Stanger’s Chase

By the way, I don’t just write crap poems about football – I write crap poems about loads of things, including rugby. Here’s a Border ballad I wrote last year about Tony Stanger’s slam-winning try against England in 1990 – repeat on Saturday?

Stanger’s Chase

Slaw, as they maircht at Murrayfield,

Slaw, as the sons o Troy,

An fower o thaim war Borders men,

An ane wis but a boy.


Slaw, as the winds that flauchtert oot

The saltire’s pirlin waves,

Slaw, as the pipes an drums that dirlt

Thair readiness tae play,


Slaw, as the hair that rose oan necks,

Slaw, as the cloods that pairt,

Slaw, as the sun that lingrt oan

Young Stanger’s breelin hert.


Na lang syne, no faur awa,

A schuilboy haed he been,

The toast o Wilton’s rugby boys,

The star o Hawick Linden;


For greater things thay’d merkt him oot,

But thay coud no hiv kent

The weirdfu paith they set him oan

For Murrayfield wis bent.


Thair callant lad in Scotland blue!

It wisnae tae be guesst,

Camsteirious raiders tae repel,

An honours tae contest,


Thare up aheid, Calcutta’s cup,

O winnin unco dear!

Dug oot fae England’s huird o gowd

Whaur it haed languisht mony year,


Syne Stanger’d watcht as Leslie, Aitken,

Renwick, Calder, Rutherford,

Haed strampt the dirt that he nou stappt oan,

Wore the shirt that he nou wore,


Bled tae lift the prize nou dashelt

Dull as ony English trinket,

Bled tae see their kintra battert,

An watchin, nou… He dauredna think it.


That nicht the English, drivin northart,

Haed reakt the cross o Peebles toon,

An barrackt thair bi Reekie’s shaiddae,

An watcht Saint Andrew’s flag gan doon,


Thare held thair coort; thare stuid for shaw;

Thare ruis’t the Scots thair tent;

Thare gied bi smirl an glent o een

That nane o it wis meant;


Whaur Will, the English leader, fed

Oan leuks o jealousie,

A Hotspur o the modren day,

Formt Albion wis he.


Aye, herts at hame are glegsome things,

Tae vauntie wirds aft gien;

An whitna laund is furrin lang

Tae an emperour’s reivin een?


But o! Whan Flouer o Scotland skirlt

Wha o that ten an five

Lined up in white but thocht hissel

The anely Englishman alive!


Then Finlay Calder, tiltit forrit,

Breuk the English ranks,

The teemin Scots surged in ahint,

But Tony, oan the flanks,


Could anely watch as fortuin jinkt him,

Inches focht an won,

Men clung tae earth tae beir the gree

Thay’d pass oan tae thair sons,


While i’the sky artillerie sang

An vollied wi dreidfu speed,

The ominous boom o boot oan ba

Aback an up aheid,


An Guscott, blade o English steel,

Pierced in tae steal the try –

Young Stanger feart this game o crouns

Wad likeweys slip him by.


The match wis mair than hauf-gates past,

An Stanger’d still nae guid,

Thare wisna speed the wide warld ower

Tae jouk the gresp o Underwood,


But the English owerraxin knapt

The ba tae Celtic hauns,

An Jethart Armstrong snecks it up,

Like ane dumfoonert stauns,


The English closed; still Jethart stuid;

Then sprang a merry trap,

A hervest-shaw o English limms

The ba flung ower the tap,


An Hastings, waitin, reeled it in,

An presst it tae his kist,

Wi scarcelins blink tae heave it furth

Ayont the English midst,


Bi Hastings’ boot the ba wis hoist,

An Stanger unnerneath,

Bi Hastings’ boot the ba wis hoist,

A nation held its braithe,


Thare, whaur the thristy cloods contest

The skies wi hungert wund,

The birlin ba tae baith praisents

A gallus fechtin-grund,


Thare, while young Stanger stuid aneath,

An watched the waitin sky,

Jim Telfer rowst fae aff the bench

An yollert, “Tony, fly!”


Fly, Tony, fly! An Stanger flew

An Underwood turnt an wheeled,

An the air wis fou wi the flash o blue

An the din o Murrayfield,


Fly, Tony, fly! An the earth wis sheuk

Bi a thoosand egglin feet,

Fly, Tony, fly! An the ruff wis drumt

Bi the up-clap o unburdent seats,


Yet i’the mid o clamihewit

Ane boy wis stainch an calm,

His een war bent oan heivin,

His hauns war open palms,


He kent thare wis noise, an he haurd it,

The shaidaes war grandstands o derk,

But the square blue sky that he ran ablo

Wis the same ower Mansfield Park;


An he thocht as he ran o Auld Hawick,

He thocht o the place he wis born,

But maist o aw he thocht o the Chase

Oan a Thursday simmer’s morn,


When the Cornet’s men, oan horses,

Went streamin up the knowes,

Theretil tae race the common launds

Wi aw the haste that care allows,


An Tony, juist a Wilton lad,

Haed watcht thaim as thay flowed

I’the stour o dist an the brattle o cluits

Oan that lang an nairae road,


The Chase! Tae some it stuid for forebeirs

Pursuin thair stowen guids,

While ithers said it meant the flemin

O reivers fae border wids,


But maist fowk kent it bode the callants,

The orphants o Flodden field,

Wha rode tae fell the English raiders

Wi haurdlins a swuird nor shield,


Whit, tho the nicht wis pitch an gealin,

Whit, tho the best war boys,

Whit, tho thair faithers left thaim nuthin

But the lair o English ploys,


Whit, tho thay wistna ocht o fechtin,

Whit, tho thay wept guidbye,

Back thay cam hame wi strowds an whoopin

An the English banner hie,


That banner same each Cornet syne

Haed heezed abuin the Chase,

That banner same young Stanger kent

His hauns wad niver grace.


Thae hauns that reakt up then as noo,

Thair destinie tae try,

A soothren pensil, gowd an blue,

A teair-drap fae the sky,


Fly, Tony, fly! Ma bonnie lad,

Gan haste ye tae the prize,

For Underwood is but a man

An yow are mony Robbie Dyes,


Fly, Tony, fly! Yer boots are the feet

That wad win Calcutta’s cup,

Fly, Tony, fly! Yer hauns are the hauns

O a nation risin up!


The skies war wearit, drapt thair toy,

It tummelt tae the laund,

Whaur Scotland’s dirt the chancy ba

Lowpt straucht tae Stanger’s haun.


The rest is kent. Hou Alba leart

Thair skrimish haed been won,

Hou Bill McLaren chowkt back tears

(The boy wis mair a son)


Hou fitba grunds an shoppin malls

Made dunder tae the news,

An Will an England misbelieved,

A fecht thay thocht thay’d niver lose,


An Stanger walkt wi heroes,

An ramplt as they daffed,

An slawly maircht athwart the field,

He held the ba alaft;


Slaw, as they maircht at Murrayfield,

Slaw, as the sons o Troy,

An five o thaim war Borders men,

Tho ane haed been a boy.