Better late than never - Leith lauds its conquering heroes
every millennium is about right for this kind of affair. As the world
and his wife knows, Hibernian last won the Scottish Cup at the
beginning of the last century. Yesterday, Edinburgh city centre, and
more especially the old port of Leith, came to a halt when unlikely
sporting heroes returned home, 114 years later, with the trophy.
council workers found themselves obliged to plant “Special Event —
No Parking” signs from the Royal Mile to Leith Links to make sure
that the victory bus made the journey in good time. As tens of
thousands of well-wishers flooded out of bars and tenements on to
Leith Walk it took the full 90 minutes to cover a distance that might
take 25 at a brisk trot.
of the fans had, as the song says, walked 5,000 miles for this
moment. Ian Borge, 57, is one of four members of the Hibernian
Supporters of Alaska and had a green banner to prove it. “I go to
every final Hibs play in,” he said. “That’s two this year.”
Borge, 57, grew up in Leith and moved to Anchorage half a lifetime
ago to work for BP. Kenny Radin, 58, his friend, went in the opposite
direction and has spent much of his life in Sydney, moving recently
to Jakarka with his wife.
Radin was at his mother’s deathbed in 2012 when Hibs played Hearts
in the Scottish Cup final. He asked the hospice nurse if he should go
to the game. She said: “What would your mother want you to do?”
He went to the game. Hibs lost 5-1; his mother died.
he no fears on Saturday? “Do you know, I thought we’d do it?”
he grinned. “And to be there. Grown men crying. Kids, marriage,
whatever — that was one of the best days of my life.”
two have seen some changes while waiting for their team to triumph.
The pub they had chosen, the Mousetrap, they once knew as the
Volunteer Arms, the violent “Volly”; another stamping ground was
the Victoria, now a Scandinavian Bar. And they’d visit Robbies, now
a respectable real ale bar.
used to say ‘The Volly for a swally,” said Mr Radin, “the Vicky
for a quickie and Robbies for a jobby,’” Carnival in Leith.
anyone ensconced in EH6 knows, this party had started 24 hours
earlier. Not everything is lovely around a high-spirited football
crowd, drunk on victory and everything else.
Leith Dockers Club, four women argued about who would go back home to
look after the kids, while the rest remained to celebrate. A man
walked by in a maroon top, his pit bull on a short lead.
The Marksman, two women in saris smiled at the crowd gathered on the
pavement holding glasses, the flotsam occasionally tumbling on to the
up the street a crowd with scarves and banners gathered around a
drummer outside the Hing Sing Chinese supermarket. Within the hour, a
police cordon had formed to keep them off the road. By midnight, with
the street blocked to traffic, the rules were: “dance” in the
middle of the road, sleep propped by a wall at the side.
morning, at Picardy Place, Sherlock Holmes was wearing a Hibs scarf
and waving a green chequered flag. The statue marks Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle’s birthplace. The author, who was a goalkeeper and believed
in fairy stories, would have felt vindicated by the sight of the
trophy which last passed past this way in the year that The Hound of
Baskervilles was published.
hung from every other tenement; women dangled the feet over window
sills; a man with a green and white flag blasted Sunshine on Leith
from his berth above a hairdressers.
at last, the victory bus turned into Constitution Street, two young
men clinging to the statue of Queen Victoria, raised their arms and
shouted: “We are amused!” Or words to that effect.
Sherry, a Sikh shopkeeper, had gone to Saturday's game with his sons
and grandsons, three generations of the Singh family. They came out
to celebrate again, clad in green and white turbans, and Hibernian
tops emblazoned, “Singhs go marching in”.
Sherry, 57, has been to every big final since he was youngster.
Witnessing victory at last was a joy, but “ruined a bit” by the
crowd invasion, which has sparked a police investigation. He was
smiling now though. “I thank my father and my Sikh faith,” he
said, “they have made me a proud Hibee.”Proof, if any were
needed, that, in Leith football is a religion.