Windfarm Walk

This lockdown, I’ve set myself daily targets for walking. January was 10km and now, as the days grow longer, February is 12km. The plan is to be ready for the hills in the spring, maybe a little camping too.

I’ve kept the walks local obviously and discovered some good ones. The Bannockburn Heritage Trail from Ladywell Park up to Mill Bridge and back was excellent (6km). Its a steep sided glen following the fast flowing Bannock Burn, past derelict tartan weaver mills (hence the name of the local pub, Tartan Arms).

Dunblane to Doune is a favourite, heading out on the Old Doune Road past Greenyards Farm before heading down to Argaty and continuing along the old railway line to Doune. Its all tarmac now but watch out as the railway track has a 1:50 incline down to Doune. So what seems an easy walk with little breeze actually becomes an uphill trudge into a cold easterly wind on the way back (11 km).

This happened to auld Jackie when he fae Doune tae Dunblane ane night did canter. It was late and upon leaving the Highland, he was glorious (o’er aw the ills o’ life victorious probably). Stopping halfway home to light a cigarette, he turned his back to the easterly. Satisfied he had lit his smoke, he walked on…straight back to Doune!

Anyway, I got fed up wi the local walks and decided to head up to the windfarm. It was built in 2007 and is very prominent on the hills to the north of Dunblane. I like them but some folks get raging about them, Trump included. And thats good enough for me.

So, I parked the car just after Buchany at Home Farm and headed up past a few farms and alot of sheep and then the forestry plantations. Once thru that we past Severie farmhouses and took the ancient track towards legendary Calziebohalzie (dont ask me to pronounce it). This track fords two burns and crosses moorlands with skylarks tweeting (no Trump jokes please) above in a huge sky.

The windfarm road crossed this ancient track (before we reached Calziebohalzie sadly) and we followed it up to the huge wind turbines. Theres about 34 in total. Standing underneath one and looking up is a bit of an unnerving , vertigo inducing experience.

I looked for The Bird Graveyard. In yet another infamous Trump ramble, he claimed there’s a Bird Graveyard at every windfarm, but it was nowhere to be found. I didn’t hang about and the walk back down past snowbanks was amazing as you are looking back across the lowlands to the Carse of Stirling with the Gargunnock Hills beyond. Dunblane stands out too, with Dumyat, Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle behind.

I followed the windfarm road all the way back thru forestry plantations to Home Farm, a total of 20km which left Shitzu puggled. Calziebohalzie will have to wait for another day !

Stay safe everyone, we are getting there!

Bannockburn

Dunblane Primary School 1977 : The Boy sat bored at the back of the class. It was too hot in the classhut, a prefab unit for the Primary 5s. He remembered when they once had class in the school field. They had sat on the grass in the shade of the trees. That was fun. He’d liked that teacher.

One day, she wore a yellow and red top and he had called her Mrs Partick Thistle. She had laughed at that. But that was Primary 2. Today, in Primary 5, his teacher was strict. She’d given all of the boys the belt for spitting (in ’77 the punk era had taken Dunblane by storm).

Today it was poetry. Boring he thought. Why couldn’t they just play rounders in the field ? (it was almost the summer holidays anyway). Last week they had a lesson on the wars of independence now that was cool. Not as cool as dinosaurs mind you. He pictured a T Rex running across the school field, his classmates running away screaming. He had decided long ago that in this situation the best place was the bike sheds. No way could a T Rex get you if you hid at the back of the bike sheds. They had these stupid wee arms you see.

The teacher was reading the poem to the classroom. He looked out the window at the blue skies and drifted away, 663 years away to be precise….

On a warm summers evening in 1314, The Boy was filling the pail above the ford when he first noticed them. Across the river he could see hundreds of men streaming down the Braeport and past the Dunblane Cathedral. There were horses too, and ponies pulling carts. He watched with astonishment as they gathered at the The Cross, then he turned and ran home, spilling water from his pail as he went.

His father was emerging from their stone house. He hushed The Boy and, staring at the scene, muttered almost to himself ‘chan ann a-rithist’ – not again !

17 years earlier the clans had come from the north to fight the English at Stirling Bridge and again the following year to fight at Falkirk. After Falkirk, not many had returned north to their homelands. Grimly nodding, his father ducked back into the house. In the half-light of the blackhouse, he found his sgian dhu and felt better. He would retrieve his sword from the thatched roof in the morning.

The English were sending a huge army to crush the Scots, he’d heard. They had already been in Dunblane ten years before: the soldiers had stolen the lead from the cathedral roof to provide ammunition for their siege engines. They had taken Stirling Castle shortly after.

That night The Boy watched as the Highlanders sat around camp fires, laughter and songs drifting across the river. The men had set camp on the drying green below the Bishops Palace. As he watched, a bearded man walked down to the river directly across from him and stood, urinating. The Boy turned and ran, the mans laughter in his ears.

On the morning of 23 June 1314, the Highlanders forded the river heading south to Stirling, a seemingly endless line of wild looking men, following carts loaded with long wooden spears and pulled by ponies. The mood was sombre. The Boy watched as they headed along the ancient drove road, he watched until he couldn’t see them anymore and he wondered if his Father would ever return.

Going to Dunblane Primary School

In 1972, The Boy went to Dunblane Primary School for the first time. Wearing hand-me-down grey shorts that were too big for him and an uncomfortable shirt and tie, he walked from his house in Murdoch Terrace each day to the school. It was a five minute walk and his mum had decided early on that he was big enough to walk to school on his own. He was almost five years old after all.

He liked his teacher, Mrs Carmichael, she was nice. The classroom was huge with big windows all along one side. He sat behind his desk, swinging his legs, as the teacher wrote her name on the blackboard. His classmates, he noticed, were all taller than him. He didn’t realise until years later, it was because he was one of the youngest in the class.

Perhaps being so small was why he made pals with another wee boy. At playtime they could play tig or British bulldogs with the others on the concrete playground or, if it was raining, they played in the bikesheds. His wee pal said he lived down behind the school. He talked about going to Jean’s to buy sweeties. Jean’s must be a shop, The Boy thought, a shop with lots of sweetie jars. Imagine that!

The Boy had never been beyond his own street, although sometimes they played in the field behind his house. That was ok as long as you didn’t wear red, because there was a bull in the field and bulls hate red. Thats what his big brothers told him anyway. The Boy pointed across the school field. “Thats my house there” he said “that big house”. His pal looked doubtful. “Aye, right!” he said. The Boy was insistent, his pride was at stake here. “I’ll show you at lunchtime” he said “then you’ll believe me”.

At lunchtime they sneaked out the school gate and walked quickly round to The Boys house. At the back door, The Boy struggled to move the heavy black bin. There was no key underneath. Disappointed, he tried to salvage the situation. “Lets play on the clothes line!” he shouted and ran over to the drying green which was a square with four metal poles in each corner. He jumped several times before he managed to grab the clothes line with both hands and soon he was swinging back and forward. His pal was impressed and joined in, the two wee boys laughing as they swung higher and higher.

The fun ended abruptly as there was a loud crack and both boys fell to the ground. The Boy scrambled to his feet and looked at the broken metal pole lying on the ground. “Shite!” he said. It was the only swear word he knew. The two boys stared at each other then, without a word, they both ran back towards the school.

That night at the dinner table, The Boy sat quiet as his mum and dad discussed the mystery of the broken clothes line…and why the bin had been moved. It was a mystery which remained unsolved until today when you, dear reader, came across this strange story !

PS I think it was Mrs Carmichael in P1 and Mrs Currie in P2. Definitely Mrs McFarlane in P4 and Mrs Angus in P6. Cannae mind the others tho.

Dunblane in Lockdown January 2021

This is my third winter as pharmacy delivery driver in Dunblane and, after two mild winters, finally the snow has arrived. Its not been as bad as I feared : any areas where the snowplough had not been I parked nearby and walked in (Dargai Terrace, Buchan Drive, Keir Street and Balmoral Court spring to mind). It actually improved my drive up to one isolated farm near Braco as the snow filled in the potholes, making it a smoother drive up and down the mile long track. In fact that afternoon the temperature had plummeted to minus 9 which weirdly reminded me that one day in June it was 29 degrees in Braco.

The first snowfall coincided with the new lockdown, resulting in more home deliveries as people couldn’t get to the pharmacy to collect. This made for a busy spell but, as ever, folks were very appreciative when I appeared at their door. Its a tough time for the elderly and January has been a very long month for them. The fact that most of them now have been vaccinated is brilliant. A few have told me excitedly that they are getting the jag in the Vicky Hall that afternoon and one auld boy, who had received the jag, told me its great having an end in sight. He is already planning having a dram with his neighbour in mid May !

Sadly, we have lost a few people in Dunblane in January. Several times I have had to deliver prescriptions to the bereaved families and make a point of passing on my condolences. Some admittedly I barely knew but others I have had a blether with and hope they enjoyed my chat (these days its mostly an update on where the snowplough has been with a parting shot of ‘you’re better staying inside nice and warm’). Not that they have much choice but maybe by mid May that will change. The auld yins deserve a break and I’ll tell you why.

Firstly, they are almost always cheerful, despite the pandemic. Some haven’t crossed the threshold in ten months now. They would be entitled to complain but no they prefer a wee blether. Again this week one auld dear said they never had to endure this during the war. I assume she meant the isolation, not being able to chat to your friends and neighbours, visit the shops, give someone a hug. She also claimed there was a bomb dropped in Dunblane which never exploded !

Secondly, they still give me wee presents. One woman passes me a funsize Mars bar every time I deliver, another gave me some books by an author we had previously spoken about and an elderly Dutch lady gave me a late Christmas present of lovely chocolates beautifully wrapped in paper depicting people ice skating in Netherlands. There is a story behind this : before Christmas I was wearing a Santa type face covering and this lady loved it. So next time I delivered I managed to get her a fresh Santa face covering to wear when her family visited on Christmas Day. Her chocolates were a wee thank you.

The third and final reason the auld yins deserve a break ? They call me son. They say things like ‘thats gid o’ ye, son’ and ‘take care, son’. One guy says ‘thank you, young man’ and another auld boy always says a brisk ‘well done’ when I deliver. I reckon he was an officer in the army.

Anyway, thats January oot the way and the days are getting longer. Hopefully things will open up for the summer and I can get out and up the hills (though I’m not holding my breath for Wembley). Stay safe everyone !

1966 train to Dunblane

In spring 1966, Dunblane Railway station was quiet. The previous November, the line to Callander had been closed for good, after over 100 years of service. It was mid morning when the Aberdeen train arrived at platform 2. The Man got off it, then walked over the Victorian footbridge to platform 1 and out onto Stirling Road.

The Man asked a local for directions. The local shook his head, didn’t recognise the street name. The Man persisted, it was near the new school he said. ‘Ah the new hooses’ the local said and pointed to another bridge that crossed the railway line further up.

The Man strode off, noting the post office, newsagents and confectionery shop in Stirling Road, the old tenement flats above. He walked along Station Road before climbing up the steep path to the bridge. At the top he could see the river far below and beyond it, Dunblane Cathedral which looked impressive. Not so nice was the gasworks across the river.

Over the bridge, The Man recognised the cobblers where the local had said to turn left. He went between the cobblers and an air raid shelter which was covered in graffiti. Hopefully they wouldn’t be needing the air raid shelter in the future, he thought to himself.

There was a bus depot and a petrol station ahead but he turned right onto the Old Doune Road, as instructed. He chuckled to himself as he noticed there was a George Street: his own name. Maybe it was a good sign? The council houses in George Street looked fairly new, probably built just after the war.

The wide road went uphill, old stone villas above him to the right and new brick built bungalows on his left. He was soon breathing hard, he wasn’t used to this. Bloody hilly town Dunblane, he thought. He turned into Cawdor Cresent , another wide street and more climbing before a steep downhill. At the bottom were the school gates with the modern two storey school beyond. The man nodded to himself: his eldest son was now 5 years old so this would be perfect.

As he continued along Kinnoul Avenue he could see green hillside beyond. And coos ! He laughed at that because there were nae coos in the Gorbals where he was brought up. Finally, there it was. Murdoch Terrace! It looked a long street, all the pristine houses on the left and a wide grass verge with the school fence on the right.

He started to walk along the street,which was devoid of cars. The gardens were big, neat and empty: a blank canvas for the new residents who would settle in over the next year or two. Workmen were hammering away in one house, raised voices and laughter above the radio, which was blaring out ‘Substitute’ by The Who. A man with a clipboard was standing out on the pavement halfway along the street. He smiled. ‘You must be Mr Campbell’, he said ‘ allow me to show you the property’.

Half an hour later the two men reappeared on the pavement, shook hands and headed in opposite directions. The Man looked back at the house with the hillside beyond, then turned to look across the school field to the school with the Ochil hills in the distance. So much space. If they were going to raise three weans, maybe four who knows, they could do worse.

Satisfied, he lit his pipe and started walking back towards the railway station.

*’The Man’ was my dad and the story is part truth, part fiction but he definitely viewed 28 Murdoch Terrace in 1966 and I was told he caught the train up from Stirling where they were staying in Linden Avenue. The house cost £3300 and I was number four wean, born in November 1967.

The Skinny Woods

I’m walking down a cobbled lane. I can hear the sea, smell it, taste it even but where is it…

Suddenly, a surge of saltwater across the cobbles in front of me, blocking the lane before slowly it recedes and my path is clear again. Wow that was unexpected I say to myself. I drop to the ground, just in time as a tram trundles harmlessly over my head. That too, I say, was unexpected. I get to my feet and walk on. Two women are mending the nets on fishing creels on the pier.

I wake up. That was one weird dream, I think to myself. Shitzu must sense that I’m awake and starts licking my arm. You can let me out now, shes saying. This is an improvement on, say, two years ago when she would have relayed this message by climbing on my head and licking my face at 6am.

But that dream wtf !! I sample it like I’m at a whisky tasting. Mmm, hints of Harris there, yes and maybe Crail and a longing to be by the sea. Fixing the nets for the spring that lies ahead. That tram tho….

Ten minutes later we’re out on the road, literally. The pavements are sheer ice still, despite it being mild for the first time in a week. The road is the safest option. At the bottom of Braemar Avenue, we go left then turn on Wallace Road. I dont know where I’m heading but suddenly I remember the field behind Anchorscross, no’ been there in ages.

But theres a problem. We have a problem. Shitzu is in someones garden running about frantically in circles. Aw naw, shes gonnae do a jobby on someones lawn, shes gonnae do a jobby…and I can see them looking out the window. Shitzu, I hiss, Shitzu !! Shes shoots across the grass/snow only to stop in the next garden. Too late now, she crouches down.

At least theres nobody awake in this house I think to myself, getting a poop scoop out my pocket. Someones walking past tho and I make a show of preparing to scoop up Shitzus jobby, smiling apologetically. Shitzu, yer a wee dick, I hiss at her. Shitzu cares not a jot, and runs off and along the pavement, skidding occasionally.

In the field there is strange raised ribbon of ice stretching into the distance. This is ‘the path’. We walk parallel to ‘the path’, crunching thru the snow and ice to the soft tussocks of grass beneath. This is safer although it does increase your chances of standing on a jobby.

We reach and enter the skinny woods and immediately the ground is nice and springy, grassy with pine needles under my boots. We wander down through the trees, past the BMX bike track the kids have made for themselves. Its impressive, some crazy jumps they’ve created, good on them.

At the bottom, the pond is frozen solid. This confuses the Shitzu. A sad looking heron stands on the far side, looking forlornly at the ice. This is unexpected, it seems to be saying. Its like some kind of weird dream.

We head back across the field. I check my phone. I must have done a million steps surely. My phone says Ive done 664 steps. I stop, stand and stare. Wtf! Fekkin technology, useless app. Noo am ragin’. Noo I’ll need to go out in the ice later to achieve my target of 12000 steps.

Shitzu looks up at me, laughing. Shut it Shitzu, I shout, and stop crapping in folks gardens.

Stirling City Walk

“Here, take that son” said an auld dear, as she handed me a card on Christmas Eve. I’m not meant to accept gifts but if someone hands you a Christmas card you cannae exactly say no. Kinda defeats the purpose ae Christmas.

When I got home I opened the card and there was a fiver inside and a wee note saying Merry Christmas. I put the money in a wee box on the shelf, alongside the other notes. A decision would be required soon.

Christmas came and went in a blur of presents and turkey and cold walks and chocolate. I went back to work for two days, glad to have a purpose and wee bit chat wi some auld yins. Then it was Hogmanay, a surreal experience where we went out on the street and shouted happy new year to our neighbours.

There were several different bagpipers playing and I could see the fireworks from the huge display at the Wallace Monument. I didn’t venture any further, I didn’t trust people fu’ of the keg not to hug me or worse so I went back in. I even left my Irn Bru on the wee garden wall and only discovered it two days later, frozen solid.

On Sunday 3 January I dropped our Amy off at her work as a carer and headed to Upper Craigs, Stirling. I’d decided to give the money to Stirling Community Food. There was a queue outside, folk standing in freezing temperatures, needing a bit help. That done, I was driving along Dumbarton Road when I saw the Albert Halls looking braw in the morning sun.

Five minutes later, me and the Shitzu are striding up the back walk in the sunshine, looking down on the Albert Halls and across to the Kings Park. Its baltic but clear as a bell. I’ll say one thing for the pandemic, its cleared up our air and the sunsets have been incredible.

I cut through the courtyard at Stirling Highland Hotel. We used to go the gym there when we lived in Cowane Street in the 90s. Elaines graduation ball was there in the summer of 1991. Today its deid. I step carefully across the frozen car park and head up Spittal Street (as in hospital, which is where I’ll be if I don’t watch my footing).

I head up past the Youth Hostel, Old Town Jail, the Tolbooth, Stirling Boys Club, the gothic Holy Rude Church (built in the 1400s) and Mars Wark(1572). Some history here: its ancient no wonder the Americans and Chinese come here in their thousands. Well, they used to come here in their thousands. Today, its deid. A woman walks past me, face covering on. Silence.

Looking across Broad Street, theres Hermanns restaurant (very poash) and then up past the Portcullis. I’m sure we had a big family meal there years ago. I picture faces that are no longer with us: Faither saying no, we’re paying for this!… whilst Uncle Ian tries to get the bill.

Onwards… up the steps and onto the completely deserted esplanade, the Castle ahead. On the right, the visitors centre where Elaine worked for two summers in the 90s. We watched Runrig here, a filmed gig on the esplanade in 1997, pints in a packed Settle Inn beforehand ( 3 years earlier we had watched the Runrig gig from the graveyard wi a cairry oot before the polis chased us- I preferred that gig).

There were many concerts on the castle esplanade in the 90s (a strange mix: Chris de Burgh, Ocean Colour Scene, Wet Wet Wet, Dylan and REM) and we could hear them all from our tenement flat. Living in Cowane Street, we also got free entry to the castle and when Sean was born in 1997 we would visit the Queen Anne gardens alot.

After looking across to the Wallace Monument, we dropped back down to the Back Walk and past the graveyard (lots of celtic crosses) where they used to do the Ghost Walk. It was excellent, spooky as, especially on a misty night.

And so carefully we walked downhill to the Corn Exchange and back to the car at the Albert Halls. Its a nice wee walk especially wi no tourists and I heartily commend it when youse are allowed back oot to play.

PS In writing this, I had a weird flashback of walking hungover into Stirling Tesco one Sunday morning. The newspapers were all “Princess Di is Deid” or similar headlines. No social media back then. Sure enough, I checked it and Runrig played Stirling Castle on Saturday 30th August 1997 and just hours after they left the stage, Princess Di was killed in a car crash in Paris. Weird eh.

Dunblane: Big Freeze 2010

Woke up this morning and its dark. Looking out I can see the streetlights across the glen: Holmehill Court stands out, the Hydro above that and further up the lights at Dykedale Farm. Twenty minutes later I’m up the park with the Shitzu. Theres a hint of dawn over Dumyat, a faint glow (tho thats maybe flaring at Ineos).

The sun will eventually rise around 9am through the smoke over Grangemouth , climb pathetically in the sky for a while then sink behind the Campsies less than seven hours later. Seven hours! But today is a dreich drab day in Dunblane and its dark by 3pm.

I remember my dad talking of the long summer nights we have in Scotland. My uncle, who had travelled far and wide, agreed but added that everywhere in the world has the same hours of daylight each year. Very profound that. If you lived on the equator in say Colombia or Kenya, then you have daylight 7am til 7pm every day of the year. However in Dunblane, we have long summer nights but the winters days are very short. Very short.

So now, in mid December the sun barely reaches our street. In cold spells, cars in Braemar Avenue can sit frozen for days or even weeks. In fact, in December 2010, my car sat for 2 weeks under a foot of snow. An igloo. The snowplough came along but this just created snowbanks next to my car. Our neighbours tenaciously dug out their cars whilst I sat looking oot the windae, drinking hot chocolate/McEwans Export. As a result my car got hemmed in by piles of snow. It was great.

Ah the winter of 2010, the Big Freeze ! We walked out to the island on the Lake that December. But what I mind most of that winter was the community spirit. We dug each others drives, we put grit and salt down, we got the messages for each other….we even helped a numpty in a BMW who got stuck in our street. The Old Doune Road was busy as folk wandered down to the shops, blethering to old friends they’d not spoke to in years. Bairns in sledges too, sledges which were then used to carry the shopping home wi a greetin faced wean in tow.

“Haw Maw, why kin ah no’ go in the sledge?”

“Coz theres 24 cans Export an’ 4 bottles ae wine in there. Now keep walking.”

The schools closed for 2 weeks I think. In fact, Scotland closed doon. Frozen tracks, fallen trees, snowbound runways, frozen pitches, fallen lines , snowbound vehicles etc etc. We tend to laugh at London when they freak out at two inches of snow but we’re really no much better.

This winter has given us a bigger problem. Our present situation with COVID-19 is similar in a strange kind of way. Many folks are stuck at home and we really need to look out for the old and vulnerable. Its what defines us as a society. As in 2010, the community spirit is there : folks are helping each other, getting their messages, delivering soup and cakes to auld yins.

Is there a moral to this nonsensical rambling story I hear you ask ? Look after the auld yins or we lose our self respect. We need to live with ourselves after this is all over.

And don’t eat yellow snow.

PS There was panic buying in 2010 too, just not bogroll, more like Export and wine as anecdotal evidence would suggest (gin not being a thing in 2010).

Cheap Day Return tae Queen Street

Normally we head into Glasgow at this time of year : a Christmas tradition to get the train through from Dunblane to Queen Street then wander round George Square, drinking mulled wine, laughing at folk ice skating. Counting House for one then walk down busy Buchanan Street under a canopy of Christmas lights to the Christmas market at St Enochs before onto La Laterna on Hope Street for a perfect Italian meal.

Lots of folk in Dunblane are originally Glasgow, I reckon. My folks were both from Glasgow anyway. Go to the Tappit on matchday and you’ll find a Rangers end and a Celtic end, all good banter. So it makes sense for Glasgow to be the place for a day out. In the late 1970s, Dunblane BBs took us each year to the Irn Bru Carnival (in the Kelvin Hall) and I remember another time we got a tour of Ibrox. My folks always took us to Glasgow for the panto : Francie n Josie at Kings Theatre obviously! (and maybe Citizens too?)

The Ibrox trip was funny as I mind the wee guy letting us run down the tunnel ‘but dinnae go on the pitch’. Of course you couldnae stop us and we spilled onto the pitch like a burst bag of maltesers wi the wee guy shouting ‘stoap…stoap!’

Glasgow was the place for gigs for me. Status Quo at the Apollo ’84: I was front row of the top balcony for Quo it was literally bouncing. Toy Dolls in The Garage was a bit mental too on a smaller scale but Barrowlands is the best. We saw Del Amitri there one Christmas Eve, Paul Weller and The View in that delightfully dilapidated venue (and talking of character, GFT was an amazing wee cinema… but I digress). And AC/DC at Hampden, Runrig at Royal Concert Hall etc etc.

When the tots were wee, we took them to Kelvingrove Museum to see the dinosaurs, then across the road to the Transport Museum. I think they preferred when we went to Tam Shepherds joke shop in town tho and of course their Auntie DiDi always took them to Waterstones before Christmas to pick a book.

Other day trips involved the Food Festival at the SECC, pub crawls at Ashton Lane and Oran Mor for A Play, Pie and A Pint. On a healthier note, Elaine once did the Race for Life at Bellahouston Park and this year Dunblane SC Ams travelled to Glasgow Green where we lost 5-0 to Finnart in a blizzard.

Glasgow was also host to my late introduction to political marches with the Stop The War march in 2003 and later the huge Independence marches to Glasgow Green. The Independence marches showed the diversity of Scottish culture and were always a carnival atmosphere.

When Sean turned 18, I took him to The Horseshoe Bar, a classic pub where all men are equal, whether they’re wearing a business suit …or a boilersuit. Talking of which, Slaters was the place to get a new suit and some good craic. We also got Sean the full kilt outfit on his 21st from Slanj Kilts in Bath Street.

Earlier this year (2020), I took Amy to a recording studio at Hidden Lane. I’d never even heard of it before and its a wee gem of a place off Argyll Street. Who knew? We also went to Amys first gig with Constant Follower in the Tron Theatre, less than a mile from where my dad was brought up.

Finally, I can’t leave Glasgow without mentioning Central Station its an amazing place. Just go there and peoplewatch. We met Sean off the London train this year, under the clock as is traditional. Further back, when my mum was evacuated in 1939, she left from Central Station along with thousands of other children. My folks got married in Central Hotel too in 1960 so its a special place for me. Plus you get the train to Hampden from there!

So, thats Glasgow, my Glasgow*.

*other Glasgows are available depending on your upbringing.

How the East was Won

In 2006, I became manager of Doune Castle Ams. The previous manager had won almost everything and taken the club into the Caledonian League so it was a bit daunting. Doune however, had never won a national trophy, having lost the Scottish Amateur Cup Final in 1970 in extra time (a sore one as Doune had led 1-0 at Hampden with a minute to go).

The main aim was to perform well in the Caley Premier League (we finished 5th) but it was the East of Scotland Cup run that took the biscuit. The early rounds were all won easily and the quarter final was a home tie against Blackridge Ams.

On a dreich Saturday in March 2007, with the score 1-1, Blackridge took the lead late on. The ref however disallowed it for some unknown reason. Doune have always prided themselves on fitness (ever since that Hampden defeat in extra time) and we won 4-1 in extra time. I have to admit that I can’t even remember who scored that day at Moray Park.

The semi final was at Saughton Sports Complex on a midweek night against a physical Edinburgh side (cannae remember their name). We had been warned about them and it came to a head in the last minute. It was 1-1 when our Richie received a throw in and was assaulted from behind. The guy got a straight red and Richie, we discovered later, got a broken arm!

So I’m thinking rationally – ‘we’ve got an extra man here, we’re heading into extra time lets stay calm’. Big Stevie our sub had other ideas. Richies still lying on the ground and Stevies in my face “are you putting me on?” Actually I dont think he was asking.

So big Stevie went on and we put the free kick into the box. The ball wasn’t cleared and next thing its smashed into the roof of the net and heres big Stevie running towards us in celebration. His one and only touch of the match it was incredible!

We ended up in the wee nightclub behind the Meadowpark Hotel that night… the lads were buzzing.

The final was on 26 April 2007 at Almondvale Stadium in Livingston against a very good young side called Redhall Star. We had a team bus but it got stuck in rush hour traffic at Newbridge so we ended up arriving just 40 minutes before kick off. Redhall Star were already on the pitch warming up.

With a crowd of maybe 400 watching, we were lucky to go in level at half time and had our keeper to thank. Big McGirr still reminds people to this day. I simply told the lads to stay calm and stick at it. Sure enough a mistake let Hammy in to give us the lead after an hour and it was backs to the wall after that. We soaked up the pressure and, with two minutes left, hit them on the counter but struck the underside of the bar and it was cleared.

Redhall went straight up the park and created a great chance. I remember an auld boy behind me saying “aw naw, not again!”. Well big McGirr saved the day, launched the ball down the park and who else but big Stevie made it 2-0. Big celebrations followed and it was great getting my Sean on the pitch for the team photos. We ended up back in the Highland til yon time (and on a school night tae).

I always remember in the pub big Davie Eccles came over to me. “Well done, Tabs” he said in that deep voice of his “but you’re gonnae have to sort that midfield out”.

The following Saturday we hosted Drumchapel Ams in the league. They applauded us onto the pitch before we beat them 5-2. They were good times.

A final note : I never did find out who said “aw naw , not again” but I reckon it was an auld boy remembering how Doune had conceded a last minute equaliser at Hampden 37 years before. And thats football for you!

RIP Davie Eccles