Thursday, January 31, 2013
The International Rugby Season beckons and i'm a Scot...and always will be.
I suppose my father gave me my love for the game. He was a good player...physically he was nothing like me..he was probably 5'10" with broad shoulders..and he was a prop forward..front-row for those speaking a different language.
Although he was a Watsonian, he played for Broughton Former Pupils. He was described as being a stalwart of the club as a player, referee, committee member..and i imagine that is what he was...a stalwart. It has always been a good word to describe him, i think. He played and refereed well into his 40's ...and when he met my mother, he promptly turned her into a Broughton FP tea girl..and i'm sure that she was a stalwart at that!!
I know that they were both huge supporters of the Scottish rugby team ..and in (much) later years i loved poking through the programs that he kept from international matches..home and away. He had programs form before the start of World War II ..and so i learned about players like Wilson Shaw
My father's connections meant that he acted as one of a fairly large number of stewards at Murrayfield, then and still, where Scotland plays all its home international rugby matches, and when i and my brother, David, were old enough, my Dad would get us into the schoolboys' enclosure..which is that set if seats (benches?) that are closest to the playing field itself..in fact they are on the grass!
i have vague memories of some early games ..but whether these are real memories or planed ones, i don't really know.
I think i remember seeing the Scots get hammered by the Springboks..48-0? during a very bad run of results.
I remember Royal High School games..PP's and FP's better. We (i'll include myself tho not by rugby-playing prowess) had some great, great teams..especially the PP's...ouf ..remember ToTo Blake, Dode Farlowe, Gavin Lockhart, Pringle Fisher, Arthur Orr, even Francis WWW Dick..who was..quick!
Other international games i can remember wrt players but i don't remember the dates. I remember players like Peter Jackson of England, Cliff Morgan of Wales, Jackie Kyle of Ireland ..and Scots..well i remember Jimmie Nichol, a High School FP, who played scrum-half ..and i think i remember him stealing a try off a Cliff Morgan mistake. But also Arthur Smith, Ken Scotland.
I do remember a huge 0-0 tie with the All Blacks who had Don Clarke and 14 other assorted behemoths..when was that..mid-50's?
Later, i remember Laughland and Shackleton...hmmm, not always fondly..and players like Alec Hastie, Hugh McLoud, David Chisholm..all Borderers. I probably went to every home international for 17-18 years until I left Scotland to move to London as a computer programmer in 1964......a what???? when?? how???....maybe even why????
By that time, JPFisher (Pringle Fisher) was a solid member of the team that he went on to captain. He was in the Army Medical Corps and played club rugby for London Scottish which in those days supplied almost half the Scottish team..and were very entertaining to watch.
On this the 30th anniversary of Scotland's last win against the Auld Enemy (England, of course), i am reminded that i was at Twickenham in ..could it be 1963 (or was it 64) ..for one of the most famous games against England. We'd driven down, in the mist and sleet and snow and rain on the Friday night, and it rained all day, Scotland led for most of the game..could it have been and Alec Hastie try ..or David Chisholm until, unfolding in slow motion, Andy Hancock ran 80+ yards in the mud and Pringle Fisher's desperate dive couldn't stop him. I think that we were across the pitch from the start of his run..and we were at the 25 (as it was then ). I can still see his run..it was as if it was in slow-motion. The game finished tied 3-3. It was a terribly sad ride back to Scotland that weekend. after i moved to London (64-68) i probably became a TV viewer of international matches.
Then..on the road..a year in Spain..not much to watch there..tho i did take my dad to Bernabeu to watch Real Madrid v Athletico Madrid when my parents came to visit.
then the US..Atlanta, Georgia..then New York. In these pre-internet days you couldn't even get the results never mind see the games! Cross-country assignments and it was only back in New York in the mid 70's that i finally caught up with 5 Nations rugby (pre-Italy).
There were a lot of rugby-loving ex-pats in Manhattan and tapes would eventually arrive..usually Monday or Tuesday of the weekend's games and be shown in the (likely) Irish bars in the 40's thru 80's on the East Side..Drake's Drum, and a couple of places in the 40's.
Then more dry years for rugby as i laboured in the Mid-West until i returned to NY in '87. Then it got interesting. First it was ...waiting in an Irish bar until after midnight on the Saturday for the arrival of a motor-bike courier from Kennedy airport with tapes of the day's games..taped in Dublin and carried, i swear, by an Aer Lingus stewardess to NY on some crazy flight. I can be excused if i don't remember too many of the details of these games..tho an Eric Peters try comes to mind.
It worked out that in my second NY stint, i spent a lot of time in London on a project and so did actually get to see games. The company i was with then, Telerate, a financial information company..US Treasury prices, etc..had a box at Twickers!!! and it was Rugby World Cup time too!!
But, unquestionably, the highlight of my NY-London time was that i was back in Edinburgh to visit family..and was at Murrayfield for David Sole-Gavin Hastings-Craig Chalmers-John Jeffries-Finlay Calder-Tony Stanger!!
..but there is also Gavin Hasting's sublime inside pass to Sean Lineen in Paris
By then, fortunately, international rugby via satellite had become a big deal..even back in New York. It was a special deal and it posed its own problems! Hmmm..the games will be shown starting at 0800 on Saturday morning in your favourite Irish bar where the food is as bad as the beer is good. and two games later/4 hours later..you stagger out into the daylight..and .well, you can imagine the rest!!
Scotland had good years and bad years...hmmmm
They had a great tour of New Zealand..Grant Fox v Gavin Hastings
After NY..San Francisco and Silicon Valley but that made time differences even more surreal.
Again, of course, it was only in an Irish bar...the Sunset District...that i could regularly watch there..but given the time differences..and the bar..i could never tell whether the games were live or not..and given the locale, it didn't seem to make as much difference! BTW San Fran has the only Scottish bar that this world wanderer has ever found. And it's sleazy..it's the Edinburgh Castle on Geary..but it has a performance space where 'Trainspotting' was first read..and where on a drunken promotional tour of the US by various Scottish writers, i got to meet my long-lost cuz, James Kelman, prior to his sojourn as writer-in-residence at the University of Texas.
Sometime later...through the fog. i found myself ..trying to find myself actually after sickening of all the greed in the software biz..how many stock options are you going to grant me to come work with you???? and i will need more to stay in 3 months! i found myself out of that 'profession' and in Italy...hmmm do i remember why..yea probably...it has to do with a life-long love of Latin and Mr Gobel (sp?) 's classes...amo, amas, anat..etc. Anyway, Rome is a good place to catch up on rugby..and football... now. My place ..probably known to many, was the Abbey Tavern, just beside the Piazza Navonna..and i spend many weekends there..i think.
And i go to watch Scotland v Italy in that great little stadium on the Via Flaminia. 2002-2004 and then again in 2006. Very hard work!!
i did get to see Mike Blair make his Six Nations debut and i was sitting beside his dad and mum! We lost..all these italian losses...NEVER EVER could figure out how or why! Although i could never forgive Dan Parks for the last one. But the matches were fun.
Then 2005, i watched the draw in a a bar in Vermont!!!
Then Peace Corps..my current 'profession'...and 27 months in Romania. I actually did get to watch a B game in Bucharest.. Maybe there were six other Scottish supporters. TV games..not ever..but at least we had internet so i could 'follow' the games through the BBC website..though they always had 10 times as much to 'say' about English games than Scottish games
Back to the US to build a house and hang out in Napoli with an NGO..hey..back up to Rome to watch rugby..Napoli definitely doesn't do rugby!
And then off to Ghana in June 2010 for another 27 months..extended for another 12..with Peace Corps (i'm an American now, you know....not!). Ghana is mad for football..Premier League and Messi and Ronaldo. and so they have even in fairly rural areas..sports bars that show football (dmm..they're not really sports bars in that they don't serve food or alcohol..but they show the games...for 55 cents admission!
But there are ex-pats here and so there is rugby!! All the ex-pats, driving around in SUV's etc live in Accra..and i live in...rural Ghana ...but i can get to Accra..And WILL on Saturday ..to watch rugby.
John Beattie notes that it is 30 years since the last victory at Twickenham. Who knows. I liked Andy Robinson ...but i'm beginning to think that he didn't inspire the team..and Frank H certainly didn't. Maybe Scott Johnson will.
So spare a thought for this lost Scot forever hoping, praying. I'm glad that it is a flat world..and that i can still get to watch Scotland play..just as I did 60+ years ago! Game is a bit different now though!