BBWB 1: A Game Of Shinty

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A Game Of Shinty

Hangovers rage on New Year’s Day
The air was ice & minty
As men & boys step out to play
The anycent game of shinty

They say King Fergus fetch’d the game,
At first, to Dalriada
That sets the Haelan brain aflame
Come on lads, hit it harder!’

Auld Scotia’s sport still grandstand mann’d
That thrill’d the Border Reiver
& on St Kilda’s rocky strand
They’ve play’d it with a fever

Down to the shore, from hill & dale
Roll players from the district
Descending on a sliding scale
The better twelves were pick’d

The captains were twa boyhood friends
Dol Homish & Laird Broon,
Who with a keen & convex lens
Their final teams fine tune

Jock Russel’s cheeks were red & ripe
The Dewar boys were freezing
& Sandy Fraser smok’d a pipe
Like whalesong was his wheezing

With ‘Bualomort’ & ‘Lecamlet’
The twenty-four were chosen
The rest slunk off, when pitchside set
They’ll spend the morning frozen

The goals erected on the plain
The level green beside
The bonnie sandsweep of Strabane
That kisses sea-green Clyde

It was the annual contest
Twyx Brodick north & south
McKay applauds the very best
While McBride’s potty mouth

Encurses scurrilous heckles
Whene’er a player flags
Cusses tosses at soft tackles
Play the game yer scallywags!’

& all the caileags roundabout
With wives & bairns & kinsfolk
Surround each cause with cheer & shout
Those roars all sports convoke

& Sarah Fullarton was there
Her daddy’d push’d the cycle
With shock of flaming scarlet hair
The darling of Kilmichael;

She wasn’t one for dolls & toys
Defining role & gender
Prefer’d instead to wrestle boys
Punch all who’d try defend her

The teams are set, the whistle blows,
The Lecamlet’s attack,
Like gallant tides the ebbs & flows
Of glorious Camanachd

The ball struck by the caman’s curl
As lads, shoulder-to-shoulder,
Do battle honour, heave & hurl,
& still the day swirls colder

The sky death-grey, the air snapp’d crisp
For heatbrief clapp’d the crowd
With each deep breath Will-o-the-Wisp
Did dance into a cloud

When from a slide of Arctic ice
The snow glides down in flurries
Soon slippy surface white as rice
Adds to the sweetheart’s worries

The keep display’d the shouts of men
The game sway’d to & fro
& up around Glen Rosa glen
The combatants would echo

Mecho-an-Laird’ the partisan
Cried, & ‘Mecho-Dol Homish’
Whene’er athletic artisan
A pauky move did finish

Somebody somewhere kept the score
But not a jot it matter’d
Tho’ on the pitch it felt like war
Each time the shins were shatter’d

But afterwards the teeming inn
All niggles would appease
By whiskey bottle & wineskin
A village at its ease

Where little John McAllister
Wee Wullie McIntyre
Pete Currie & the Minister
Were sitting by the fire

You’ll be as strong as them one day,
The Minister said smiling,
Not knowing an Appian way
Was wooden poles stockpiling

Awaiting them & countless more,
The zeitgeist lads alighting,
When first class empires go to war
Tis these who’ll do the fighting!


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