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Flower of Scotland

From: Noel Algar
Category: Story
Date: 23 Dec 2005
Time: 11:42:28 -0000
Remote Name:


Flower of Scotland

This really is my last tale of the many social occasions I enjoyed with Ian during the Reseller days and I promised Sharon some time ago that I would put pen to paper on this one!

The occasion was Scotland v England (when it was still 5 Nations Rugby) and I think it was around about March 1996 at Murrayfield.  We had been invited up for the game by Keith Inch from our Scottish Reseller, Scotia Telecom.  Unbelievable as it might seem now Scotland had a decent side at the time and were odds on to achieve the Grand Slam, with only England standing in their way.

Ian had spotted a golfing opportunity on the Friday before the game so we flew in to Edinburgh and enjoyed a round at a beautiful country club – I was the only non golfer so ended up as caddy!!  At the end of the game, we duly headed for the 19th where we were surprised to be surrounded by TV cameras and the Scottish side being interviewed as part of the pre match build up.  The players were enormous and dwarfed our group that included myself, Ian, Mick Morgan and Keith Inch.  The bar felt surreal with the TV lights, and after a few beers it felt as if we were extras in the Braveheart movie, because the clubhouse was full of Scots in full regalia (kilts et al), most of whom were also sporting red hair and beards with tartan tam-o-shanters.  Having initially thought there was some in breeding going on we realised they were wearing the all in one wig and tam-o-shanter that had just become in vogue at Scottish sporting occasions at the time  (Ian bought one for the kids!?).

The following day we met early at a local hostelry, which was empty when we went in and we occupied the only long table close to the bar.  Thinking we were going to have a quiet pre match drink/snack we then saw the bar fill up to standing room only proportions, where it became virtually impossible to leave our table.  The TV was tuned to BBC who then proceeded to show great sporting clashes between England and Scotland over the years – strangely this was almost all football clips and ended up with our table extravagantly celebrating each England goal in the days of the dodgy Scottish keepers and a “friendly” rivalry was immediately established.  Mick Morgan helped our cause and ensured we got out in one piece by generously offering his plate of chips to the starving masses surrounding us who then reciprocated by giving the “wee man” several drams from a hip flask that had started doing the rounds amongst them (this was to have a fairly profound impact on Mick as the day wore on).

Ian had expressed a keen interest in learning the words to “Flower of Scotland” and was determined to be word perfect for the pre-match anthems.  We disowned him but Keith took great delight in recruiting him to the Scottish throng and the programme had the words in so we all got roped in to what is an awesome anthem when heard/sung live - even by the English and is never to be forgotten!

The game itself was instantly forgettable in terms of the rugby, where England played a very drab kicking game that completely spiked the guns of the Scotland side – who previously in the tournament to date had been playing an expansive running/passing game inspired by Gregor Townsend.  For England Dean Richards was everywhere on the pitch and the ball was going to him with an alarming frequency as if drawn by a magnet.  A combination of the pre match hype, the power of the England pack / Dean Richards and the boot of Rob Andrew ground the Scottish team down and England eventually won a low scoring game to deny Scotland the Grand Slam (they still won the 5 Nations).

We then returned to the Edinburgh bars and expected the post match “celebration” to be muted.  Far from it!  I can only imagine what the party would have been like if the Scots had one that day, because we had to queue to get into the bars and the bagpipes were at full throttle wherever we went.  It was almost impossible to stick together to hold any kind of conversation, but one lasting memory mid evening was a huge comatose Scot rising from the dead (flat out on a bench seat) when he overheard one of our group complaining too loudly (in a very obvious English accent) about the “dreadful racket” from the bagpipes.  “Are ye talking aboot the pipes” – scary moment, but we managed to defuse the potential for conflict.  Keith had given us a codeword in times of local difficulty to prove Scottish ancestry. “Look in their eyes and growl Fittheferkyerface” if anyone questions where you’re from.   We never asked him what it meant and fortunately never tested in anger because the mood was unbelievably friendly and the singing truly amazing.  The rallying call of the English all night was a resounding “Deano, Deano” in response to multiple layered choruses and folksongs from the locals (amusing for us and easy enough to remember).

We rounded a great night off in a dubious curry house where we again had to queue and there appeared to be a bit of a drama going on as we were ushered to a table. Two smartly dressed and well to do Englishmen were frogmarched past us by the local constabulary and realising we were English advised us “The food was dreadful dear boys so we refused to pay!” and off they went – they weren’t wrong about the food though!

It was another memorable couple of days in great company and one that I will never forget.   Keith Inch was a fantastic host, Ian was in sparkling form despite his singing and Mick was hilarious. “O flower of Scotland, when will we see your like again”.


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