Saturday, 22 March 2014

Stirling Castle

The interests of decency require Fantasy Bob to refrain from crawling over the entrails of Scotland's disappointments in the recently completed Six Nations Rugby tournament.  Sadly the high spots were few and far between.  One of them however sticks in FB's mind.  Having taken his seat at Murrayfield in anticipation of an heroic victory over France, FB's ears tuned into the efforts of the massed pipe bands.

Now, as FB's worldwide readership may recall from previous postings here, the bagpipe is far from FB's favourite musical instrument.  Indeed he finds the dentist's drill a more soothing sound.  But these bagpipes were far enough away from FB's perch in the stands to cause minimal offence.

Suddenly FB felt the warmth of recognition of a tune not recently heard as the band broke into Tunes of Glory - if FB has a favourite pipe tune this might be one of the few contenders, even though it is barely Scottish.  The stirring tune was written as the theme tune for the 1960 film Tunes of Glory by Malcolm Arnold.*  Arnold, who also composed the music for Bridge on the River Kwai, had not a drop of Scottish blood in him but Tunes of Glory is as Scottish as Scottish can be.  (The movie is worth watching for a great performance by Sir Alex Guinness.)

The film is set  in Stirling Castle.  Not a location of any importance to the cricketing cognoscenti, although there is a fine view of it in the distance from Stirling County CC's ground.  Stirling Castle may not be important in cricketing history but it was the site of many important events in Scotland's turbulent history.

One such event that has always stuck in FB's memory is the gruesome murder of William, 8th earl of Douglas by James II in 1452.  Having polished off a fine medieval dinner, the King then polished off Douglas.  He was stabbed 26 times, and his corpse was thrown from a window onto the land behind the King's House.

But there was a more recent, and possible more momentous, historic event within the portals of Stirling Castle.  It is the site of the only known meeting between Fantasy Bob and Sir Alex Ferguson.

This took place at an event organised to press Scotland's claims to hold the Ryder Cup in the home of golf.

In order to woo the Ryder Cup committee in whose hand the decision lay, a gala dinner prepared by Nick Nairn was organised in Stirling Castle at which the best of Scotland would be displayed.  FB attended not, as his readers might imagine, in his capacity as Scotland's greatest cricket blogger (a status he had not attained in those far off days - if indeed he has ever attained it) but as a key member of the team managing Scotland's bid.  (On the evening of the dinner he had the key role to ensure that no defenestrations of guests took place similar to the events of 1452). Fergie was one of the celebrity guests.  (Sean Connery attended by video.)

At an appropriate point in the evening FB introduced himself to Fergie as an Aberdonian with fond memories of the success he had brought to Aberdeen FC.  A meeting of minds clearly took place.  FB avoided the hairdryer treatment as Fergie duly signed FB's menu and the event took its place in the annals of this historic site.

FB recently perused his copy of Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography confident that he would find record of Fergie's fond memory of the night he met FB.  His disappointment was excruciating.  Nada; Nothing; Zilch. FB has been airbrushed out of history in favour of repeated references to some guy called Beckham - who wasn't even at the dinner. FB might as well have been thrown out of the window after all.

FB is therefore considering very carefully how he will deal with this event in his own memoirs.  Fergie can expect no special treatment.

* FB has subsequently been informed to his shame that the main tune is in fact The Black Bear and not the creation of Malcolm Arnold.  The Black Bear is a traditional pipe tune - traditionally the back to barracks tune of a number of the former Scottish regiments.  It is also played as the pipe bands march off at the conclusion of the Edinburgh Tattoo.  But then if FB had known this, as he should, he would not have been able to make the connection to Stirling Castle and the historic encounter reported here.


  1. Amusing to see that Sean Connery attended this illustrious gathering by video - entirely in keeping with his expatriate nationalist inclinations - and William Douglas would presumably have preferred a similar route, given the unfortunate outcome of his visit. As for Fergie, it is hard to imagine anyone getting the better of him, let alone attempting defenestration. A well-aimed boot across the dining-hall would undoubtedly have sufficed. FB does not mention if any referees were in attendance but presumably they steered well clear anyway. As for the omission of FB in the famous autobiography, he can be comforted in the knowledge that his inclusion in my own memoir, I Left My Bat In Khartoum, is assured.

    1. Excellent. This great work of literature and contribution to scholarship cannot be published soon enough.