurtured with care the deep feelings that we all have about this club and yet sometimes have difficulties explaining why.
I’d a tear in my eye before the strains of Sunshine on Leith were gently introduced. I sat there remembering exactly why I bleed green and white, why I am a Hibernian supporter and why this thing matters so much to me so a ‘thank you’ to the programme makers is offered.
As the credits played out on a look back into a golden Hibernian era, an era inhabited by my father and grandfather and other family members, it was all I could do to not desperately want to be there, at Easter Road at that very moment.
These are the ties that bind us. Hibernian Football Club.’
THE END OF SEPTEMBER 2015 is nigh and this means that the streets of Nottingham around the Nottingham Trent University city campus are once again thronging with ‘Freshers’. The areas including Shakespeare Street and Goldsmith Street adjacent to the Arkwright and Newton buildings being particularly awash with new students, locating their accommodation and general whereabouts for the coming academic year.
Nottingham Trent University
With my own place of work being quite close, a saunter through the area on Thursday brought the sight of a teeming group of young intakes to the streets, identically dressed in a uniform of bright orange t-shirts proclaiming the legend ‘FRESHERS CREW across the chest and personalised names on the back, football jersey style. The faces were those of young people principally just having left home for the first time, expressions of excited expectancy, underlined in some cases with a slight etching of self-doubt and apprehension as they settle in to making new friends and locating their place in various groups and pecking orders.
Next week will probably see the beginning of the processions of large groups of students in fancy dress, heading along Mansfield Road and other main thoroughfares, congregating in the city centre and its clubs, pubs and inevitable ‘student nights’. It’s a familiar sight each year and brings a knowing smile to my face
Nottingham, being a city that boosts the two places of learning, Nottingham Trent University and the older, illustrious University of Nottingham, is very much a university town these days. Sometimes, there have been reports of the city’s students bring problems to inner-city residential areas where they have tended to colonise and indulge in boisterous, noisy and non-neighbourly behaviour as young people often inevitably do. It should be said though that, for me at least, the city is breathed new life when they return each September. Apart from economic factors alone, I feel they bring something to the modern culture of Nottingham and of course, I have walked a mile in those shoes years ago and therefore don’t feel so far removed from them and what they are experiencing, although my own home was in Nottinghamshire.
Nottingham Trent University, Arkwright Building, Shakespeare Street
A happy thought is that many of these young people will be making friends for many years or even a lifetime. They’ll form new allegiances with the city’s sports teams, visit places with friends that they’ll recall fondly as long as they are able to remember. Some will meet their life partners and some may even settle that well they never leave the city again and call it ‘home’.
Autumn term beckons, good luck to the returning and new students of the Queen of The Midlands.
Work hard and play hard.
It’s great to sense the early days of the feel good factor reappearing and people with more reason to be positive. I’m heartened generally by the relative calibre of player being brought into the club. I do wonder if there is some kind of injury ‘problem’ going off beyond pure bad luck, notwithstanding that some players are being brought in when not fully fit.
John McGinn – midfield strength
I hear a lot of concerned comment about the amount of chances that are being created and the relatively low strike rate from them. It’s a fair point of course but I’m not necessarily worried. I do feel it’s much more worrying when chances aren’t being created. That’s a bleak landscape and one we witnessed particularly under Fenlon for example, arguably. I was schooled on a team in this city that people would complain incessantly about them trying to ‘walk the ball into the net’. It never got tiresome watching them win practically everything available while doing so though. Patience is required.
Regarding goal scoring I often find it interesting the comments about Jason Cummings. He’s maybe a limited footballer in some ways but who really cares? He does what he’s paid to do – put the ball in the back of the net – with monotonous regularity. I hear some talk of the need for a ‘twenty-goal striker’. We already have one. Possibly more than one given a clean bill of health.
It’s going to be another long fight this season to get the club where it should be and that is slightly hamstrung by an understandably disenfranchised section of the support staying away from Easter Road. I’m afraid the club has to suck this up at the moment. Many old and new fans will be back with a higher status restored and winning ways returning. Expect a few more three and four wins at Easter Road during the coming months as this useful squad gels together. It’s strength is based on some very good performers in the middle of the park.
There are really only going to be a couple of outcomes to this season aren’t there. Hibs either finish as champions, and they have begun a little off the pace, or a play-off situation at the season’s death which we’ll either lose – or more likely, considering the form we’re likely to be in then win. Importantly, at that time I think Hibs will show that they have proven goal scoring power – always important in one-off ‘cup’ type games and that in my view would likely see us through. The usual disclaimers apply.
Get on for the ride, Hibees, it’s going to be an interesting and entertaining season.
The end of August 2015 beckons as I write, leading to those days of ‘mellow fruitfulness’ of Autumn that can be so stimulating, atmospheric and enjoyable. Enduring sun and crisper days.
I’d an enjoyable and familiar run from nearby Woodborough, Nottinghamshire yesterday which took my friend and I through the pretty and adjacent Epperstone village and return. Grateful for a pleasant, sunny and warm late Summer day, we afterwards headed to a local garden centre cafe for our customary and welcome sandwiches and tea for lunch.
Lowdham Lane, Woodborough
Just as we were setting off on our run, it was good to see the bright green tractors with massively stacked healthy-looking hay bales piled on trailers heading to their destination along Main Street. It brought back memories of school days and cross-country running afternoons where a certain couple of class members hitched a lift aback to travel up one of the steep local hills!
There probably aren’t many better places to be than lying atop a haystack with big blue skies above, the sun generously blazing down on you, recharging you.
Yesterday’s run was a marker towards the end of the Summer as it is likely there will be a change of destination on Saturday mornings in the future. Next week will be a drive down to the Vale of Belvoir ‘the Beautiful Vale’ for a run along the Grantham Canal and a crossing of three counties, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire. It has been my custom to run and walk through all four of God’s good seasons since I have known how and that will continue. Onwards and upwards
You can play this as an accompaniment if you would like.
A few final thoughts on the Scott Allan-Hibs situation. Hibernian Football Club did very much all they could in a challenging situation and played out business (or lack of it) with great dignity, as they have always tended to do in their dealings with other clubs. Well done, Hibs.
I can’t join in the general triumphalism over the situation regarding thwarting the new Glasgow club as the Easter Road side has lost its most talented player. There are early indications however, that more than adequate and importantly, motivated replacements, will develop in the youthful Henderson and McGinn.
I think most Hibbies will be happier if and when the excellent and committed Dylan McGeouch signs on the dotted line.
For the player the furore has surrounded, Scott Allan, I do believe that by signing for Celtic he has potentially placed himself in a whole world of trouble regards his career but more likely his off-field life. He has some quality, that is not in doubt (though not proven consistently at this point, albeit a sublimely skilled 23 year-old midfield player. Hi notorious Rangers allegiances will see him reviled by his boyhood team’s supporters for not signing for the Ibrox club after expressing a wish to do so. To magnify that issue he has defected to the hated ‘other side’, perhaps almost unbelievably. It’s always a possibility that Celtic’s supporters may turn on him for those same allegiances should Scott not perform.
We should of course remember that Allan is first and foremost a professional footballer and the sport and his earnings from it come first in what is a short career, as we always told. I can’t help feeling though that implementing one of those body swerves and sidestepping both Rangers and Celtic to pursue a career at a quality club in the English leagues at an appropriate point would have been much more beneficial to him for career development, earnings and a relatively sane life away from the field of play. For me he has manifested a parochial and short-sighted attitude towards his career and a lack of insight into how his lifestyle is going to be in the pressure cooker atmosphere with all it’s side issues that is Glasgow football.
WHEN YOU BLEED GREEN AND WHITE and your famous old club celebrates its 140th BIRTHDAY, what better to do than recount its past?
A Short History of Hibernian Football Club
Welcome to a short history of Hibernian Football Club, the Green and White side of the Edinburgh professional football scene. ‘The Hibees’ play at Easter Road Stadium in Leith and have a proud, honourable and intriguing history stretching all the way back to 1875.
Hibernian Football Club has been part of the fabric and culture of Scotland’s Capital since its early inception. The club’s name is most usually abbreviated to ‘Hibs’ by fans and media alike. The club sports an impressive 20,421 seat facility in Easter Road Stadium where they play their home games.
Standing sentinel over its local community – Easter Road Stadium
Hibs have traditionally played in green and white strips since their formation, a pointer back to the Irish origins of the club. These origins emanate and embrace Irish emigration into Scotland and its Capital during the dark days of the Irish potato famine when many were displaced into the country and further afield around the world. The club badge has had several incarnations and its most recent one refers inclusively back to history and to the geographical placing of the organisation in its emblem of the Irish Harp, the castle depicting Edinburgh’s garrison and the ship signifying the port of Leith, respectively.
The club enjoys something of a high-profile fan base amongst its regular faithful fans. Notably, author Irvine Welsh has featured the club in his novels on many a memorable occasion, even hitting celluloid in the case of Trainspotting. Singing duo The Proclaimers contributed a modern-day and much-loved theme to the Easter Road terraces in their emotional ballad ‘Sunshine on Leith’ – recently also transferred to film in an excellent musical production. Further regular literary mentions also abound in Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus stories in which his assistant, Siobhan, is depicted as a ‘Hibby’.
Charlie and Craig Reid -The Proclaimers
So who are this team then? What is the lifeblood that has characterised this enigmatic green and white phenomenon since its inception? Let’s take a leisurely and enjoyable stroll through the history book to find out a little more about the team’s rich past.
The club was originally formed, largely by the efforts of Canon Hannan, an Irish priest originally hailing from County Roscommon, and Michael Whelahan in the environs of St. Patrick’s Church in the heart of Edinburgh’s ‘Little Ireland’ of the day. The church still remains in the historic Cowgate area, now a world heritage site. The club’s famous name, ‘Hibernian’ was chosen for its reason of being the Roman word for Ireland, Hibernia. The initial and very laudable aim of the early club was to keep young Irish Catholic immigrants on the ‘straight and narrow’. To play for the Hibernians in those days entailed membership of the Catholic Young Men’s Society and an adherence to an abstemious lifestyle and regular attendance at Mass.
The Cowgate, Edinburgh
The early days of the club were also characterised by the club’s ceaseless work in aid of charitable causes – looking after and tending the impoverished of the community from which the club rose.
Hibs became an early power in Scottish football despite much prejudice and suspicion shown towards them by the authorities and within a few years were instrumental in the formation of the Celtic club in Glasgow and indeed myriad other teams of Irish heritage throughout Scotland.
Early mismanagement of the football club saw a temporary demise and hiatus in Hibernian’s history in 1891 when they ceased to exist for a single season. Before this however, the club had managed to become ‘World Champions’ by defeating the mighty English giants Preston North End! Hibernian re-emerged a very different club, open and inclusive to all, masterminded by the drive, ambition and loving care of Philip Farmer (ancestor of present owner Sir Tom Farmer), and his associates.
In 1892, Hibernian Football Club moved into its present home, Easter Road, often known as ‘The Holy Ground’ from those early years and traditions, and the club never looked back. Hibs enjoyed some moderate success on their reformation but it is perhaps the 1950s that most ‘Hibbies’ would claim as the club’s golden era and undoubtedly the club’s most successful and romantic period. The Hibees helped revolutionise attacking forward play in this glorious decade with their world-famous and revered forward line ‘The Famous Five’, comprising of Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond. The ‘Five’ were renowned for their brilliant and dynamic attacking play which would often employ the five stars interchanging positions mid-game – unheard of in the rigid tactics of the time. The ace in the pack was undoubtedly right-winger Gordon Smith – who many rate as the best Scottish player of all-time, his mercurial talents exciting the big crowds of all persuasions of the day. The present day Easter Road Stadium still has a stand named in ‘Hibs’ greatest men’s’ honour.
The Famous Five – Smith, Johnstone, Reilly, Turnbull and Ormond
In many ways, the Famous Five gave the club its reputation for open, attacking and attractive play which still prevails. At various junctures over the years, perhaps in seasons of struggle, it was difficult to justify that image but let it be said that Hibs’ most memorable teams are still those that brought great excitement, exuberance and enjoyment to the terracing faithful. It is difficult to generalise but many of the club’s dedicated supporters still adhere to the notion of the team playing the ‘right’ way – the ‘Hibernian way’.
Amidst great excitement and huge crowds, The Famous Five and their talented teammates behind them brought unprecedented success to Easter Road in the form of three Scottish Championship trophies. Nevertheless, the Scottish Cup still eluded this team of shining stars as it has done to this day since 1902, a notorious deficit in the history of the proud club.
Innovation has often been a feature of Hibs’ history and the club became the very first British outfit to take part in European Competition when they were admitted by invitation to enter the 1955 European Cup. The club acquitted themselves well in this inaugural foray onto the continent beating Rot-Weiss Essen 5-1 on aggregate before finally ending their involvement after being defeated by Stade Reims in the semi-final.
In the latter days of the 1950s with the ‘swinging sixties’ about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public, one of Hibs’ finest talents of all surfaced. English-born, Scots bred Joe Baker, a young centre forward, became the club’s most prolific scorer of all time and, unusually for the day, was eventually transferred in a big money move to Italian club Torino where he spent one stellar season alongside soon-to-be Manchester United and Scotland legend, Denis Law. The talented Baker, a player of great speed, dynamism and deadly finishing enjoyed a productive and much-loved playing career and returned to the Hibernian fold eventually as a player and ultimately, later in life, as a match day host.
The ‘Baker Boy’ – Joe Baker
Hibs enjoyed a fine reputation in Europe during the 1960s with many a famous victory for the men from Easter Road. Such giants of the game as Barcelona, Napoli and even Real Madrid in a specially arranged friendly, were unceremoniously put to the sword in cavalier style ‘down the slope’ by the men in green and white. The slope refers to the prominent dip that in those days was part of the Easter Road pitch.
Perhaps one of Hibernian FC’s most admired sides was the team of all talents of the early 1970s dubbed ‘Turnbull’s Tornadoes’ after Eddie Turnbull who returned to Easter Road as Manager after a successful period in charge at Aberdeen. The team, whilst ultimately under-achieving and being broken up prematurely, played a hugely exciting brand of football and boasted two genuine world-class talents in John Brownlie, an early overlapping full-back of the day and the great Pat Stanton. Stanton – still a much-loved and revered figure amongst the Easter Road faithful traces his Hibernian roots all the way back to Hibernian’s origins being a descendant of the important figure of the afore-mentioned Michael Whelahan, one of Hibs’ first on-field greats and a seminal figure in the formation of the club.
Patrick Gordon Stanton
Turnbull’s Tornadoes won silverware on several occasions but it is perhaps one particular day in 1973 that they are best remembered for by Hibbies everywhere. On the first day of January that year, Hibs were indeed in celebratory mood as they demolished city rival Hearts to the tune of seven goals to nil away at Tynecastle Stadium. That famous day is still very much a feature of the bragging rights between the two sets of Capital football supporters.
In the mid-1970s Hibs courted some controversy when they were again in innovatory mood in introducing sponsorship to the front of the club jersey. This gained television company’s ire – curious when one thinks of the corporate nature of the present day game.
That era was probably most notable for another story that revolved around one very special man. Towards the end of the decade Hibs famously signed an errant George Best who was already poised for a journey of self-destruction. Paid per game out of Chairman Tom Hart’s own pocket, the Irish genius scattered a little much-needed stardust around the club in a time of struggle before finally leaving the club for the United States and the next stage of his mercurial story.
George Best in the famous green and white
There have been some enduring themes in Hibs’ history. Glory and frustration, along with the benevolence of the early years being just a few. In 1990 however, the spectre of mismanagement returned to the club when they faced financial ruin and anxious times which almost lead to closure. During that year, Wallace Mercer, the Chairman of Hearts, launched a proposed merger of the two city clubs under the banner of an attempt to challenge the two big Glasgow clubs, Celtic and Rangers. The proposal however was viewed as a hostile takeover and an attempt to close down Hearts’ old city rivals. It was at this time that the pressure group ‘Hands off Hibs’ was hastily formed in order to protect the club and ensure its survival.
Local businessman, Tom Farmer, (now Sir Tom) originally a Leith native, came forward to acquire a controlling interest in Hibernian FC. One of his quotes of the time was that he was ‘tired of seeing so many miserable faces around Leith’ bearing in mind the community was nigh ready to lose its old club. Here again was another twist in Hibs history with Sir Tom’s ancestry lining back to Phillip Farmer who had performed a similar deed in helping save the club in its early years.
Sir Tom Farmer
Under the stewardship of Farmer and with a mobilised fan base, the club, after some desperate and worrying days eventually survived, being lauded as ‘The team who wouldn’t die’. For many present-day fans these were Hibs’ darkest hours until the daylight of survival was assured.
After a barren time of survival and existence for the enduring club ,save for a magnificent Skol Cup win in 1991, Hibs entered several seasons of consolidation and sometimes struggle. Former Scottish internationalist Alex McLeish was appointed manager but was unable to prevent the club dropping down a division in 1997-98. Hibs bounced back in fine style however under the on-field guidance of the talented former French internationalist Franck Sauzee and midfielder Russell Latapy. It was a return to an expansive style of play which was much-lauded from the Easter Road terraces and the springboard for where the present day club finds itself placed.
Further progress was recorded under the managerial tutelage of new appointment, Tony Mowbray and the club enjoyed an ‘upward spiral’ with a galaxy of young stars breaking through into the first team at a similar time and playing quick, attractive and controlled football on the ground as preached by the philosophical Mowbray.
Many of that team are now spread far and wide but the legacy of the financial gain they brought to the club by way of transfer fees now sees the club in a relatively enviable business position.
Another former hero eventually returned in the shape of former midfield star, John Collins. Collins’ stay was a tempestuous one in many respects but saw the club record one of its happiest days of all with a magnificent League Cup win to the tune of 5-1 over a hapless Kilmarnock at Hampden in March 2007.
Hibs Manager, John Collins celebrates with the CIS League Cup 2007
When this resume of Hibernian’s history was originally written, another former player, John Hughes, was in the managerial hot-seat at Easter Road. Early on-field signs were encouraging with ‘Yogi’ attempting to impress a passing game on the team with some encouraging results to follow. Relations subsequently soured, however, Hibs still managed a fourth-place finishing spot in spite of a disastrous run of form latterly. After his departure by mutual consent, Hughes was replaced by Former Nottingham Forest boss, Colin Calderwood to poor effect. Many fans reflected on this era being one of Hibs’ historic low points before and during his exit in November, 2011.
Irish club, Bohemians gave Hibs permission to speak to manager, Pat Fenlon who was drafted into Easter Road to make the many changes that were viewed as necessary. It is recorded that Pat, a likeable and principled character, whilst bringing a little more grit to the team, presided over some of the poorest Hibs results in several generations. A heavy loss to the team’s local rivals in the 2011-12 Scottish Cup Final, billed as the ‘Salt and Sauce Final’ in the media and a 0-7 European home debacle – a record Scottish defeat – against Malmo from Sweden in 2013 followed. The latter was particularly keenly felt due to it being the first home fixture after the sad passing of Hibs hero and legend, Lawrie Reilly. After major rebuilding work post the 2011-12 final, Hibs once more appeared at Hampden in pursuit of the Holy Grail in the 2012-13 Scottish Cup Final against Celtic. The result however, was a rather tame surrender to the ‘other’ team in green and white by three goals to nil.
Fenlon dutifully fell on his sword eventually to be replaced by the much-vaunted Terry Butcher and Maurice Malpas management team from Inverness Caledonian Thistle where they had experience moderate success. At the time of writing, Hibs are still making good after what became a disastrous, short-lived tenure under the big Englishman’s stewardship. From relative mid-table obscurity under Fenlon, Hibs, after early encouraging signs under Butcher, slipped slowly inexorably into the relegation zone which resulted in a two-leg play off against Hamilton Academicals. Hibs began with a heartening 2-0 win at Hamilton but surrendered to a late equalising goal and subsequent devastating penalty shoot-out defeat. Hibernian FC now face the immediate future in the Scottish Championship with some tough-looking competition from Glasgow Rangers and once, again Hibs’ local neighbours. After the dismissal of Butcher, former Celtic player and Everton coach, Alan Stubbs has been installed with the job of bringing some pride, style and success back to Easter Road. Early signs appear encouraging. There is however, much work to do.
A major change in the club also occurred in the close season before the big kick-off in 2014, that of new CEO, Leeann Dempster being installed from her previous position at Motherwell FC. Ms Dempster appears to have big plans for the old club, notable amongst that is a ‘return to the community’ feel about her approach. During this period, former player, Paul Kane has headed a pressure group to oust former CEO Rod Petrie from the club and subsequently wrest ownership from Sir Tom Farmer and Petrie towards a fan-based ownership model. At the time of writing, negotiations remain in progress.
Perhaps the bigger picture to be seen at this time is Hibernian Football Club’s relative financial surety – a feature that has not always been so during the Leith institution’s history. With the final piece of the Easter Road redevelopment jigsaw, the replacing of the East Terracing complete and the construction of a magnificent new dedicated training complex at East Mains – the envy of many a club and a development that will see the club’s future progress for the coming decades – the infrastructure for future success certainly appears in place
One might say that Hibernian Football Club’s greatest days are yet to come…
‘Glory Glory to the Hibees!’
I love this picture of my old school’s football team appearing on St. Mary’s ‘Rec’ at Redhill. Memories of wearing that red shirt a good few times, Denis Law-style with the cuffs pulled down over my hands and giving the ‘Lawman’s’ single fist salute after scoring and dreaming that I was playing for Scotland. In the background is St. Mary’s Church which has stood on that spot for a mind-boggling thousand years. The church around which the town was built.
I recall one particular sports session at school where we were due to play football and a few of us turned up without kit as there was a foot of snow on the field. The games master who was very much a 1970s stereotype with his nylon track suit and bullying nature threw a pair of gym shorts each at us and made us go out and play bare-chested with no shoes or socks in deep snow and sub-zero temperatures. We survived – thought it was a bit of a laugh actually (except when you caught the rock hard size 3 football on your bare flesh). I’m just imagining what the authorities would make of that now.
The rec was the scene of many. a multiple-hour game of football between me, my pals and basically anybody who passed by. We played in all weathers in much worse conditions even than pictured I remember being engrossed in many-a-side games on the evenings in the late sixties that both Celtic and Manchester won their European Cups, running home hell-for-leather for a place in front of the black and white TV at kick-off time to watch the games with dad. Probably with a bowl of mum’s Scotch broth in front of me. Those were the days.
Happy New Year, Grace Marian and John
Thinking of you on this special day and every day, mum and dad. It feels like forever since we hugged and kissed at New Year. One day we will be together again.
Whatever I am, you made me and gave me the determination and strength to carry on. Thank you. Love you.
‘What else am I gonna do. To keep this world from hurting you’ Stuart Adamson
YESTERDAY, I CAME HOME from my work at the usual time, a little weary, ‘another day, another dollar’ as they say, with its usual trials and tribulations. Collect the mail, what’s for tea – the usual mundane routines that many of us enact. On this day however, there was a large envelope with something substantial enclosed on my doormat. Now, I don’t get all that much mail and for that I’m often grateful!! It’s all brown envelopes isn’t it, never that much fun these days, pay this, respond to that, most of it goes straight to the bin without collecting two hundred pounds. I think we all know the script. But this was different.
Ripping open the package, to my enormous surprise I find a pristine hardback copy of ‘Gordon Smith: Prince of Wingers’ the biography of the great and legendary Hibernian and Scotland right-winger and member of the Easter Road club’s Famous Five forward line. I instantly remembered that a little while ago a friend and one who I should add that I have yet to meet in person had promised to send me the story of Gordon Smith, written by his son, Tony Smith. Turning the front cover back I see a note and a host of autographs signed by Hibernian legends. Wonderful.
I find this so humbling. That someone a few hundred miles away in my home city had woken up one morning and taken the time to think of me, taken that book in hand, packaged it and sent it to my home in Nottingham. It is a very typical gesture of the kind that I have been the recipient of during the last few difficult and trying months of ‘starting again’. During those months too I have suffered in trying to concentrate for significant periods, something which has upset me and affected my ability to gain enjoyment from a great love of mine, reading but gradually that is slowly coming back, thankfully. So a gesture like this is a significant and important one for me. It is a motivation and part of the process of becoming well again.
I have had support close at hand for which I am very grateful, crucial support at times and yet this link, this huge warmth coming from Scotland has been immeasurable and enduring. It it an extraordinary comfort blanket that I have been able to resort to in times of great need. The constant messages, the hospitality, the gifts, the acknowledgments, the warm words thoughts and deeds, the love and friendship – truly extraordinary and yet should I, knowing what I know, expect any other? Perhaps not. When I was a young laddie I like to think that I was raised with many good Scots values. I was brought up to understand that to give to others is better than to receive. Without being a saint, I have always remembered these words and had a shot at living that way wherever possible. It seemed the right way to me. I now find myself the recipient.
I won’t embarrass the kind and thoughtful friend who has extended me this kindness but just to say, if you’re reading ‘K’ thank you for the gesture. Always here for you.
I’D LIKE TO ASK A QUESTION regarding Scottish independence – because I’m confused.
Every day I look at my Facebook page and Twitter feed, I read Scottish-based internet forums and online newspapers and come into contact many times daily with the views of a wide range of people in Scotland about all manner of things, obviously, especially the subject of independence for a good while now.
I see the polls and I look at the betting odds on the referendum. These consistently indicate a potential victory for the ‘No’ vote – not by much and certainly narrowing but consistent in their ratings of a few per cent in favour of staying together. They do not however, reflect what I am viewing and hearing from here – not even remotely so. I may have kindred views about many things with many of my friends in Scotland who I am in contact with regularly but by no means have my friends and acquaintances been chosen on the basis of their politics or opinion regarding the referendum. Indeed many of these people have been friends for a good number of years now and all we perhaps usually had in common outwardly originally was a liking for a certain football team in Edinburgh who play in green and white.
So here I am a few miles down the road in Nottingham, wondering exactly what is going on here? There is NOTHING about these forecasts that rings true to me from my personal experiences with the people I know who have a vote. To that end I have also observed every dirty trick in the book being played in the long run-up to this crucial vote that will decide the future of these islands and it leads me to believe that the above projection on the likely outcome on 18th September, 2014 is quite likely another piece of subterfuge – another grand lie intended to dupe the Scottish electorate into believing there is no hope of independence. Take the wind out of the sails of the ‘Yes’ vote. This and other Better Together strategies appears to have achieved little but galvanise the cause of independence, so insulting, threatening and condescending in tone have they generally been.
I’ve made my own views clear previously that I wish for independence for Scotland, I hope obviously then that the majority of Scottish people who read these words feel similar. Having said that this is still a democracy so respect to those that don’t share my view. In the meantime I’d genuinely love to hear an opinion or two on this conundrum? Am I inclined towards paranoia or is this the greatest lie of them all? After all, what part of the establishment can really be trusted now?
I’m not really looking for a debate on the whys and wherefores of Scottish independence here as others will debate that much better than me. The above is a question I’m curious as to other’s opinions about though.
1. You find that you talk to yourself in the absence of your partner. You wander around the house asking her questions. There are no answers.
2. You have upsetting images that flashback into your mind of when you had to identify your partner at the hospital. The images destroy you. You wonder if the sight of your breathless partner will ever leave you, to be replaced by the smiling image you remember.
3. You find yourself constantly asking yourself the questions ‘What if I could have done something?’ and ‘Why did you do this to yourself/me/your children?’
4. You feel so low at first that simple everyday things like keeping yourself clean seem like a huge task.
5. There are many times when you feel like taking your own life, so impossible do things seem. You consider different methods of doing this.
6. Eating becomes something to just survive. You don’t want to spend any time preparing proper food and you take solace in junk food. The microwave is your salvation.
7. Many of your long time neighbours avoid you. They push their children into the house when they see you walking up the road so that they can avoid talking to you because it’s ‘awkward’.
8. You wonder how you are going to be able to manage at work, ever, any more.
9. You cry when you least expect it, frequently. Even after a period of time when you think you’re ‘getting over it’ the tears squeeze out of your eyes unexpectedly when you have certain thoughts or are reminded of her in some unexpected way. You even cry at the nice things people say to you.
10. You find it difficult to listen to music because you associate the lyrics with you and your lost partner. The chords feel like a soundtrack to your broken life.
11. Even though you have friends and family you often feel so lonely, especially when you’re going back to that empty house once more. You can go a whole weekend barely speaking to anybody. You feel slightly powerless to do anything about this.
12. Anxiety is your normal state, you find yourself panicking about most things, often without specific reason.
13. Your life becomes narrow. Those country walks are no more, the meals out, the cinema. Holidays appear to be a thing that you used to do.
14. You become fatalistic about life and wonder if this is now all there is for you? That the game is over? You’re on your own until the lights finally go out.
15. You keep trying. You go to work on time, do your chores at home wherever possible, shop for food, tackle that garden as best you can. It all feels rather pointless. It isn’t for anybody else’s sake and you don’t care about yourself.
16. Your finances are in shock mode as you gain unexpected expenses whilst at the same time losing a household income.
17. You believe that you are not going to get through this ordeal. This feeling is revisited every day. Day after day.
18. Her clothing and possessions have to be sorted. This task feels heartless – like you are throwing your memories of being together away. Like you don’t care, but you do.
19. You begin to look at the people you know differently. Almost subconsciously you practise zero tolerance with people you feel have wronged you or ignored you at your time of need. Good people come to the fore, the genuine friends prove themselves time over. One or two new people enter your life, show caring and give you some hope.
20. You write a piece like this but don’t know exactly why. You’re almost beyond caring if anybody reads it. You could write twenty more.
I was interested recently in an internet discussion regarding famous or well-know personalities that people had met. Considering that I’d never really met anyone of that ilk I began to think about the subject. I should add as an aside that I’m really poor at recognising well-known people – celebrity spotting is just a concept that doesn’t occur to me.
My first job on leaving school was working at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground in Nottingham. Being a Test Match venue you’d get to meet some legendary players and I spoke to the likes of Garry Sobers, Clive Lloyd, Geoff Boycott, Ian Botham, Viv Richards, Colin Cowdrey and so on, too many to mention.
During the Tests in particular there’s be a fair smattering of celebrities taking in the occasion. One of the best known I met was John Le Mesurier of Dads Army, Sgt Wilson fame. He was pretty much Sgt Wilson too, cravat, blazer and all – a true gent who was kind enough to have a good chat with this 16 year-old whippersnapper. I almost expected him to come out with ‘I say, do you think that’s wise?’
John Le Mesurier
Back on sporting types, I met former Scotland international, John Robertson one time. (The great one that played for Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough). Visiting my brother-in-law’s garage he stated that there was someone out the back I might like to meet. Robbo was filling in time delivering cars whilst in between jobs so I was pretty staggered when I saw him standing there. You have to understand that he has pretty well legendary status in Nottingham and is part of local football folklore here being a double European Cup winner. I had quite a few questions for him and we had a really good chat. A great and yet very ordinary guy. The first one question that came to mind was ‘What was it like scoring the winning goal against England at Wembley?’! He told me too!
Wing Wizard – John Robertson
I used to see another former Scotland international, Dave Mackay, in one of the local village pubs here and he was always a friendly character. In the same pub I’d occasionally bump into former Celtic player and Notts County manager, Jimmy Sirrel. Jimmy wasn’t perhaps well-known out of football circles but again, was a legend in Nottingham and in the game. He was also great pals with one Alex Ferguson too. I was lucky enough to have a few drinks and a couple of hours of his time one summer afternoon and he related some great stories about football characters such as Gordon Strachan, Alex Ferguson, Herbert Chapman etc., some of which are detailed in the blog below
I WAS EXTREMELY pleased to see that the second series of ‘Derek’ has finally come around. If the first series passed you by allow me to give you a tip to catch this one. It is as good a comedy series as you are ever likely to see in my humble opinion. Derek works on so many levels, it has great pathos, is irreverent, yet complex and is of course genuinely funny. The cast have a great cohesion whilst one might say the ladies and gentlemen playing the residents of the care home are the true stars.
Ricky Gervais as Derek
When at first I watched the early episodes of the first series of Derek it took me a little while to understand my feelings about it. It’s not straight-ahead comedy but more challenging than that. By midway through the series I was watching repeat viewings of them.
Even if you’re not a Ricky Gervais fan, and I understand some people’s reservations towards him, try to suspend those feelings and watch this anyway.
It is a masterpiece.
IN THE DEPTHS OF WINTER it is good to remind ourselves of long, hot summer days. Some of the nicest of those days for me are when I am out walking in the countryside, with all the sights, sounds and sensations of the hills, fields and woodlands. One of my favourite sounds is the inimitable song of the Skylark, usually followed by a long peer up into the atmosphere for a welcome sighting of this beautiful creature that gives so much joy.
There are many different kinds of lark but perhaps the one that comes to mind most memorably for people is the Skylark. Without daring to find out I am sure that Vaughan Williams had this little bird in mind when he wrote his uplifting The Lark Ascending, particularly in the way it flies very high, almost out of sight, together with its attractive signature song. It’s song has been described as ‘sunshine turned into song’, quite rightly.
You can listen to a little sunshine here:
During the 1990s in particular, the High Streets of this country largely lost their small independent bookshops which for most true book lovers was a great shame. I remember prior to those days the likes of Mushroom a co-operative run bookshop in Nottingham’s Hockley area, my first purchase there being the Communist Party Manifesto if I recall correctly! There were other similar interesting little outlets too.
It’s recently come to my attention that Nottingham now owns a brand-new independent retailer, ‘The Five Leaves Bookshop’ situated centrally in the city on Long Row. Five Leaves have been doing very good things in this part of the world for some time and are to be applauded for this fresh enterprise. I intend a visit on my next trip into the city and humbly suggest others check this new business out too. No, I’m not on commission, I’m a lover of literature and reading and what these things bring to our lives. I’d like to see this trend for small independent booksellers grow here in Nottingham and other cities and towns.
AT THIS TIME of year, this blog’s host prepares a nifty resume of the past year. A few interesting facts (to me at least) one being that I REALLY need to write a little more in the coming year. Here’s hoping.
Here’s an excerpt:
Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 66,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
I recently came across an internet discussion headed ‘Why are bus drivers so bitter?’ The person asking the question had felt let down by a bus driver not allowing him onto his bus though standing at a bus stop. Without delving into that set of circumstances I think those of us who have cause to use bus services all have our frustrations to relate.
The area of Nottinghamshire where I live is served by Nottingham City Transport Buses and also a private East Midlands bus company called Trent Barton. Alighting a corporation bus, one is reasonably likely, though by no means always, liable to experience a poor, uncommunicative or sullen attitude from the drivers whereas the Trent Barton drivers are at the other end of the spectrum, invariably behaving in a friendly, personable and helpful manner.
I agreed with many of the assertions in the discussion revolving around the frustrations of the drivers and what a difficult and trying job it must be. I think this takes it toll – these men and women do a thankless job in many respects. An interesting observation for me locally is that the corporation drivers generally drive just a few miles on their routes through very frustrating city and suburban conditions – with the resultant effect on the drivers. Just imagine driving stop-start all shift long, the abuse from some members of the public and so on. The Trent Barton drivers tend to partly drive through the city too but their routes are often longer with stretches through open countryside. The bus I use between home and Nottingham city centre is a journey of but four miles but the bus then usually continues on to Chesterfield – a full thirty mile journey with only an intermittent stop in a built up area (Mansfield). I’m sure this helps the drivers and is a mood lifter.
Perhaps more importantly, I’m pretty sure the Trent Barton drivers are trained and educated in their attitudes towards customers. The company has a smaller ‘family feel’ to it and this culture really improves relations between staff and customers. They also make judicious use of social media to communicate with their customers. The Facebook and Twitter comments they provide through the day can be incredibly helpful regarding en-route problems, cheap fares and so on.
The result is a superior service. The respect is palpable between drivers and customers and the positivity and friendliness shown by the drivers mostly delivered right back at them from their passengers. The service, as far as travelling on buses goes, is a pleasant one to use. I have a choice in my suburb of using Trent Barton buses or Nottingham City Transport buses. Guess which one I don’t use from one year to the next?
RECENTLY, A STUDENT at one of the local universities requested, after browsing The Tears of a Clown that I participate in her research on the topic of blogging and it’s relationship to journalism. There were a few interesting and well-conceived questions posed and taking part became a thought-provoking exercise. This site celebrated it’s sixth birthday this month so it seemed to be an opportune time to consider the medium of blogging generally. The questions and their answers are recorded below
Why did you decide to start blogging?
I initiated my main blog in August, 2007 after attending and being inspired by a talk at Lowdham Book Festival, Notts by a leading blogger who now writes professionally. I had previously experimented with blogs in a small way for field research and also ran a free traditional website for a while. I migrated all the previously written articles on the latter to The Tears of a Clown.
‘Tears of a Clown’ has reached 512,904 views. How do you feel that the privilege to communicate on a mass scale has been extended to anybody who has access to the Internet?
I enjoy the freedom to publish my thoughts, beliefs, experiences and knowledge in this way. Clearly, it is a great opportunity for anyone with something to say and my personal belief is that it should be respected. There were other online means previously, for example internet forums and some may claim that blogs have in some ways been superseded and outgrown by other social media such as micro-blogging etc. I still however, find it more satisfying, generally speaking, than those methods of communication. I do however, generally use these different means for different purposes.
How do you respond to the notion that blogging has undermined the privileged position occupied by journalists?
With barely suppressed hilarity I might say! Certain areas of the world of journalism undermine themselves on a regular basis with their irresponsibility and bias. Although I remain a fan and supporter of quality journalism, too many individuals and organisations have brought about their own downfall and therefore I have little sympathy that they are now being regularly challenged.
How do you respond to the opinion that, as a blogger, you are unfamiliar with the process of news gathering?
I respond by saying that I am not a journalist and don’t see my efforts at writing and communicating to be inextricably bound together with news gathering. In addition, my experiences of reading some (not all) newspapers is that their own journalists show themselves to be lamentably poor and indeed lazy, in regards to news gathering at times. I might cite the scanning by certain professional journalists of personal blogs and internet forae etc. for stories. If they use this information gathered to form their own story, with little basis other than a member of the public’s opinion, as I have witnessed them do, what does that say for the accuracy of their own published work?
How do you respond to the critique that blogs have received in that bloggers tend to value immediacy and comment as opposed to accuracy?
I would say that is sometimes a fair criticism. It has though to be remembered that most of us do not blog for a living and therefore only have a finite time to fact find – unlike professional journalists. In fairness, and as with journalists, I believe that there should be a certain responsibility upheld when publishing material on a blog. I attempt at all times to write what I reasonably understand as the truth before pressing the submit button. If I’m not convinced of something’s legitimacy I’ll tend to not publish it. I don’t too often write about contentious issues but I still think that’s a good yardstick to adhere to.
Do you think citizen journalism is fairly representative of the wider public?
If you mean by that, blogging then yes, I think it can be construed as reasonably representative. Of course that representation is by those of us who wish to write and communicate, inferring representation by a certain type of person or section of society. I struggle to understand at times how a journalist and his sub-editor could be seen as more representative in any case.
Would you say, blogs play a part in keeping journalists honest/holding them to account?
There are too many dishonest and biased examples of journalism still to be able to say that always works but I suppose it helps in that process. That the public have so much more opportunity for redress is a good thing in my view and perhaps, I’m not sure, it may occur to journalists that they may be taken to task in various places if people are in disagreement with their opinions and statements of ’fact’. A healthier state of affairs than existed previously I would suggest.
KITTY HUDSON WAS BORN IN ARNOLD, NOTTINGHAM in 1765, the granddaughter of Mr. White, a sexton of St. Mary’s Church, Nottingham who she was left with from a young age. During the latter part of that century, Kitty’s strange story became infamous and saw her achieve something of a minor celebrity status due to it’s extreme oddity.
Artist’s impression of Kitty Hudson.
Available at: http://www.ournottinghamshire.org.uk/page_id__973_path__0p32p.aspx (R B Parish)
As a young girl of six years, Kitty was detailed to help out in St. Mary’s in keeping the place of worship spick and span and worked with a servant at the church, a young woman who would give Kitty instructions as they worked alongside each other. It is said that the servant girl would implore that Kitty pick up and collect any dropped pins and needles while sweeping the pews and aisles of the church and reward the youngster with a stick of toffee for every mouthful that she produced. The young Arnold girl diligently set about collecting the pins and needles and storing them in her mouth as she went about her work and it becoming a firm habit. The habit became so engrained in fact that it was said that Kitty could barely sleep, eat or drink without the strange practise of storing pins and needles in her mouth, even to the point of constantly disturbing her sleep to replenish the store of pins and needles in her mouth, that she might rest peacefully. Friends recorded at this time that Kitty’s teeth were ground down almost to her gums.
After time, the young girl reported an enduring numbness in her limbs and intense pain along with difficulty in sleeping and was taken to hospital in August, 1783 after numerous failed treatments. With inflammation in her right arm, a pair of needles were discovered under the skin adjacent her wrist and were removed. Other needles were also found in her arm and painfully extracted.
In an incredible story, before Kitty was finally discharged from hospital in the summer of 1785, the sexton’s granddaughter underwent a long series of operations to remove huge numbers of pins, needles and bone from her arms, legs, feet and other parts of her body. Both Kitty’s breasts had to be removed as needles and pins were lodged around her breastbone. Amongst various alarming notes taken during her two-year plus incarceration in hospital it was recorded that Kitty passed a needle through her urine and also vomited a needle. The minutes from her hospital stay were said to be voluminous and of extreme interest to the medical profession.
There was an extraordinary ending to Kitty Hudson’s story as she survived her self induced ordeal and was discharged to go on to marry her childhood sweetheart from the town of Arnold. The young man, by the name of Goddard, had coincidentally been an out-patient at the same hospital, being treated for a head complaint from which he subsequently lost an eye. Her to-be-intended would cheer Kitty’s spirits by telling her he would marry her should her life ever be spared. The young Arnold girl would later claim that it was her sweetheart’s faith and love that delivered her through her many sufferings to become well again.
The young couple married and, incredibly, Kitty bore her partner nineteen children. In this period of history with infant mortality so high, the practice was for children of the parish to be Christened within three days of being born. Duly, eighteen of Kitty’s children were baptised though sadly just one survived infancy. That child, a daughter, died at just nineteen years of age.
During her later years, Kitty carried the post on foot from Arnold to Nottingham – a round walk of some eight miles – twice daily. She was described at this time as being six feet tall, stout and somewhat masculine in appearance. She would wear a small bonnet about her way and drab clothing of worsted stockings, a coarse woollen petticoat, strong shoes and with a leather post bag slung over her shoulder.
In 1814 Kitty’s husband died and she remarried to Henry Ludham of South Wingfield in Derbyshire where she bore no further children. Interestingly, her step son, Charles Ludlam the village shoemaker stated in the Marlborough Express of 1907 that the legacy of Kitty’s swallowing of pins and needles remained with her for the rest of her life. That journal recorded thus: ‘To the end of life pins and needles kept coming at intervals from her body. At first a black spot would appear and then it soon began to fester, the head next came in sight, and it was pulled out, and the wound soon healed.’ Her step son stated Kitty’s body to be as ‘a colander, full of tiny holes.’ .
In spite of this, Kitty was able to live a decent and good life and remained fit and able to carry out her daily duties until passing away at seventy years of age. So ended peacefully the remarkable story of Kitty Hudson, the human pin cushion of Arnold, Nottingham.