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November 2017


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The Innerleven Boolin Club – 1


There will never be a shortage of Scottish History to plough through. Books on Wallace and Bruce, the Highland Clearances, Rob Roy and the rest. Industrial Scotland, the pits, mills and the shipbuilding. Wars and more wars. Yours to choose!
There are Scots from every nations on the Earth. Polish Scots that fought in the last Big One, and Italian families that set up the chip shops that Scotland loves (and fancy nutritionists hate!). They’ve made the ice cream cone part of Scotland’s heritage.
Heroes, heroines and famous dogs. Stories have been told for them all.

Scotland’s past has a darker side. A secret that has never appeared in print. And if they ever find out what I am about to tell you, I may find out what it’s like to walk with crutches! If I’m lucky …
Mind you, I haven’t seen anybody near here for a while, so here’s my chance …

Forget your Mafia! They don’t even come close.
Cosa Nostra? More like ‘Cause I want to’. What I’m talking about is far, far worse than a bunch of Corsicans running around in woolly jackets. I’m talking about the ones in Fair Isle cardigans.
You can find them everywhere in Scotland. Be it the local bowling club, or the shop floor union, they’ll be there! You’ll even find them in Parliament. Scottish or English – it makes no difference.
It’s The Coh-mittee that runs the place!

I remember as a child, running around with my backside hanging out of my trousers. Nobody pays any attention to a child. But I was a child with a good pair of ears on my head, and although it didn’t mean anything to me at the time, I can still remember all the things I heard. Now, with all my years behind me, I am able to put all the facts together, and tell you the true situation.

You will have to forgive me for one thing. I have had to change the names. Not to protect the innocent (there are no innocents in this story!), but if I were to let slip a real name …
I’m a Methil man, and easy to track down. If The Coh-mittee were to find me, well, there would be no stopping them.

Let’s just say that this particular facet of The Coh-mittee was the Women’s sub-committee of the InnerLeven Bowling Club.
On the face of it, the men ran the club, did the finances, and organised the tournaments. The women were just there to organise the teas for the home games, and, of course, you needed women to look nice at the club dance when the trophies were handed out.
Little appreciation for, and little benefit to the women, you say? On the face of it, you’d be right. But the women were allowed – try to stop them! – to play during the week, and have their own competitions. Nobody minded if they set up their own sub-committee to organise things.
And, if anybody were to object, well, old Jeek Tamson was found, floating face down under the Bawbee Brig with his bowling shoes on, and a pair of Henselite bowls in his little carry bag. Nobody connected it with the Women’s sub-committee. Or as it should have been called …

The Coh-mittee!

Who ran things, then?
That would be Big Mary Hennan. Not a person to slight. She didn’t ask for respect, she assumed that, if you were alive, you offered up respect to her, and if you did not … well, things just naturally followed.
Remember Jeek?
She wasn’t big on brain. Didn’t need to be. She could make you do the thinking, if she wanted to. She was everywhere! Fingers in pies? Supplied free by the local butchers, and she got a deposit back when the assiette was returned. Best cuts too – no gristle!
She had an opinion on everything! Sometimes, even a good opinion. Except on men. She had a man, because the club rules said that only men could be full members. Mary, I remember, would phrase that rule in a different way!

Some of The Coh-mittee had more ‘pull’ than others, but even the least of them was someone to fear.
The purpose of The Coh-mittee is to exist.
You could be democratically elected to the Woman’s sub-committee (a scapegoat, tied up nearby, was always convenient), but you would have to be in the inner circle before you were on The Coh-mittee!

You’re no doubt wondering why the name was pronounced as it was. The Coh-mittee.
It’s like this. The Coh-mittee members were the authorities on the pronunciation of Scot’s English in polite society (which comprised the members of other Coh-mittees). When you were doing the club teas, etiquette was important. If you were indisposed due to some imbalance of the bodily humours, you declared …
“I think I’m coming doon with a touch of the Boil.”
Only some coarse strumpet would use the word “bile”. Pan loaf and lettuce sandwiches were currency. And boiled ham. Compulsory on a proper sandwich. Jam or margarine was social suicide!
So it was never enough to be ‘on the committee’, you had to be a member of ‘The Coh-mittee’.

One of Big Mary’s lieutenants was Mrs. Jeffrey. I don’t think her parents ever gave her a first name. She was always ‘Mrs. Jeffrey’.
She could smell a conspiracy anywhere. Anytime. If the way things were done didn’t suit her, it was certain to be the result of some dark and dubious plotting. Things went wrong because the committee (men’s) were trying to put the women down. Translated, this means: ‘men (in general) are conspiring to keep women in their place’. Since the women thought that they ran the place, I fail to see where the problem lay!

Ina Wilson was the ‘brains’ of The Coh-mittee. When fluster, bluster and blatant threats could not achieve the desired outcome, Ina could be relied on to get a result. I never thought that Ina was a true member of the inner circle. Not long before the big scandal, involving a shortage of social club funds, Ina was “democratically” elected to the sub-committee. At the same time, one of Big Mary’s clique had to make a sudden transfer to the Wemyss! Although Ina and Mary always smiled at one another, walking between them was like walking along the live rail on the Underground. You could feel the crackle of electricity and you dared not put a foot wrong.

You’ll be saying that this is just a wee story about a bowling club, but just hold on a little bit longer. The Coh-mittee is still around. It has put its finger on the arteries of life, and if it doesn’t like the pulse, it doesn’t hesitate to press down, and cut off the flow.
Its purpose, as I have said, is to exist.
And if it can’t find a suitable ‘ecological niche’, then it will evict the occupants of the nearest convenient one!

So, whenever folk get together, whenever people start talking, and swapping stories and opinions – The Coh-mittee will get to hear about it.


Coming next … The Match

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