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Issue 29 - Local Hero

Whisky Magazine Issue 29
March 2003

 

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Local Hero

Michael Jackson fulfils a fantasy

Like most small boys, I wanted to be a big man. Specifically, I wanted to be a big man called Dave Valentine. Why didn't they pick him for England? “Because he is Scottish,” explained my Dad.

At eight, I was just beginning to learn about international sport, and geography. We lived in England, but our local heroes seemed to come from Scotland. Bill Shankly (Britain's Vince Lombardi) was next to arrive. My teacher was keen on Thomas Telford, who had built a bridge in the area. He could have added Faraday, Fleming, Friar John Cor; I would still have voted Valentine.

My hero was from the Scottish Borders, a hotbed of Rugby Union, in those days an amateur sport for gentlemen. He came to my home town in England to earn a bawbee playing professional Rugby League. The social elitism of the day means that he remains unsung, though a sporting hero he certainly was.

I saw him captain Great Britain, against Australia. The stadium was in a former quarry. The dressing rooms were on the rim, obliging the players to trot down a long flight of steps to the field. My father and I sat near the steps, and I smelt the liniment on the players as their metal-studded boots crunched toward battle. Valentine led his English and Welsh team-mates to victory, after which their reward was to climb back up the steps. My nose detected the aroma of blood, sweat and Australian tears blending with the liniment. My nose still remembers that early outing.

“Ever thought of insuring your nose?” I am o...

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