Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Three Dundee FC directors resign, no Texan dollars but something to be proud of : DFC Supporters' Society, a group with integrity and courage.

Congratulations to Dundee FC Supporters' Society for standing up to the Texan investment group's attempt to bounce it into accepting its offer. Why is it that  people who claim they have the interests of an institution at heart when they are seeking to take it over so often tend to set unreasonable deadlines. Well, I could be wrong but I think this usually happens when someone is trying to buy something for a good deal less than it's worth. If this Texan group really did have the interests of  Dundee Football Club at heart why couldn't it wait for the due processes to take place ? After all who is the attempted takeover group's frontman John Nelms anyway ?  Why should the Dundee FC Supporters' Society jump to his bidding ?

I wonder too why the three directors of the board, Mr. Colvin, Mr. Martin and Mr Crichton, who have decided to resign over the Supporters' Society decision were unwilling to take more time to consider the takeover proposal more carefully. Don't they think it would be worth waiting to see if the Texan group really wanted to takeover the club rather than purchase it for a snip ?

By the way, I went to the Hibs match on May 18th at Easter Road where I thought the team were not as impressive as they had been in the scoreless draw on the last occasion in January when the sides met at Easter Road. On that occasion Dundee, adopting the positive tactics Barry Smith encouraged the team to play,  were unlucky not to win. It was at that game we could begin to see the potential of the approach the former manager had been working so hard to develop.

There was as usual great support from the Dundee fans in Edinburgh though unlike last time I was the only Dundee fan having a pint at the Artisan Bar after the match. Certainly there were no board members there this time. Perhaps the whiff of Texan dollars was drawing them elsewhere.

No DFC VIPs in the Artisan Bar this time around

Monday, 20 May 2013

A story of the Dux Medal, Liff Road School, Lochee, Dundee, 1957

Yes, I was a Dux medallist at Liff Road Primary School. My achievement may not have been as meritorious or as heroic as it sounds. I'll explain all about that a little later. It is true I had been a high flyer throughout my primary school years. In my last two years at Liff Road School my class was Primary 6a and finally Primary 7a. Our class teacher was Miss Cameron. I was good at mental arithmetic - always the first to put my hand up and click my fingers, stand up and edge down the aisle between the desks to draw Miss Cameron's attention to me  when she posed mental arithmetic problems for us. 

"What do 23 half crowns make in pounds, shillings and pence ?"

"Miss! Miss!  £2 - 17s - 6d ! Miss." 

 For anyone born after the decimalisation of our currency this was spoken as two pounds seventeen shillings and sixpence. I never found out why the symbol for a penny was "d",  but as you'll discover I was not at that time very good with codes or symbols.

"If  3 oranges cost one shilling and threepence how much would 7 oranges cost?" 

"Miss ! Miss me, Miss, me Miss ! two shillings and eleven pence, Miss."
 In numbers this was written as 2/11 and in common usage you'd say "two and eleven." 

I not only made Miss Cameron aware of my prowess in mental arithmetic. I always got full marks for spelling tests and I was excellent in my grammar lessons and particularly at sentence analysis. For instance, I would always spot a very useful truth like "this is a subordinate adverbial clause of time qualifying the verb 'travelled' " as well as other such exotic 'grammartalia'.

Keen as I was to impress Miss Cameron with all my work,  I was also a fidgeter and a whisperer and a sender out of love notes to girls. Custom, and I think shyness, had it that these notes were never sent directly to the object of  one's romantic affection but were circulated around the class so that others could inform  her or him that she or he was loved by the sender. My notes were like this....  

and later

and also I sent notes out to spin the idea that this love was mutual. 

I drew in the heart to show that this was a note that could only be written by a girl. 

All these extra-curricular activities of mine got on Miss Cameron's goat to the extent that she felt impelled to give me the belt about three times a week. I was quite good at looking tough when taking the belt and managed to stay expressionless except for the slight involuntary lifting of my left foot at the very painful moment of impact between the strap of leather and the palm of my hand. Another boy, IB, who got the belt about twice a day and who was reputed to be the second best fighter in the school always noticed my tiny sign of weakness and without exception he would shout out  that I was "a cowardy coof !" Given his fighting reputation I never argued the point with him.

Thinking back about the punishments we received, the teacher our class had before Miss Cameron,  Miss Gilchrist,  who taught us in Primary 4 and 5 had a different  disciplinary method. I always remember Miss Gilchrist as being very old. She was a stocky, quite powerfully built woman whose grey hair was always cut short and she wore a wrap around Paisley pattern overall which was the uniform of women of a certain age at that time when they came to do their domestic chores. Her method of controlling the pupils in her class was singular. She would put any of her pupils whom she thought recalcitrant  face down and fully horizontal over her knee  and skelp them five or six times on the bottom with her right hand. When she'd finished administering her particular kind of corporal punishment she'd say, (and she  spoke always in Scots with a Dundee accent), "Woe betide ye if ye dare tae dae that again for Eh'll gi'e ye a bare bummer !” Perhaps fortunately for the sake of all our dignities I can't recall it ever reached the stage of anyone getting a "bare bummer."  On one occasion IB had  his "doup skelpt" by Miss Gilchrist and he threatened to bring his father to school to sort her out.

She retorted, "Eh, an' Eh'll bring meh faither here tae sort yours oot!"  This stopped us in our tracks. Even IB, the second best fighter at the school, was gobsmacked. We were all, everyone of us in the class room that day, awestruck that someone as old and as fierce as Miss Gilchrist  could have a father. What kind of fearful monster would he be?

Having said all this I can't really remember anyone complaining to the authorities about Miss Gilchrist. I  don't think there was one of us in our class who had any thought that she was  unduly cruel.  I think we respected her. We would not have been able to put this in words but she had our respect because she, more than our other teachers, had experience of, and understood, the kind of life most of us were living in the Lochee community. Much of the time she spoke the Dundee Scots that we spoke out in the playground, on the streets and with most of our families.  We accepted her and the things she did, though even for those times these seemed a little bizarre. In punitive terms her "doup skelping" may have been less painful than being strapped though no doubt it was much more embarrassing.  I have to say that during the following years  I was belted regularly by Miss Cameron, but I had always managed to avoid Miss Gilchrist's punishment. This may have been because I was better behaved than I was eventually to become, and I have a suspicion that this was partly so because I could not bare (oops, Freudian slip)....... I mean I could not bear even the thought of the indignity of having my bottom whacked in public. 

On my journey from Primary 1a in 1950 toward Primary 5a in 1955 I had almost always been at the top of the class. Then in 1955, just about the time my youngest sister was born, BD joined  the school when her family moved from Fife to Dundee where her father had been appointed as the head gardener at a famous park and estate on the outskirts of Dundee. BD, you  may recall was to become the subject of most of my love notes, though I always retained a soft spot for HH. Like me BD was left-handed but unlike me her birthday was the 5th of May for I remember us writing the date 5.5.55 in our exercise books on her 10th birthday. BD was very bright and I found I had to share my place at the top of the class with her. 

The academic year 1956-57 was a big year for Primary 7a because it was the year that we sat for the "quallie", our qualifying examination, the results of which would decide whether we went to what was called a senior secondary school like the Harris Academy or the Morgan Academy or whether we went to a junior secondary school like Logie or Rockwell. The latter two schools were excellent in their own right and many of my fellows were attracted by them because they could leave school at the age of 15 and get into the world of work and wages sooner, whereas there was an expectation that those of us who went to the Harris or the Morgan would be staying on at school until we were 17 and some might even go on to university.  Being from an ambitious family I was pushed to go for the Harris Academy and I had been indoctrinated enough to think it was a good idea myself.  

The "Quallie" had three phases. First there was an Intelligence Test, second there was  an Arithmetic exam which was followed by an English exam. I didn't finish the intelligence test. It flummoxed me. One question was, 

"If  §@$  reads as 'cat' what does the following read as?   @§$ "
The answer I now realise was "act" but my mind responded by protesting "If we already have adequate letters to spell out "cat" why do we need to be introduced to these new ones?" This complicated things too much for me and so I had a failure of imagination. My grey matter would not allow me beyond the barrier newly installed in my mind.  I was blind to the code. As for the Arithmetic and English examinations I knew as soon as I had finished them that I had done very well.  

A few days later Miss Cameron was looking at me in  a strange and it seemed frustrated way. She spoke out what I believe she meant to keep as a thought. “ 69, 69 : how could you get a score of 69 in an intelligence test ?”  She didn’t say anything else and neither did she mention it again  but I knew that what she meant was that I had failed the Intelligence test. I am aware now that you cannot fail an intelligence test, it is meant to be a measure of a person’s intellectual insight. I guess  my IQ score of 69 tells you all you need to know about me.

In any case I waited with trepidation for the result of the “Quallie” and wondered who would be the recipient of the Dux medal. I  hoped against hope that by some miracle it could still be me. 

A day before the Dux medal was to be awarded to the successful pupil it was announced that this year there would be two Dux medallists, a girl and a boy. The winners were BD and me.

In August when I arrived at the Harris Academy dressed in my brand new maroon blazer with cord trim I found that  the first year pupils  were split into six classes from 1A, the brightest end of the spectrum through to 1F, its less scintillating extreme. BD was in placed in 1C and I was placed in 1E.  This did not necessarily mean that BD was only averagely clever because most of the pupils placed in 1A and 1B had been at the Harris Academy primary school  and may have had a certain advantage in preparing for the “quallie.”  That BD had been placed in a class that presumably was more able than the one I was in  left me to wonder if the boy’s Dux medal had been awarded  to provide me and my  parents with a consolation prize or whether it was genuinely a decision to reward both the best girl and the best boy. "Maybe," I thought, "I wasn't the true Dux medallist."

It doesn’t bother me now. I’ve got over it but it is interesting that I remember it as if it all happened yesterday.

Of course,  I couldn’t be anything other than pleased by BD’s triumph after all….


Jan Shelley, (nee McCurrach)  writes:

I have just read an article on a Dundee Memory site by Charles Sharpe. It transported me back to my primary days as I too was awarded the Dux Medal in my final year at Liff Road. 

Jane's Dux Medal..

...awarded for Session 1963-64

I could almost smell my old school as I was reading. Wonderful!  I also passed the "Quallie" and attended Harris Academy for six years.

I suspect Charles is one year older than my brother Kenneth McCurrach who also attended Liff Road school.

Thank you for the journey back in time.

October, 2017


Charles Sharpe comments:

After further research I have found that there had been previous occasions when both a boy' and a girl's Dux Medal was awarded  but I still have doubts about mine.

January, 2015


Jeremy Millar writes:

 I was 10 years later but the culture was very similar in Stoneywood primary. Our heidie had been a desert rat and when, I presume he was bored, he would dismiss the class teacher and tell tales of his wartime exploits. I too was belted for being 'clever'. The d in £sd stands for dinarii the Latin for penny. Thanks to google and not a classical education!

May, 2013



Saturday, 11 May 2013

Thanks for everything Rab, and time for further reparation by Dundee Football Club

In putting the record straight, I should mention that earlier this week I was critical of the way Dundee FC had handled the departure of Rab Douglas. I was delighted  while reading my text commentary from Dens Park  this afternoon to learn that those truly goalkeeping legends - Rab Douglas and Pat Liney - did a lap of honour around the park to give the big man and the fans a chance to say "cheerio" to each other.

I am grateful to Dundee FC for facilitating this and from 500 miles away I want to thank Rab for all the exciting times he has given me and no doubt every Dundee supporter over the years. He's a great goalkeeper and as far as I can judge he is a man with a passion and a heart for Dundee Football  Club.

No doubt  a similar opportunity will be provided to the man who has been treated most abysmally in this period of shabbiness at Dundee Football Club. Anyone with an ounce of decency and conscience will know who I mean. I am sure however he would, with good reason,  refuse it. Unlike the people who employed him his soul cannot be bought.

I'll be at Easter Road next Saturday.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Beware being called a legend at Dens Park

Don't be  tempted to become a legend at Dundee Football Club. Two people,  Barry Smith and Rab Douglas, both important in the history of the club were designated by senior officials of the club as "legends" only to be unceremoniously dismissed. It was to be hoped that this kind of treatment of employees was exercised for the last time when a previous directorial regime sacked Jocky Scott.

Great clubs treat their "legends" in a dignified way, while shabby clubs don't. From the first Saturday I attended a match* at Dens Park in the very early 1950s  -  when the gateman let my friend Gerry and me in for free at half time  -  I have believed that Dundee Football Club has great stature and by that I don't just mean winning leagues and cups.

I still think it is a great club whose senior management personnel need to stop behaving shabbily.

*The match was against Falkirk and we won 2-1.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

May 2nd 1959 : at Silverstone for the 11th Annual Daily Express International Trophy Race

Saturday May 2nd 1959 dawned bright and sunny when my Dad and I left our house in Yewdale Crescent, Potters Green in Coventry. I was about 5 months short of my 14th birthday. We were off to Silverstone in our 1953 Phase 2 beige coated Standard Vanguard to watch a non-championship Formula 1 motor race, The 11th Annual Daily Express International Trophy Race run over 50 laps of the full grand prix circuit at Silverstone  in Northamptonshire.

We got to the Silverstone at about 7 am and cars were already queueing to get in. In those days there were places where you could park your car beside the track. We parked near Club Corner. The circuit was very different from the one that you see today. There were no grandstands down at the Club Corner section of the circuit. 

My recollections? What first comes to mind is the overwhelming aroma of bacon frying in pans on the primus stoves of enthusiasts who had spent the previous night camping beside the track having watched the practice sessions on the previous day. Secondly I remember the smell of frankfurter sausages cooking as the hot dog stalls began to open. I hadn't  encountered a hot dog before. My Dad bought me one. I had some onions with it. It was delicious and I've never tasted one as good since. 

We walked around the circuit towards Woodcote Corner where the grandstands were and Dad decided we should buy a paddock pass. We crossed the bridge which was just by the starting line and Dad paid 7 pounds and 10 shillings to get us into the paddock area. He told me not to tell Mum about it because that was a lot of money in those days. 

In the paddock we went to lunch in the canteen and sat beside a group of Scuderia Ferrari mechanics who were eating  lunch in what I thought was a very messy and impolite way. They did not always use their knives, forks and spoons and sometimes just picked up the food with their hands while speaking loudly in a language  I couldn't understand. For me these were very strange and exotic creatures.  It is  difficult even now to imagine the evolutionary chain which links them to the smart, clinical, athletic and co-ordinated teams of mechanics you see maintaining the cars today. 

When I'd finished lunch I had to go to the lavatory and as I opened the door to enter the Gents' a man was coming out. He looked at me and smiled. I looked at him and just as he had passed me by I realised that I had been standing next to the Australian driver, Jack Brabham.

In the paddock I also saw at close range Stirling Moss, (who was my hero, then) Bruce McClaren, Phil Hill, and Roy Salvadori, Two drivers in the race who were not as famous but were heroes dear to me were Ron Flockhart and Ivor Bueb who a few years earlier while driving for the Scottish team Ecurie Ecosse had  piloted  a D Type Jaguar to victory in the 24 hours sports car endurance race at Le Mans. Later in 1959 Ivor Bueb died of his injuries following an accident he had in a Formula 2 race near Clermont-Ferrand.  

Also in the race driving a privately owned Maserati 250f was a female Italian driver, Maria Theresa di Filipis. Her participation in the race had caused quite a stir and in the week leading up to the race she was widely commented upon in the newspapers.  Considering she was in a car that was about  2 years old, Maria drove well and during the race she was positioned somewhere between the middle and the rear of the field until she retired with engine problems.

This race marked Aston Martin's entrance into Formula 1 and two single-seater Aston Martins raced that day. They were painted in a metallic light green. The English driver Roy Salvadori drove one into second place  and the American Carroll Shelby drove the other into 6th place. Although it seemed a promising debut this was not the beginning of a glorious Formula 1 era for Aston Martin. Unfortunately the car, into which a great deal of money had been invested, was a front-engined model and over the season became increasingly uncompetitive. The marque made its exit from Formula 1 later in the year.  1959 was the year when rear-engined cars began to be predominant and Jack Brabham who won the Daily Express International Trophy Race on this day, went on to be the 1959 world champion in his rear-engined Cooper Climax. 

May 2nd, 1959 is anchored determinably in my mind but when I ask myself why this is so I can never single out anything that would make it so special. To be sure the smell of bacon and hot dogs and the whiff of hot engine oil which hung in the air when the racing was on remain evocative for me, the screaming siren noise of the 2.5 litre formula 1 engine still resonates and, seeing sporting legends close up was exciting at the time, but I don't think the race that day was spectacularly exciting.  Jack Brabham won rather easily and - as the nerdish anorak section of my mind is compelling me to convey   - my great all-time hero to be, Jim Clark had not arrived in Formula 1 yet,  although I did see him on a number of occasions during 1959 driving a Lister Jaguar for another Scottish racing team the Border Reivers when Dad took me to less grand race meetings at Mallory Park, the racing circuit near our home. Looking back from a perspective of over 50 years I find it uncanny that a day which should have been an enthralling memory, is not,  and yet I long for it and have not let it pass forgotten into the mists of time.

After 1960 going to motor races ended for me. I got a Saturday job. I still followed motor racing closely by reading newspaper reports and Dad and I would watch the televised continental races at Monte Carlo or Spa Francorchamps because they were always run on a Sunday.   Dad continued to go on his own. He went to the Le Mans 24 hours race on more than one occasion.   I don't think Dad and I were ever as intimate again. Mind you, we didn't talk much at the circuit. I would ask him the odd question about the cars and he would answer but it seemed for the most part we were quietly comfortable with each other. 

I never miss a Grand Prix if it is on television even when it is taking place in the middle of the night British time. Nowadays, I have to admit I almost invariably find the racing dull. I suppose I watch it because I am doing it for, or with Dad, just to keep our secret.