A small victory, but memorable

While we all know the importance of avoiding stereotypes when it comes to people, it is not always so obvious when it comes to places. Take the area around Stirling. Thanks to the best efforts of the Tourist Board and, latterly, of Mel Gibson, it is not difficult to view this particular part of Scotland as exclusively in the thrall of our national history.

From the Battle of Stirling Brig to Bannockburn, (and how redundant those Lion Rampants at Wembley with REMEMBER Bannockburn imprinted on them - how could we ever forget?), the whole place fairly reeks of our heritage . . . except . . .

The reality for me, and I suspect countless others, is slightly different. I'm proud of our history and our nationhood, but there are other considerations.

Often when I catch the heart-stopping view of Stirling Castle high on its crag I am transported back to a drafty student flat in the early seventies rather than to medieval times. Those of a certain age will remember the inspired television on Thursday nights in those days: Top of the Pops, Mastermind, Colditz and Monty Python. Starring alongside Jack Hedley and Robert Wagner in the POW drama was none other than Stirling Castle, which is why, as I drive past, rather than Scots Wha Hae, I tend to hum the tense opening fanfare of Colditz: Da Da Da Da Da Da, DaDaDa.

You couldn't get closer to the heart of Scotland than on that plain between the Wallace Monument and the Borestone at Bannockburn Field, but here again I have to own up to some cultural confusion in that the battles that loom largest in my memory are, whisper it, cricket matches, played at St Modan's and Stirling County.

Even the very rocks of the place are not safe from this 20th-century dilution, for that imposing sweep of the Ochils was first revealed to me in response to the urgings of that bouffant cheekie chappie, Dougie Donnelly, that I should visit a certain furniture warehouse at Tillicoultry, near Stirling.

Just recently another distraction was added to this list in the unlikely setting of Recreation Park, home of Alloa FC. Our under-16s had reached the final of the Scottish Schools Cup and so Saturday morning found me headed across the Kincardine Bridge looking forward to yet another type of battle in this part of the world.

Clouds were fleecing the Ochils but the rain held off and we were given a fine morning's entertainment by both sides. As always when seeing pupils outside the confines of the classroom, it was an eye opener. Sean, who in my module class has to have his vital signs checked at regular intervals to ensure life is still present, was a quicksilver messenger all over the field, exhibiting skill and determination in equal measure, and deserving of his two goals. Pat, who generally needs a hoist to get his head off the desk, strolled through the game in defence, showing vision and purpose.

Best of all was the support. Apart from parents, there were two coachloads of pupils and nearly half the staff in attendance, which the lads clearly appreciated. The 6-2 victory was largely as a result of the team's skill and the dedication of the coaching staff, but the final was a graphic illustration of the many facets of involvement by staff, parents and pupils that enable the provision of a rounded educational experience.

A fairly heady mix of history and educational philosophy there, then, but, if you want the truth, the real power of the event was the novelty value for me, as a Hibs fan, of a Saturday that involved goals, victory, joy and a cup. Strange times.

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