Alex Massie

A Great New Year’s Day at Easter Road*

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The always excellent fitba blog More than Mind Games has a great story about football in the fog here, but it's not as good as this one, that became the basis for a Radio Scotland play five or six years ago:

IT IS not, on the face of it, a perfect scenario for radio. A football match so shrouded in fog that the commentator can't see the game. Players who can't see as far as their bootlaces. Conditions so bad that many are not aware that the action is over for 10 minutes after the final whistle. But throw in the Second World War, a need to keep the Nazis misinformed and the Edinburgh derby, and you have the perfect recipe for a rip-roaring play.

The work in question, Playing A Blinder, is based on the New Year's Day match in 1940 between Hibs and Hearts, and will be aired, appropriately enough, on New Year's Day on Radio 4. The play, by the Edinburgh writer Andrew Dallmeyer, pays particular homage to Bob Kingsley, who was at the microphone for the BBC on the day. The corporation was broadcasting the game for soldiers based overseas. Despite setting up a series of runners to let him know what might be happening, Kingsley still had to invent much of the action. And there was plenty, as Hearts won 6-5.

Why, you might wonder, did the fixture go ahead if the weather was so awful? The reason, says football historian, Bob Crampsey, is that although Kingsley asked "very reasonable questions" as to whether the game should be abandoned, they were ignored.

"The reply came that to do so would alert the Germans as to the state of the weather in Edinburgh," Crampsey added. "And that on no account must he mention the weather."

Great stuff. And it really probably doesn't need to be said that, as in WW2, the forces of decency prevailed? Can't hurt, mind you...

*Or, How 1940 Went Downhill From January 2nd...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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