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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Red Lichties in five-goal drama

“Red Lichties” translates roughly as “Little Red Lights” and is the popular name of the Arbroath Football Club team. Their claim to fame is recording the highest score ever in a senior football match when they beat Bon Accord 36 – 0 in a cup match on 12 September 1885. It is reputed that the score would have been even higher if time had not been lost repeatedly recovering the ball from the sea when kicked out of play. It appears that the Arbroath goalie never touched the ball and spent the game sheltering from the rain under an umbrella supplied by a supporter.

Arbroath harbour. Many a time I have stayed in the blue guest house
Arbroath is special to me because, after driving groups of students in a noisy smelly Landrover on a hot dusty motorway north from Leicester to Aberdeen (en route to Shetland) every summer for some 30 years, the fishing port of Arbroath was where we finally reached the sea. So it was a matter of strolling round the harbour to fill lungs with fresh sea air before consuming fish and chips from Peppo’s chippery. All washed down with pint (or two) of “heavy” in the Smugglers’ Tavern before bedding down for the night in a local camp site before the final run in to Aberdeen the following morning.

This week the Red Lichties had an evening home game against East Stirling and I felt the urge to go north to support them, as well as to obtain an overdue supply of Arbroath Smokies. I arrived on a sunny afternoon of 26 March and rapidly refreshed my memories of the harbour area. My attention was quickly drawn to a pale gull in immature plumage, much paler than the numerous Herring Gulls, that proved to be an Iceland Gull, quite a rarity!

An immature Iceland Gull, a pale rarity from the Arctic, was looking for scraps around the harbour

This flight shot shows the pure white primaries which easily distinguishes it from a Herring Gull

The warm weather meant that the shutters of one of the fish smoking houses were open, and I could see the small haddocks hanging up waiting to be smoked. I’d leave my purchase until the last minute...

Arbroath Smokies are supplied world-wide. You can see the haddocks ready for smoking

By tea time, Peppo’s was open and I indulged myself in a fish supper to be eaten, as by Ancient Custom and Practice, on the benches by the harbour where the gulls queued up for scraps.

Peppo's - the best fish supper in the world?

I slept the night camping in my X-trail near the dunes of the lovely Lunan Bay, a little north of Arbroath. I spent the next morning birdwatching in the area and saw seabirds such as Fulmar, Kittiwake, Red-throated Diver and Razorbill. A foray north to the Montrose Basin (stamping ground of fellow blogster The Trabant Driver) where I found a skein of Pink-footed Geese, and made a brew with my Kelly Kettle by the Bridge of Dun.
The ornate Bridge of Dun crosses the River Esk at the head of the Montrose Basin
Then it was back to Arbroath to park up right on the harbour edge ready for the night, knowing that I would not be driving after the match, and the ensuing nightcap in the Smugglers’ Tavern. During the afternoon, I indulged in a little Geocaching, and placed in a local cache a Travel Bug that I had snatched in South Wales from Tortoiseshell .

It was finally time to wander down to Gayfield Park where the spring daffodils were in magnificent display.

Gayfield Park at daffodil time, home of the Red Lichties.
Notice the proximity of the football ground to the sea!

As a matter of course, pre-match refreshment was taken in Tuttie’s Neuk, the fans’ pub, where I indulged in some good-natured banter and posturing with some 'away' fans, before crossing the road to see the game.

Tuttie's Neuk, the fans' pub, across the road from the football ground
The game turned out to be quite a thriller, with the Red Lichties squandering the two-goal advantage they had acquired just after half time when two cracking quick goals from East Stirling levelled the score, much to the delight of the Away Fans (all 17 of them) who never stopped singing behind their goal throughout the whole game. (In Arbroath the respective fans dutifully exchange ends at half time in order to be behind their own goalmouth).
A nervous moment for the Red Lichties as they defend a free kick
At length a free kick awarded to the Red Lichties on the edge of the East Stirling penalty box resulted in a deflected goal, and so the Arbroath fans could celebrate a home victory. Two balls were kicked out of the ground into the sea during the match but, unlike the occasion in 1885, replacement balls were rapidly supplied from the technical area and no time was lost.

And so it was a matter of indulging in a couple of drams in the Smugglers' Tavern before snuggling down in my sleeping bag for the night in the back of my X-Trail.
The Smugglers' Tavern, cosy inside, just the place for a night-cap


Blogger Ju's little sister said...

Forgive me if this comes out as offensive, but

It sounds idyllic.

5:57 am  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

daffodils around the field..... as our deciduous trees start to turn their varied shades.

6:34 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Hey, what a fabulous posting! Next time you go, can I come, but I would want to stay in the blue guest house and not in the back of your van.

10:32 am  
Blogger Tortoiseshell said...

I agree with Lorenzo: this is one of your best posts to date. Succinct and evocative. My creative writing teacher would be impressed.

It is part of football lore that Arbroath would probably have added to their 36 goals against Bon Accord had it not been for the time wasted looking for the lost balls.

10:45 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another jammy win for the Smokies, I see. i was at the last encounter between these two back in October/November when the Shire won 2-1 and A****th were dire on the day. manager John McGlashan gave his team a public roasting on the pitch after the full time whistle.

Glad you enjoyed your trip, sorry I couldn't be there to meet up with you. Hopefully the Trabi will be smoking again this weekend, I've got to pick it up tomorrow or Sat a.m.

12:10 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

What's a trabbi?

5:11 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

What's a trabbi?

5:12 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

ooo, two notices came up! I wonder how that happened? You have my permission to delete one.

5:13 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Hey, what an adventure you have had. I would love a nightcap in that Smugglers Cavern too, I bet there are a few characters there with a tale or two to tell.

6:11 pm  
Blogger simon said...

Do they really have "hot dusty roads in Scotland?" I mean you have been here....outback. Now I would describe THAT as hot and dusty....

2:01 am  
Blogger TCA said...

tortoiseshell beat me to it and said everything I meant to say, only more succinctly. Those chips, the smokies, and heavy in the Neuk… memories, memories, memories. Glad the Lichties got a result for you. Give us more notice next time!

8:44 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Hi Maalie, just to let you know I saw a Goshawk at the weekend, have you come across them? They are supposed to be quite rare.

9:30 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Maalie, not sure if you picked up on this story yesterday:

9:40 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

Thanks for your comments everyone.

9:54 pm  
Blogger Davy said...

Up the smokies! You never brought me any up on your last two visits to me in Shetland! I thnk you ate them on the boat, lol.


12:01 pm  
Blogger Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

Thanks for correcting the link maalie, I only discovered it didn't work AFTER I'd commented on it - that'll teach me not to jump the gun.

I suddenly feel a yearning for a smokie, it's been an age since I last had one. We have a wet fish shop over here that stocks them. I love the thought of all those lost footballs bobbing around, don't you?

1:02 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

Beautiful tale from up north!

Methinks Simon was kidding when he asked about the "hot dusty roads in Scotland?" - or was he not? ;-)
Made me giggle anyway.

8:37 am  

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