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Gallimaufry - Lesley McDowell

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WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?  – SPORT, THE TROUBLES AND ME

Teddy Jamieson
YELLOW JERSEY, £14.99 PP336
ISBN 978-0224082976


Jamieson weaves together sport and a history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland together to produce an account of sectarianism that, incredibly after all this time and all that has happened, still has the power to shock. Born and brought up in Coleraine as a Protestant, Jamieson mixed with Catholic boys and admired both Catholic and Protestant sporting stars, not fully understanding the violent divisions until he got older. Having lived on the mainland for the last couple of decades, he tracks the past successes of international sportsmen and women like George Best, Mary Peters, Dennis Taylor and Barry McGuigan, reaching the present-day with Neil Lennon. Jamieson questions the ‘easy symbolism’ that sport offers, the problem of ‘allying yourself with a team, a community, a nation’, which means that you also reveal ‘what you don’t stand for… In a country that is divided that can be problematic.’ The death threats sent to men and women who simply wanted to excel at their sport, refusing to let them forget where they’d come from no matter how far they travelled or how successful they became, say much more than they think. Jamieson’s own experiences add poignancy to a first-rate history.

 

THE KIRK AND THE KINGDOM: A CENTURY OF TENSION IN SCOTTISH SOCIAL THEOLOGY 1830–1929

Johnston McKay
EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY PRESS, £45.00 PP128
ISBN 978-0748644735


McKay sets out to challenge the received wisdom that the Church reneged somewhat on its duty to the poor during the industrial years of the 19th century because of a mistaken belief that if people were poor it was because God intended it that way. He wants to show that one or two high-profile campaigners on behalf of the poor, like ‘Paisley radical’ Patrick Brewster, were not the exceptions, but that there were many in the Church, like the Reverend Dr Robert Burns and the Reverend Dr Robert Buchanan, who gave lectures on the need to change the Poor Laws and worked actively to alter society’s attitudes to those worse-off. An increasingly urbanised and industrial Scotland couldn’t rely on charity from individual landowners and church-goers any more they argued, and many churchmen became increasingly politicised as they condemned the class divisions they saw not just in their own parishes but in other cities. McKay’s history of the debates about a ‘Kingdom of God’ recreated on earth is more complex, with some viewing it as an ‘ethical commonwealth’ rather than an ‘exclusive Church-state’, and others disputing it completely, but McKay shows how it encouraged theologians to challenge preconceived notions of the poor.

 

4 A.M.

Nina de la Mer
MYRIAD EDITIONS, £8.99 PP272
ISBN 978-0956559951


There’s a strong echo of writers such as Irvine Welsh and Alan Bissett in de la Mer’s debut novel about two squaddies, one English and one Scottish, living on a base in Hamburg. Manny and Cal are two young men caught up in the drug and rave culture of the early Nineties, looking for love although they wouldn’t admit it, as well as having a good time, and not knowing quite what to do with it when they find it. Life as a squaddie is dull and routine, full of boring menial jobs, and it’s their time off that they live for, when they can head to the clubs and get out of their heads. De la Mer does an excellent job producing authentic voices, reflecting the energy and recklessness, but also the fear and the lack of self-confidence of the men, especially Cal. The depiction of a troubled masculinity in an urban setting is something we have long associated with male Scottish writers, and it’s encouraging to see a woman take this subject on board.

 

 

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