MY dad took me to my first game at Celtic Park sixty years ago – November 9 1963 – and we watched Stevie Chalmers score a hat-trick as Jimmy McGrory’s team won 5-3 against Partick Thistle.
If Nazi mortar fire had been a bit more precise, that treasured afternoon would never have occurred and my mother would have been a widow at the age of 22.
And I would not be here to write this article.
That is one of the reasons why I hang my head in shame for a minute of each year when a moronic few among us fail to observe the silence on Remembrance Sunday.
Is it too much to ask for anyone to keep quiet for sixty seconds to honour those who made the supreme sacrifice and bequeathed their life while so many other gallant souls displayed unimaginable courage and selfless valour to protect our freedom?
GREEN FOR GO…the Celtic players troop out with their Aberdeen rivals to prepare for kick-off.
My father was in his mid-twenties when he was plucked from the streets of Glasgow’s Calton, handed a rifle and packed off to France to fight the Nazis. On a beach in a foreign country and serving with the HLI, he was hit by enemy fire. His very existence hung in the balance for a week or so.
Emotionally and physically, he was scarred for the remainder of his life.
On my Parkhead debut as an eager 11-year-old kid already falling in love with this team called Celtic, we met up at a strategic point in the decrepit Jungle with my uncles Hughie and George. They, too, had served their country in the war. I never heard any of the three men ever mention those dark days.
For that matter, my dad never discussed it, either. Later in life, I did ask. He said nothing and simply shook his head. That vault remained closed all the way to his passing at the age of 65.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t air such personal matters. I don’t possess a violin, I don’t indulge in melodrama and I don’t seek sympathy. I merely mention the unfathomable bravery of ordinary working folk in a nation’s moment of dire need.
That is why I feel so utterly ashamed when I hear those embarrassing and distressing insults puncturing the minute’s silence on Armistice Day. Sadly, it has now become an annual disgrace.
The obsession of some for the avoidance of any form of decency is as perplexing as it is nauseating.
RESPECT…the Celtic players observe the moment’s silence before the action begins.
Elsewhere, it is impeccably observed. In days gone by, it was faithfully honoured when many among the home support had fought and were fortunate to survive the bombs and bullets of a wretched conflict that cruelly claimed thousands of innocent lives, several from Celtic Football Club among the fallen in two wars.
I am aware of sensitivities connected with past involvements, perceived or otherwise, with the British Army. My maternal grandparents were Irish who came to these shores for a better life.
Everyone has the inalienable right to voice an opinion. We all acknowledge that contention. On such a solemn occasion, Celtic Park, with the world looking on, is neither the time nor the place to express that sentiment.
Judging by the reaction to the unwanted and unnecessary intrusion, the majority of the respectable Celtic followers are also appalled by the unacceptable behaviour of a few of their so-called fellow-supporters.
Is it too much to expect a malevolent scattering to show some common courtesy in this brief period of profound reflection? Remember, please, we are talking about one minute.
If the sound of silence offends you to the extent you are provoked into loudmouth utterances may I suggest you stay away? Alternatively, you could delay taking your place in the stand after the moment’s respect has passed.
REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY…both sets of players line up in the emotional moment at Celtic Park.
It is with a heavy heart I acknowledge these words won’t register among those who feel the requirement to demean the moment with their mindless lack of regard in the midst of such sombre circumstances.
Abraham Lincoln once observed: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Amen to that. My dad would have agreed.
Alas, there will not be world peace in my lifetime. Nor in yours.
In all probability, it may transpire no-one will ever experience global harmony.
While we have the opportunity to occupy time and space, is there even the remotest possibility a modicum of civility could be afforded others in their time of grief on occasions such as Remembrance Sunday?
If not, God help us, one and all.