Sunday, 29 June 2014

Sooking Spangles for Scotland

I'm showing my age here. I can't even remember when Spangles were withdrawn. Aha! The early eighties - is there nothing Wikipedia doesn't have an article on? Military Spangle-sookers could be lucky for another decade as they were in the 24 Hour and 10 Man Compo Rations. Old English was my favourite. 

Wikipedia also informs me that an early advertising slogan for them was "The sweet way to go gay!"  My spangle-sooking childhood has a lot more to answer for than I thought.  Had I known that, my QC may have had extra ammunition in the House of Lords - Compo Rations made me gay!

Anyhoo, what's all this got to do with the Indyref?  Well, The Guardian's Kevin McKenna appears to disappear up his own jacksie with the middle class hand-wringing he is decrying regarding the entry of the Orange Order into the Indyref debate on the No side.

My formative experience of Orangeism was not good and can be dated exactly by their calendar to the 12th of July 1969. I was 5 and the exigencies of military family life had meant that my Mum had brought me and my brother back to her home in Maryhill, Glasgow while my Pop continued unaccompanied in the Far East. Singapore to Maryhill, now that was a culture shock! Not least when my uncle George kindly took us to Prestwick for the day and my brother and I leapt into the open-air swimming pool as we were wont to do in Singapore, only to more-or-less bounce off the freezing water and run shivering and greeting to Mammy for towels. Exotic childhood pastimes like scrumping for lychees or exploring monsoon drains were exchanged for the more prosaic dreeping dykes and midden raking. We had also had to say goodbye to our lovely Amah.

On the 12th I somehow had managed to evade the maternal clearing of the streets of children when the Orange parade came past.  As I looked on, (probably waiting excitedly for the dragon as all such processions in Singapore involved a dragon) a gang of much bigger boys (teenagers I suppose) came up to me.  It was a short interrogation before I got my face kicked in for being "cheeky".
"Are you a Prod or a Tim?"
"Dunno, I'm only sooking a Spangle."
Given that I was 5, didn't know if I was a Buddhist or a Christian, didn't know that Prod meant Protestant and Tim meant Catholic and didn't know what those terms meant even if I had known the nicknames, I wasn't being cheeky.  It turns out I was a Prod, I'm an atheist now.

Looking back, the maternal street-clearing had been universal. Mums (as I later found out) both Prod and Tim had imprisoned their offspring indoors that afternoon.  Years later, in conversation with an RUC Inspector in the officers' mess at Aldergrove I commented "Must be a busy week for you with all the Orange heidbangers?" and he replied, "Unfortunately Roddy, most of the real heidbangers come over on the boat."

Orange Parades are basically about bully-boys owning the streets for a day, pure and simple. The Prod and Tim thing is almost incidental and increasingly irrelevant as very few of the marchers could probably remember the last time they attended a church service. Just as the British State did all over its Empire, in its first colonies of Scotland and Ireland it promoted division among the poor, the old Divide and Rule. It's long past time the Orange Order went the way of the Spangle.

Edit: Just had a look at Wings. Things have moved on so far in Maryhill 45 years later, I was damned lucky to have a Spangle to sook.

See also: When Orange Men Go Green.