Of Football & Dominoes
When I first came to Scotland to live with my father, a chef, I continued to support my home town club Burton Albion - known to us kids as ‘The Brewers’.
Later, as we moved around, I adopted a Later, as we moved around, I adopted a team ad hoc, which is to say: in the spur of the moment, until my dad was offered another post.
When he was at York Hill Hospital in Glasgow I dallied with Motherwell, purely because I liked their custard top with maroon diagonal line. The later was much in favour with army sides from behind the Iron Curtain at the time.
When we moved to the Catholic Boarding School in Fort Augustus followed by Glen Urquhart Lodge and a riverside hotel in Inverness. I embraced the Inverness team called Clachnacuddin. It was to prove serendipitous…
The tongue twisting second half of their name is conflated from the Gaelic, Clach na Cùdainn very loosely translating as: The Stone of the Tub. Which, at the time of their formation, was an important symbol for Invernessians.
The stone was said to be where women rested with their heavy baskets of clothes after washing them in the River Ness.
A story does the rounds of a ‘fine gentleman’ from India arriving in town and making a request to see the famous Clachnacuddin, only to be somewhat underwhelmed by the stone to which he had drunk so many toasts back in Shimla.
Times change, and despite the stone’s prime position by Inverness Town House today, Clach na Cùdainn lost significance among Invernessians.
Except in the Merkinch area, where they cherish the football team that kept the name alive. At its heart is Grant Street Park, the home of the ‘Clach’. Like all good football clubs they typify the community that surrounds them.
There are those who maintain Merkinch is a town within Inverness. As you cross the Black Bridge over the river Ness, it’s hard not to conclude that you’re entering a distinct community. (A bit like Leith perhaps.)
So it was Clach for me. You can have your Rovers, Citys and Uniteds, I’ll take the terrace chant, “The Stone of the Tub”, any day of the week!
Like I suppose these things should do, my last adoption of a football club started fairly innocently. I was sitting in the public bar (no longer there) of Scotland’s Hotel in Pitlochry. The kind of community howff that is now as rare as the sight of two bobbies on the beat.
The Guardian crossword had been dispatched and I was looking around for someone to bore when I saw the two fellows who had been clacking, shuffling, counting and playing a set of ivory ‘bones’ for a couple of hours, edging across the tartan carpet in my direction, eyeing me like circling sharks.
Both had mournful nicotine stained moustaches, and when they spoke – in unison - they sounded like undertakers who were suffering from acute depression and inflamed adenoids. “Would you like to join our domino team” they whimpered.
So I signed up to the turn of the century body snatchers domino team, for the princely sum of £1 a week, as an official member of Scotland Public Bars’ 4th tier side. And by doing so found the team I support to this very day.
My doubles partner in the North Perthshire Domino League went by the name of George and I was soon made aware of the fact, that rumours circulating regarding the lateness of trains to Inverness and Edinburgh every second Tuesday were not down to the wrong kind of snow on the line, but everything to do with George’s love of dominoes.
He was, after all, British Rail’s chief signal master at Pitlochry station. So if we were in the middle of a doubles game, that took precedent, after all the signal box was only round the corner: ”A few minutes won’t hurt.”
My final affiliation to a football team remains in place to this day… Dundee United.
After all, my domino partner George’s second name, was Sturrock. ■