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TOPIC: The Sash We Never Sang

The Sash We Never Sang 8 years 2 months ago #561

Celtic fans have been consistent in the claim that the club has many non-Catholic supporters. There is, however, a widespread acceptance that Rangers is a club that is followed almost exclusively by Protestants. Both propositions may well be true, albeit less so if we stopped to examine what precisely constitutes a Catholic or a Protestant in an increasingly secular age. My main concern though relates to the fact that there are many Catholic football fans in Scotland who support clubs other than Celtic and, less contentiously and of greater relevance in relation to the present topic, most Scottish football clubs, with the obvious exception of Celtic, enjoy a predominantly Protestant following (once again with the necessary qualification that this probably does not mean regular kirk attendance). Whatever newco Rangers is currently suffering at hands of other Scottish clubs has certainly nothing to do with a conspiracy hatched in the Vatican. This may of course be a simple case of the wee yins getting their own back on one of the big yins. But we should not overlook the possibility that there is also an unconscious objection to the way in which Rangers Football Club and its fans have consistently sought to keep the mantle of Scottish Protestantism to themselves.

My maternal grandfather was a long-serving elder in the Church of Scotland. He took me regularly to watch Raith Rovers in the late 1950s and through the 1960s. Rangers, he left me in no doubt, was not the team for us. My father had won the King’s Medal in the Boys’ Brigade, served in the submarine service in World War Two and became a Freemason shortly after he was demobbed. As far as he was concerned, we were Dunfermline Athletic supporters and should have no truck with the Gers, regardless of our religion. All three of us thrilled to the success of Celtic in the European Cup Final in 1967, particularly my father and I who had witnessed the Pars’ renaissance a few years earlier under the guidance of Jock Stein. Here was a Scottish team taking on the best in Europe (and I stress the Scottishness of Celtic at that time to make the point that this aspect of the club was considerably more marked in the 1960s than it is today). Arguably the shift in emphasis from Scotland to Ireland can be linked to the resurgence of inter-community conflict in Northern Ireland at the end of that decade. Yet even in the 1950s and early 1960s, Old Firm fans were singing the songs that were and remain rooted in particular readings of Irish history. And what did the Battle of the Boyne really matter to those of us brought up in the kirk? During the eighteenth century,  notable Presbyterian clerics, such as Francis Hutcheson, had left behind the narrow ground of Ulster politics to study and teach at the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Meanwhile their co-religionists back home had sided with Catholics in the fight for social justice in Ireland in opposition to the landed, Episcopalian ruling class. This was our Presbyterianism – fighting oppression, in accord with Christ’s teaching, rather than demonising Catholics.

None of this is to deny the admiration which both my grandfather and father had for successive generations of Rangers players and for the club’s impressive roll call of managers and administrators. My own early memories include images of Bobby Shearer, Eric Caldow, Willie Stevenson, Alex Scott, Davie Wilson, Ralph Brand and our own former player, Jimmy Millar. Towering over them all, of course, was our fellow Fifer, Jim Baxter. That said, where Fife and Protestantism are concerned, was there ever a more compelling figure than John Thomson, Celtic and Scotland great? Other memories moreover take me back not to the Rangers players but to the songs from the terraces bawled out to tunes that I would also hear when the Orange Order or Royal Black Preceptory visited Dunfermline. These were the alien sounds that my family would never play. If marching airs reverberated in our heads at all, they were the tunes of glory played by the Black Watch, the former regiment of Rangers legend Harold Davis who suffered such serious injuries in the Korean War. Not for us songs celebrating the Peep o’ Day Boys, far less the Ulster Volunteer Force, old or new. They, like Rangers themselves, were off limits to Protestants like us. When the Church of Scotland’s magazine Life and Work first expressed criticisms of the club, we were confirmed in our belief that many Rangers fans, and possibly the club itself, were very differently Protestant. None of this is to deny that many Rangers supporters then and now, perhaps even a majority, are no different from their Protestant compatriots. However, a willingness by the club and large sections of its support to play the Orange Card has not served Rangers well in relation to other Scottish clubs. There are many reasons why these clubs have stood up against Rangers newco. But we should not ignore the possibility that Scottish Presbyterianism as opposed to Ulster Orangeism is enjoying its day in the sun.

Alan Bairner is Professor of Sport at Loughborough University and has written extensively on sport and national identity.

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Re: The Sash We Never Sang 8 years 2 months ago #566

  • Andy Steel
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Bottom line, the use of Irish history/religion as a nexus of identity within OF supports reflects their shoddiest intellectual moments. There's no excuse for it in this day and age, no matter how much it is wrapped up in 'ethos' of hard work, loyalty, etc., and there hasn't been for years. The reason we're being booted about just now is finance and self interest and any suggestion that there is an element of religion, or integrity, or any other reason is just pretence.
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Re: The Sash We Never Sang 8 years 2 months ago #567

  • anguswalker
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An interesting article. I was brought up in a small coastal town in Ayrshire (Largs), where many StMirren, Morton and Kilmarnock fans disliked Rangers intensely, despite being from a ¨"protestant" background themselves, so I know where you are coming from on that point. However I feel your article has, with respect, fallen into the trap of stereotyping Rangers fans.

For instance, not all Rangers fans play the "orange card". Rangers support is a much broader church than some realise and many Gers fans in the Highlands, for example, have a much more Scottish image of the club. Also, many Rangers fans I know have no links with Orangeism whatsoever, although they may support the unionist/ loyalist cause in Northern Ireland, which they are legitimately entitled to do.

Finally and forgive me if I am wrong, but there seems to be an underlying assumption in your article that Rangers links with orangeism are "wrong" or "bad". This, in my opinion, fails to understand the wider context of the grassroots support of the club and Ulster immigration to Scotland in the previous century. Many of these immigrants from a protestant background became shipyard workers in the Govan area and naturally supported the local team, Rangers. Orangeism may be said to be part of their cultural heritage and a positive expression of their religous identity. Although this should be looked at critically too.

Finally, I agree with the previous poster that current hatred of Rangers has little to do with religion or "sporting integrity".
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Re: The Sash We Never Sang 8 years 2 months ago #568

As a Rangers Fan born and bred not in Fife but the working class area of Springburn Glasgow and feel it at 51 I've had a few experiences high and lows and my earliest recollection is of going to see Rangers in the late sixties and seeing Orjan Perrson scoring a cracker against Dunfermilne I thnk.

It was an experience walking down the Copland Road and catching the Govan Ferry at Kai Johanson's pub and getting off at Partick and catching the No18 bus home to Springburn but being part tof the whole set up at Ibrox was like a movement of a brotherhood with one aim seeing the Rangers winning.

Part of all this at a very young age and I am not an Orange apologist or ashamed of what we were about in those days and "The Sash" was sung along with other Orange related songs and at 9 or 10 years of age this was all part of the way it was.

As you were growing up and going to watch Orange parades, you do become involved like my Grandfather, Grandmother and her sisters. this is what you did and going to watch Rangers was an extension of this and these individuals were no Bigots or Sectarian, I never heard my Granny speak a bad word about anyone in her life and some of her friends were R.C's.

Church attendance was part and parcel of life in those days as was being a member of the Boys Brigade, yes and believe it or believe it not the Orange Order were afforded Ibrox to hold an Annual Divine Service known as the "Ibrox Church Parade" normally the Sunday before the "Big Walk"

Flute Bands were allowed to play in the Wee Rangers Club as were Accordion Bands yes I hear you say this is how we used to live, the watershed came in the late seventies and early eighties with the escalation of the troubles in Ulster which then seen the rise in Paramilitary activity in both sections of the commiunities in Ulster.

But I would like to add that the rise of this activity was not one sided "our friends supporters, across the city" were more involved than has been recognised, with more of the media's focus attention focused on those that support Rangers Football Club, yes times have moved on, what I have been describing was from a different generation but it was part of the fabric, the same fabric that "our friends" have been allowed to embrace and celebrate,

The wealth of memories I have in following our team will never be eroded, like a lot of others of my age, will always be remembered, yes the times have moved on and a lot of what was acceptable is no longer, but I don't think I'm alone in my opinion that our support is the one that has made the greatest effort to make the effort to follow the new rules that are being laid down, but this seems to be a one way street.

Where we are at present has left our club damaged beyond recognition, and the rabid bile and hatred for our club from the whole of Scotland has now become Socio-Political, where is the effort here to show restraint, none from where I am standing.

Yes there is still along way to go but we have now reached the stage where we now need to refrain from being compliant and start to fight to save this club on all fronts, no I am not saying let's have a "Sash Bash" at every opportunity but "the Cry was No Surrender" has been sung with great gusto more times than I care to remember now the time has come to utilise this war cry.
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Re: The Sash We Never Sang 8 years 2 months ago #577

  • iaincampbelli
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Interesting article, if slightly flawed as angus walker rightly points out. I am from highland prebyterian heritage where respect for rangers as a scottish institution is widespread. The orange card side of rangers is wildly misunderstood and misrepresented even amongst sections of our support. Order is much more a part of society an community in ni, our support is diverse, this is a part of it.
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Re: The Sash We Never Sang 8 years 2 months ago #596

  • missing link
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I grew up with Rangers in the sixties and part in parcel of supporting Rangers was being a protestant. I joined the Masons at 18 my father being a Mason and sang the usual songs in the Govan stand. I detested Celtic with a passion because that was how it was. In those days in the West of Scotland the first thing you were asked at a job interview was what foot you kicked with as especially engineering companies were either Rangers or Celtic.

I don't remember giving any serious thought to the intricacies of Protestant/Catholic, Rangers/Celtic. However as we only played Celtic twice unless there was a cup game I was not so obsessed with the sectarian issues raised by an old firm game. The rest of the seasons games took priority until an old firm game came around.

The issue of sectarianism by the Rangers support has become more and more amplified by biased reporting by a declining quality of media reporters who consistantly ignore sectarian issues at Parkhead wher the Irish tri colour flies.

Political correctness is the buzz phrase now and in most instances quite rightly but I still hanker after the old days when I could banter with the opposition without fear of either being classed a social pariah or worse arrested.
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