>> Arthur Montford
Bill McLaren <<
The role of the sports commentator is often lost in the spectacle of the sport they are paid to describe and, indeed, a good commentator should remain relatively unobtrusive whilst enhancing enjoyment of the game. In this week’s Scotia Extremis we feature two commentators who, although very different in their approach to their art, are so associated with Scottish sport that they have become almost as integral to it as the competitors. Arthur Montford, long-time presenter of ITV’s Scotsport and football commentator, brought with him the gaudily-patterned sports jacket and a hyperbolic style of delivery, peppered with Scots vernacular (famously, ‘What a stramash!’). Bill McLaren, BBC’s voice of Rugby Union for fifty years, displayed a much more homely and restrained commentating style. Hugely knowledgeable about all aspects of the game, he was an enthusiast and a wonderfully relaxed user of the language of sport, although possessed of a playful streak and a wonderful gift for metaphor. Both described their sports as they saw it, one infusing it with stress, drama and calamity, the other preferring to seek out athleticism, artistry and romance.
Arthur Montford’s Horizontal Hold
by Brian Whittingham
… on our psyche
began with hand-held cameras
as the Hampden breeze surfed his wave of hair,
his checked sports jacket caused a stramash
with our black and white’s reception
and his clipboard was all the technical backup needed.
He told us the game’s excitement couldn’t get any more exciting.
And he was right.
Saturday after Saturday after Saturday he was right.
Mud-glue parks, shoulder charges, goals celebrated with manly handshakes
and injuries cured by magic-sponges.
We tumled oor wulkies into Arthur’s world.
In amongst the home grown mix of Greigs and McNeils
His measured diction tantalised us with far flung
Garrinchas, Di Stefanos, Eusebios and Yashins.
And like Tiny Wharton at an old firm match
Arthur kept us under control …
till we played in the local park
with bunched up jumpers for goalposts
and a leather bladder that could
knock you out if you headed the knotted lace.
We became Arthurs Peles and Gentos and Jinky Johnstones.
Arthur’s commentary always in our heads
when we played out our ten-twinty-wanners
till the sun-set that was our final whistle each and every day.
When I Hear Your Name, Bill McLaren
words come rolling into my head, words like
bracken and bonnie and blaeberry,
like kirkyard and crowdie, like moor, haar
words the tongue adores
for their tang of home.
I think of the fluke that tangled you up
in a sad year when I knew it was time for leaving,
was too scared-stuck to figure the way.
It’s long ago and the details are dusty.
I think I was trawling for an afternoon play
to distract from my own tragi-drama,
when your voice rolled out of the radio
like something to lean on,
this mellow solid Hawick drawl, homespun
in greens and browns, sounding like something
I used to know, sounding like a man
who’d come home from his work whistling.
Everything I’d thought before about rugby
tilted. When did it get lyrical? Players playing
like whirling tsetse flies and runaway bullets,
like demented ferrets up a wee drainpipe.
This was commentary elevated by passion,
fired by your yearn to share; honed probably
in dedicated hours of homework.
You could easily have lured me over
to your rugged beloved sport,
if I hadn’t been steeped in another beautiful game,
if it hadn’t been the same year the clans were dream-
marching on Argentina to fetch home the World Cup.
Some year! With your memory mark on it, vivid
enduring as Archie Gemmill’s redemptive goal.
The year, as it turned, when I mustered
the guts to go. Fanciful to say
it was all down to you, but I’d swear
on a hint, a heartening, a wee knock-on
over the line.
Brian Whittingham is a Glasgow-based author of poetry, short fiction and drama, and also editor of various anthologies & magazines. He lectures in Creative Writing and Communications at the City of Glasgow College, Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Strathclyde University. Recent poetry collections include Clocking In Clocking Out (2012), Bunnets’n’Bowlers (2009) and Septimus Pitt and the Grumbleoids (2007), all via Luath Press.
Maggie Rabatski is Hebridean by birth and upbringing but has lived in Glasgow for many years. Her first poetry pamphlet Down From The Dance/An Dèidh an Dannsa was short-listed for the Saltire Scottish First Book of the Year in 2011. Her second, Holding, was shortlisted for the 2013 Callum MacDonald Award. Both collections are published by New Voices Press. She writes in both Gaelic and English.