Celtic Minded 2

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Celtic Minded 2

Post by Scottish » Sun Aug 06, 2006 9:33 pm

There is an extract from this book, written by James McMillan, in the current edition of the Scottish Review of Books.

McMillan, of course, is well-known, not just as a composer but also for his trenchant views on sectarianism and Irish identity in Scotland. Sadly, in this extract he exposes himself as just another bigot, albeit one who tends to use more syllables in his language than most of that ilk.

McMillan writes about being invited to perform at a benefit night for miners in Ayrshire during the strike in the 1980s. He says the act before him and his friends was "a bizarre banshee of a crone, crooning and whooping through a maudlin, drunken lament."

Quite what that says about his attitude to older women I won't speculate on. What transpired next tells us much about McMillan. He and his colleagues were under the impression that this was some satirical turn. He and his friends were "doubled up under the table in appreciative hysterics. We were then informed, icily, that the song was about the Ibrox Disaster and deadly serious."

He says his group tried to make amends. In an attempt to rescue the situation they "launched into Bandiera Rossa - an even bigger mistake. Half the audience thought it was an Irish Republican anthem, the other half thought we were singing in Latin, neither a good idea down in Ayrshire. The PA plug was ripped from the wall, and like a pack of hounds they chased us out."

McMillan goes on to say how "astonished" they were by this, " as if the sound of the music itself had provoked an instinctive fury."

All of which is merely the lead-up to his next sentence. " I have seen something of this rage in recent years in relation to Celtic."

I have no wish to get involved in the 'Celtic paranoia' debate. Especially as any assertion that there IS an element of paranoia involved with the club merely serves to convince their supporters that everyone is out to get them after all.

But I do want to take issue with McMillan and his not-so-subtle implication that the Ayrshire miners were a mob of rabid bigots.

Firstly, there is no acknowledgment that he and his friends were at fault in the incident in question. Merely that there had been a "misinterpretation." The whole thing was so rib-ticklingly funny that they didn't bother to notice if anyone else in the company shared their merriment.

Then there's the song. I may be mistaken and there may be others but I know of only one song about the tragedy at Ibrox likely to have been sung at the time and that's The Ibrox Disaster, written by the late, great Matt McGinn (a Celtic supporter all his days and the writer/singer of classics like The Effan Bee and The Ballad of John McLean and songs McMillan might even approve of, such as The Boys From Lisbon)

So, McMillan was unaware of the subject matter of the song. Perhaps he didn't hear the words properly?
" As the news of disaster
From Ibrox came spreading,
The news that would cause
A whole nation to mourn"

Maybe that wasn't clear enough? Or perhaps McMillan and his merry band found something hilarious in the lyrics which provoked such hoots of laughter?

" 66 people died
Some in flower of their manhood,
When the fences gave way
And the barriers bent"

Never fails to raise a laugh, eh?

Then again there may have been some bitter sectarian bile which prompted this occasion to rise to the forefront of McMillan's mind when thinking of the dreadful discrimination he thinks his fellow supporters still face today?

' All of Glasgow enjoined,
For the first time in history.
In the Glasgow cathedral no Billy’s, no Dan’s
But the Old Firm united to pray for their victims,
Of a tragedy set in the memory of man."

It strikes me that the audience (members of which may have lost relatives at Ibrox) showed remarkable forebearance in letting McMillan actually take the stage

And his audience's failure to recognise a revolutionary song, traditionally sung in Italian, is hardly an indication of ignorance. Bandiera Rossa was a popular song among left-wing students from the 1960s onwards. But there weren't too many Ayrshire miners at university in those days.

Had McMillan attempted the same song at a Celtic supporters club his audience there would have been equally unaware of it.

But what really sticks in the craw is McMillan's sly assumption that Ayrshire is a county full of unthinking, ignorant bigots. It is a theme which has found increasing currency among Celtic supporters in recent years (a 'Celtic-minded' journalist, unaware of my background, once tried to "inform" me about the this, somewhat amusingly, a few years ago).

McMillan is, of course, perfectly entitled to celebrate his distant Irish roots. It is sad that he chooses to trash so comprehensively his immediate Ayrshire past by illustrating one incident in which he himself was the one at fault in not showing due respect to his hosts.

Finally (and this shouldn't really have to be said but just in case any Celtic fans reading this are under any misapprehension) these words are written by one whose family were Ayrshire miners for over 150 years and who came from both sides of this ridiculous religious divide which people like McMillan seek to perpetuate.

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Post by lbb » Wed Aug 09, 2006 8:58 am

An interesting post. For Kilmarnock read Kilmasonic as I've seen on some forums.

There is an unhealthy culture among some Celtic fans and I'm not sure their club does enough to discourage it and, indeed, through endorsed literature and the like it almost seems to be fanning the flames at times.

I recall catching the tail-end of a small 5 minute 'factual' film called 'Jim Craig's Corner' or something on Celtic TV, for example. I just heard the words 'and the SFA punished Celtic even though it wasn't our fault' (I think it was related to Celtic Park being shut down for a game or two in the 1940's due to crowd trouble).

It hasn't harmed them on the field but regarding everyone outside Kerrydale Street as either Rangers fans or crypto- Rangers fans will soon get on everyone's nerves.

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Post by fatbhoy » Tue Aug 21, 2007 8:29 pm

Scottish - its best you avoid what he wrote about Ayrshire (and especially his home town) in the first edition of CelticMinded! It was even worse than that!!

Agree with the sentiments above. The antipathy among some Celtic fans to other teams has deteriorated into some clubs being labelled 'Hundee' and 'Hunfermline' - absolute nonsense, and in no way a reflection of the good relationship that Celtic and its fans have had with some teams down the years.

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