Some have meat and cannot eat
Some cannot eat that want it.
But we have meat and we can eat
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
It’s Burns’ Night, and after Seaham Red Star v North Shields – of which more shortly – we head west to Quebec for a good haggis supper and ceilidh.
Quebec, it should perhaps be explained, is in Co Durham, as are Toronto (next to Bishop Auckland), California (Witton Park), Philadelphia (Houghton-le-Spring) and Washington, which needs no introduction. New York’s not in the dear old county palatine, though. It’s near North Shields.
Quebec’s a couple of miles from Esh Winning. Kate Ryan, wife of 50-year football club chairman Charlie Ryan, is among the organisers but still can’t get the lad up to dance. “He says he has bad knees, bad ankles, bad everything,” says Kate. “If they offered him a game for Esh Winning he’d have his boots on like that.”
You can tell it’s a good North-East Burns Night because mushy peas come as an alternative to the neeps, because someone’s brought a big jar of pickled cabbage – which is delicious – and because someone else totes a vacuum flask and not a hip flask. The contents may be the same, though.
Since the village hall is unlicensed, revellers are invited to bring their own alcohol. Few scrimp. One chap’s toting the sort of wheely case which falls foul of the excess baggage boys on a Boeing 747. It clinks, clangourously.
Former Tow Law, West Auckland and Evenwood Town manager Graeme Forster is on the Old Peculier. “You know me,” he says.
The band plays Flower of Scotland. I get into trouble for thinking it’s Liverpool Lou. Are they the same tune?
Officially the venue’s the Sevenoaks Hall, a gift from the folk of that Kentish town after many of its children were evacuated to Quebec curing the war. Nice story, that. It’s a lovely village occasion, though we have to leave well before the bells. Haggis is one thing, but at our age we can’t risk being turned into pumpkins.
*Seaham Red Star are too close for comfort to the foot of the Ebac Northern League first division, North Shields too close for comfort to the top. “We’re in grave danger of promotion,” says long serving chairman Alan Matthews.
Red Star have been buoyed by a midweek Durham Challenge Cup win over Consett and a home draw against Sunderland, to whom most of the town seems sacklessly in thrall, in the semi-final. Perhaps they might at last get the sort of gate they deserve: today’s, including a strong contingent from north of the Tyne, is just 135.
The crowd also includes my old mate Ralph Ord, long in Australia but home to Langley Park as a surprise for his dad’s 91st birthday. When he left on Wednesday ti was 28 degrees, in Seaham it’s a bit fresher.
“Jeepers,” says Ralph, at once a remidner of former Eppleton goalkeeper Barry Goodwin – whose son played in the same team – whose favourite expletive it was. Whatever happened to them?
Two goals from Callum Patton give Shields a half-time lead. Though a battling Seaham pull one back, it’s not enough. At both ends, the grave danger continues; as elsewhere, the dance goes on.