• SibLINGSHOT

a brief word on religion


RT 015: photograph by janette beckman; rigid digits music 1979.

The Catholic Church has a saying:

\”Give me a boy until the age of seven, and I will give you the man.\”

Well. My grandfather was taught by Jesuits, and renounced religion in order to marry my grandmother. His priest was livid.

I grew up in a family of devout agnostics – atheists even – a token Presbyterian enclave, and like my father before me I supported Celtic. Ordinarily, protestants on the west coast of Scotland support Rangers FC. Every New Years\’ Day there is an old firm derby to further cement the mutual contempt.

One thing. When I was a child of eight or nine, I remember being taken into town to purchase a new school bag. The vogue was for nylon in football colours. Primarily, blue or green. I remember asking for a Rangers grip – just to fit in with my schoolmates, although my school was ostensibly \’mixed\’ – and I\’ll never forget the withering look my dad gave me.

Back in those days, Rangers were famous for refusing to field a Catholic. Celtic\’s most famous manager, by contrast – Jock Stein – was staunchly Presbyterian by upbringing, as was their most celebrated player on the park, Kenny Dalglish. Rumour even had it that Stein had a tattoo of King Billy (of Orange) on his forearm. He went far, although he was never made a fully fledged member of the board; on account of his not being Roman Catholic, of course.

After some prompting, I finally settled on a Scotland International bag. This was a source of some minor embarrassment. Both Rangers and Celtic were respected the world over as league champions. Scotland, on the other hand, were crap.

The only person who objected was my grandfather. A notoriously lapsed Catholic, he detested Celtic with an uncomely vengeance which bordered on the ridiculous.

Things have changed a modicum on the sectarian footballing front. Rangers now routinely field Catholics, as anybody familiar with the politics of the game will surely attest. On the terraces – or stands, rather – the old discriminations continue to fester.

It\’s still a bag of shite, and I live right in the cancerous heart of it.

I\’m thinking of this as I look at newsreel footage from Gaza. Try to remember should you feel your sympathies tilt one way or the other that there are no heroes in white hats in the midst of this bloodshed; neither side offered a referendum, and rest assured that today\’s orphans have already received an AK-47 as their \’Christmas\’ gift. Oiled, loaded and ready to spit.

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS: BREAKOUT from \”Inflammable Material\” LP (Rough Trade) 1979 (UK) STIFF LITTLE FINGERS: GOTTA GETAWAY from \”Nobody\’s Heroes\” LP (Chrysalis) 1980 (UK) PURCHASE INFLAMMABLE MATERIAL PURCHASE NOBODY\’S HEROES

#1979

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