Sport wins place in halls of culture

14th July 2006 at 01:00
The important part sport plays in Scotland's social history is being given permanent recognition in a dedicated gallery, reports Roddy Mackenzie

Scotland may not have taken part in the world's greatest football spectacle this summer, but that has not stopped a celebration of Scottish sport being unveiled.

The Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh has opened a Sporting Scotland gallery, with sections focusing on sportsmen and women, events and memorabilia, the fans and indigenous sports. It is part of the larger Modern Scotland gallery that is due to open in the spring of 2008.

The organisers have moved away from staid rows of glass cabinets with golf clubs and trophies to make the gallery as dynamic as possible, with a lot of big photographs of sporting greats and multi-media and interactive stations to attract children.

"I think it's something that will excite youngsters and they will want to learn more about the people that they've maybe only heard their parents or grandparents speak about," says David Forsyth, the senior curator of the gallery.

The Scottish Sports Hall of Fame looks at Scots who have triumphed in major international competition and features names such as rugby player Gavin Hastings and athletes Eric Liddell and Allan Wells.

The Playing for Scotland section looks at how Scots have fared at Commonwealth Games, world championships, Olympic Games and world cups.

Exhibits include a football cap worn by Billy Bremner, the inspirational midfielder for Leeds United and Scotland in the 1960s and 1970s, and the "stone of destiny", the final curling stone used when Rona Martin and her Scottish rink struck gold at the 2002 Olympics.

On show too is the tennis racket Andy Murray used when he won the US Junior Open in 2004.

"We've been very fortunate to get Andy's racket," says Mr Forsyth. "To be honest, it looks like any racket you could buy but great things have been achieved with it. It shows the potential there is and I'm sure learning about the likes of Andy will help to attract children to the museum."

The tale behind racing cyclist Graeme Obree's famous bike is truly inspirational. "Here was someone who reached the very top by building his own bike out of spare washing machine parts. It's a wonderful story," says Mr Forsyth. "Who knows how many world champion bikes are waiting to be constructed in garages across Scotland?"

A motorcycle owned by Edinburgh rider Norman Black, who raced it at the Isle of Man TT in 1927, stands in contrast to a Ducati owned by Steve Hislop, of Hawick, who won the TT 11 times and died in a helicopter accident in July 2003.

"When we were given the dimensions of the Ducati, we thought there had been a mistake, as we didn't think it could be that big. We were amazed," says Mr Forsyth. "What 14-year-old boy could not fail to be impressed by such a machine?"

An interesting vignette shows that star footballers' names have long been used to market football boots. Way before the days of David Beckham was Alex James, one of the 1928 Wembley Wizards and an Arsenal star in the 1930s. It also shows the contrasts. The football boots of the 1920s look like a pair of gardening shoes, while a pair of Adidas Predators that belonged to Celtic hero Darren Jackson look like ballet pumps in comparison.

With such rich displays of memorabilia, there is one piece Mr Forsyth hankers to see in the collection. "I'd love to see a world cup on display here one day. Not just in football. I'd like to see any world cup won by a Scottish team taking its place in the museum."

The Supporting Scotland section is dedicated to the fans, with the Tartan Army featuring prominently and including exhibits such as a tartan-jimmy hat.

The section celebrating Scottish sport and games it has exported to the rest of the world concentrates on curling, shinty, golf, bowling, Highland games and quoiting, a game that has all but disappeared from the sporting landscape. A working man's game, it involves throwing heavy metal rings at a pin in the ground 22 yards away. "Hopefully, highlighting it will lead to a revival," says Mr Forsyth.

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