Finally, after much going backwards and forwards through history,we come to the analyses of what gave rise to the Sectarianism of Scottish Old Firm matches, and why it is still a toxic issue which has to be dealt with in the West of Scotland.
On one hand we have Rangers supporters singing their orange protestant anthems with their accompanying bile against anything Catholic. Nearly all originating in the 1600’s and battles Royal.
On the other we have Celtic supporters singing their Republican anthems belonging to the Irish struggle for Independence from the British State, and of the desire for a Unified Ireland from the early parts of the 2oth Century.
The only things that connect either party to Scotland, are the Scots protestant planters in the time of King JamesI and VI of Scotland, and the influx of Irish Catholics and Ulster Protestants in the late 1800’s following the Irish Great Famine.
It is an Issue which has never belonged in Scotland, but was rather imported back. Yet still somehow like a recurring plague, it still exists in pockets today.
This plague is not only because of lack of education about the History surrounding the issues involved, but also because of deliberate manipulation by some parties to keep this pox alive!
If it were simply a case of educating the uneducated, I am sure this problem would have become almost extinct by now. Unfortunately we hear of seemingly well educated people spouting the same poisonous views and singing the same sad old songs in celebration even now.
A well known example of this was Donald Findlay QC when a Director of Rangers singing this Sectarian Pish, and his class have been known to be guilty of this offensive bile on both sides of the divide.
Let me take a break for one moment and tell you a personal story.
A number of years ago when I was still a serving church minister In Ayrshire. The Local Community Youth Club decided to set up a venture to encourage the youth to take part and participate in a Seven a Side Indoor football league. The idea was to encourage fitness, team work,and promote health to the kids. Any child, irrespective of skill or ability were encouraged to take part just for the pure joy and fun of it. Every child was to be included, none left out because of competitive reasons. Each team had to be managed and looked after by an adult.
My youngest son was asked by his pals next door to be part of their team,which was being managed by the local Chartered Accountant.
Another lad asked me If I would register and manage their team, which I willingly agreed to.
It turned out that I had a mixed bag of abilities in my squad of 10,but I was determined that they should all get equality of playing time, irrespective of how good or bad they were.
Once I figured out what their strengths or weaknesses were, they turned out to be a pretty decent team.
Meanwhile I also kept a close watch on my sons team, and how they were doing. Naturally I was also assessing how well my own son played. It turned out that he was one of their better players and an excellent attacking full back.
All went well initially,but after a few weeks I noticed that he was dropped. He would turn up and not get a game. This left me somewhat perplexed. I couldn’t understand why he was not playing, so I asked him why not? He told me that he simply wasn’t being picked because their manager said that he wasn’t good enough.
I was somewhat unhappy about hearing this news, because it was going against the whole ethos of the exercise, but I did note that this other man was taking things a lot more seriously with regards to the competitive side of things, and thought little more about it than that.I didn’t agree with his assessment of my sons abilities,but it was not for me to say who he should or should not pick. Yet when he did eventually allow my son a brief time on the pitch, he improved the side.
Each team chose their own names, and I cannot for the life of me remember what my lot were called,but I can remember the name given to the side my son played in. The teams name was Abgers. The reason for the name was my sons pals next door were Aberdeen supporters, and their pal who was this mans son was a Rangers supporter.
No cause for alarm there I would have thought. There were many Rangers fans in the area, so naturally this little league team had the name it had.
Often my youngest son would go with next doors kids to play and stay over at their pals house at the other end of town. Sometimes I would help out by doing my share of collecting and dropping off. Sometimes it was my next door neighbour, and sometimes this boys dad. It was all very fair and companionable,and the parents were all very polite to each other and would pass the time of day at these times.
Meanwhile the local Club organised a Knock out Cup Competition for the kids at the local Centre, and both my team and my sons team did very well indeed under differing managerial styles. My lot had gained a new player, and he was really excellent! He was banging in the goals left right and centre! Strangely enough I had gained him because he was truly fed up of not getting games for Abgers. He had got even less game time than my son had, and that is saying something! I was delighted to have him in my side.
Abgers meanwhile were playing and winning very well, but they were being coached much more seriously and intensely than my lot. Winning was a real big deal with how they were being managed, and this rubbed off on the kids attitudes too. I had noticed in some of the league games they had lost, their manager really tearing a strip off them, and castigating them for any perceived mistakes. The kids themselves collectively would go in a sulk. My son took it all in his stride, half the time he wasn’t playing so it didn’t really matter to him.
As the Cup competition progressed, both Abgers and my team progressed to the semi finals, and there they were drawn to meet each other.
At the end of the first half it was all square at 1-1, with all to play for. Early in the second half, my gem of a reject striker from Abgers scored three times in quick succession. We were then 4-1 up. But Abgers came back and scored one in reply,so 4-2. With time running down, their manager deigned to put my son on the pitch, and the little sod immediately went and scored! 4-3. Finally with just about the last kick of the ball, they were straight through on my goalie.
Now my goalie was a big lump of lard, and when he had played earlier in games he had insisted on playing up front,when he could hardly kick a ball straight. I had figured he was a liability there, but he could catch a ball as he was really much more interested in Rugby rather than football.
Down they bore on him, with a goal sure to take us to penalty kicks. What happened next was a thing of beauty. The striker shot, it was heading straight for the corner of the net! My goalie took off like a Whale out of water,and with a collision with the ground on landing,he almost set off a mini earthquake.But as he got up and the referee blew for full time, there he stood with the widest grin in all the world with the ball safely in his big mitts.
My team lost the final, but somehow it didn’t really matter because of that one moment alone.
Mini League over, the kids were still having sleep overs in each others houses at the weekends. But suddenly my son started coming out with strange questions to me. Questions like, ‘Are Catholics bad people, dad?’ ‘No, of course not son, they are people just the same as you and I’ Where on earth was this coming from? I had to know the source of such a line of questioning.
‘My friend XXXX says that they are!’ I entirely disavowed him of that idea, but started asking questions of my own, like what do you do when you are staying at XXXX’s house? The answer came back, playing computer games, watching Rangers videos, and listening to Rangers Records. I was not amused, and proceeded to enlighten him about bigotry.
My family come from an Island In the Western Isles, which is half Catholic, and half Protestant, with each living next door to each other. The Community worked and played together, they helped each other. I had been known to attend Chapel for a Catholic wedding or funeral, and the same applied for my neighbours attending church.
Such Bigotry was a total anathema to me. I taught both my children to respect their fellow human beings irrespective of difference in creed, colour, sex or religion. This contamination just would not do!
From that day on, he was banned from staying over. After his last sleep over when XXXX’s dad brought him back,my son had told me that XXXX’s dad had asked him if his father was a Father? He had replied of course my father is a father. No, his pals dad said, ‘Is your father a priest?’ ‘NO, he is a minister’ said my son. ‘Oh, ok, that’s all right then’, came the response.
I may have found that question amusing at the time, but I sure as hell did not, after my sons new revelations!
The penny dropped, all the cogs started falling into place, and I was not happy.
The reason my son had been treated as he had,not getting the game time he should, was because this oaf was a Sectarian Bigot who thought my son was a Catholic. It also turned out that my ace striker who had been dumped from his team,was a Catholic! It was somewhat divine justice that this player should have been responsible for knocking his team out in the semi final.
This man, this seemingly well educated chartered accountant with his own business was a bigoted oaf. Much more worryingly was the fact that he was spreading his bigotry to his children, and infecting others children with his narrow poisonous views. He was also discriminating against children on the mere suspicion that they may be Catholic. But if he knew anything at all about religion, he should have known full well that It was impossible that I a minister could be a Catholic priest. Fathers are not allowed to be Fathers the way I am a Father. Certainly not with the agreement and blessing of their church for sure!
Such is the way Sectarianism or any other bigotry is passed on from generation to generation. It is the segregation of communities, it is the emphasis on supposed division or differences, which are to blame for the mistrust, and the fear of others. When people work, interact, marry and live and die together, side by side, such fear or hatred dies, through understanding and sharing and empathy.
Division is the enemy, and for some, Division is a necessity to power their greed,status and control.The avarice of corrupt desire,fuelled by unwarranted privilege and their societal immorality.
My final article will examine where this division is sown, by whom and for what reason?