Thursday, February 01, 2018

Verse or Worse

“Poetry and Shinty eh? There’s no doubt the two go together just whisky and Irn Bru.”

 No sooner had the Wing Centre come out with that line than herself stopped him.

“You can’t say that,” said she. “The Camanachd Association would get the wrong impression of the Club and bang would go that hard earned Bronze Award. It doesn’t sound like an athletic lifestyle to be drinking all that whisky and Irn Bru.”

Though he had heard of much nastier combinations, on the spot, the Wing Centre decided not to pursue that point but anyhow ,the idea of a shinty/poetry interface (as the great Sorley Maclean would no doubt have said if he were still with us and going to seminars) stuck in his napper.

After all Kinlochshiel were great at the poetry. They wrote poems for their big wins which actually meant that so far they had done two. However, given the sort of season that the Glen had just survived, any win big enough to be the subject of some immortal versifying seemed (and seems)  pretty unlikely. And what on earth can rhyme with either Bronze or Certificate?

However,the Committee, surprisingly, were not in anyway negative about the idea-indeed they had information of their own. ”There is certainly a Bard in Balnain,” said the Chairman, “though he is more inclined to deal with matters of topicality or politics.”

“There is, of course,  another Bard in Balmacaan,” opined the Chieftain ,”and I hear he’s quite good.”

“In my day,”said Mr Reid, proving that he is always right up on the top of whatever curve is fashionable, “the only poetry we came across was a rap on the lug, though I do see that the TV ads are now using poetry and raps to sell their sporting products to the modern audience.”

Everyone looked in awe at Mr Reid after that remark, His grasp of marketing jargon was certainly impressive and working in the Clansman shop had certainly widened his experience of the world view of Chinese tourists to say the least.

On the grounds that TV ads are modern and that a poet in residence would fit in with the ethos of a sport of which the governing body had engaged with four artists who would be working in the most unlikely locations, the Committee decided to get with the idea.

A quick plea was put out on Social Media- and to his and everyone's  surprise- the following verses dropped into the Wing Centre’s e-mail inbox within the week. It appeared to come from the Bard of Balmacaan- and its subject - that epic match between ‘Shiel and the Glen which took place over at Balgate at the end of the 2017 season. It was a game in which the Glen picked up a point when even Bill McAllister had predicted their defeat.

Hurrah for the Thin Red and Black Line

All Hail the conquering boys from Shiel

Who did the Premier title steal

At Mossfield Park on a Saturday.

Long may they enjoy their victor-ay!

But pause a moment by and by,

Take some time to wonder why

All this glorious season through

They stumbled at the number two

“Why so,good sir?” I hear you say

The answer’s here as plain as day.

At Blairbeg ‘Shiel failed to score

And lost two goals. Oh that was sore!

The Glen stood firm and broke their hearts.

Yet a greater blow was on the cards.

Over the hill at Blairbeg pitch

‘Shiel’s frontmen hit another hitch.

The Glen with half their team adrift

Put in another awesome shift

‘Shiel huffed and puffed and cursed and swore

But John just simply Barr-ed the door

And with young Ally at his best

Smack rarely faced a serious test.

Then Frostie’s goals made ‘Shiel upset:

Into the match they could not get.

Poor ‘Shiel were really in a jam

To lose both points would do them harm.

“Right,” said John. “They’ll need some aid.

We’ll have to help them, I’m afraid.”

So Ally was told to give a pen

To get ‘Shiel in the game again.

That 2-2 draw was just enough

To win ‘Shiel all that trophy stuff


That single point was gold indeed.

It was all that ‘Shiel would ever need

To win the Premier League at last

With all the fear and pressure past.


So well done Shiel,but keep in mind

Just how the Glenners were so kind

To let you have one point from four.

You were never getting any more.


There was of course an earlier poem about a win over Kyles written in an Argyllshire accent, harking back to the days when the inhabitants of Tighnabruaich were actually from Argyll.
Then there was of course a famous ditty from the Chieftain about the Sale of Work.
There was also the attempt by the Treasurer to persuade guys to hand in their old sticks by writing in the poetic style of Julia Donaldson

Give us back your stick, Mun!!      

“Stick Man Oh Stick Man just why are you sad?

At the start of the season you ought to be glad.
The teams are delighted and so should you be
To get back into shinty, if not to your tree”

“Alas,” says poor Stickman “that will happen no more
For here I’m abandoned behind the front door.
No longer permitted to take part in the game
Though I’m raring to go. It is such a shame.”

“Stick Man, Oh Stick Man just what can we do
To make use of the energy left inside you?
You do have a future. Still you can play -
But to get you involved just what can we say?”

“Get on to the players who’ve packed up the game
To return me to Sticky without any blame.
I’ll find a new master- and then I’ll be set
To get back to my shinty; there’s goals in me yet.”

    (With half-hearted apologies to Julia Donaldson and none to Axel Scheffler)

So there you go. It was an appeal from the heart. With the price of shinty clubs going through the roof the call went out to all former shinty players of whatever age to give back their unused clubs. The Glen now have more teams than ever - both boys and girls- so we desperately needed sticks so all can play. Most players have more than one shinty stick lying around at home - and while they  might require one to fend off the occasional burglar- the others could  surely be used to help out the Club that provided  them in the first place.
Did it work? Who can say?  We still need clubs - and beyond that,maybe we need to gather up all our shinty verse as well and put it in a book to hand down to future generations, to recoin a phrase the Wing Centre heard recently. Perhaps next week we'll hunt out more poems from the vault. Few would be averse to that.




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