Alex Massie

While Smeaton watches, Scotland never sleeps...

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Memo to terrorists: you've missed your opportunity. It's too late now. Just pack up and go home.

John Smeaton  - the Pride of the Clyde and scourge of terrorists everywhere - returns to work today. Mr Smeaton, sharp-brained readers will recall, is the baggage handler who famously "set aboot" the lunatics who tried to bomb Glasgow Airport last month, delivering a swift and punishing kicking to the would-be terrorists.

Mr Smeaton became the embodiment of Glasgow's image of itself: pawky but hard as nails, proud to live up to the old motto of Kings of Scotland, Nemo Me Impune Lacessit - roughly translated as Wha Daur Meddle Wi Me? or No-one Attacks Me With Impunity. In fact, as the terrific Smeato fansite demonstrates, Smeatomania has reached splendidly absurd levels.

As The Scotsman reports:

Come 2pm today, Mr Smeaton will step back into the breach in his position as a senior ramp assistant at Glasgow Airport, with CNN - the US-based news channel that aired one of his first interviews - even sending a crew back to Scotland to document his return to Airway Handling Ltd...

...From the moment his adrenalin- fuelled Glaswegian patois was broadcast across rolling news channels, Mr Smeaton's uncompromising recount of his actions won him an army of admirers. His blunt remarks rang true with viewers, particularly when he stated: "This is Glasgow - we'll just set aboot ye," and chided one alleged bomber thus: "You're nae hitting the polis mate, there's nae chance."

A website, visited by 500,000 people in its first 48 hours, paid an affectionate - albeit increasingly parodic - tribute. Mr Smeaton was, at one point, hailed as the man so hard that he makes even onions cry.

Visitors to the site even raised £2,100 from people pledging to buy Mr Smeaton a congratulatory pint. He has since donated half the money to Erskine, the charity which cares for injured military veterans, and will use the rest to fund a night out for other people involved in thwarting the bombing attempt.

For more evidence of how Smeatomania has gone international have a look at this properly droll piece from the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

UPDATE: It seems Smeaton was introduced to the crowd before Rangers' pre-season friendly against Chelsea, prompting this predictable response from the Rangers fanzine, Follow Follow:

John Smeaton, the hero of the terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport on 30 June, received a rapturous welcome from both sets of fans prior to kick-off. It was perhaps as well he as at Ibrox and not at Celtic Park where he would undoubtedly have been booed, half of the audience comprising terrorist supporters.

Though I suppose you could say that the IRA sympathisers amongst Celtic's support are correspondingly anti-British, this isn't quite fair. There are plenty of loyal terrorism supporters at Ibrox too; they just prefer blowing up or shooting Irishmen.

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.

Topics in this articlePoliticsscotlandterrorism