A report in The Scotsman today headlined
‘OOH AH UP THE RA’ FOOTBALL CHANT OUTLAWED BY CROWN
“Celtic fans have been warned by police that singing ‘Ooh ah up the ’RA’ at games will lead to arrests and prosecutions, following advice from the Crown Office. However, Assistant Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan said “no other chant or song, sung en masse by the Celtic fans” would currently be subject to criminal proceedings.”
This report is, I suspect, totally incomprehensible to a reader brought up anywhere other than in Scotland or Ireland.
For one thing, of course, the Yanks in their eccentric colonial way call football ‘soccer’ (as do the southern and Republican Irish). For another, probably only people in the British Isles know that Celtic has predominantly Catholic supporters – although, oddly, my admirably perverse Protestant Uncle Jimmy supported Celtic throughout his life.
But the main stumbling block to understanding is the word “RA” (pronounced “rah”) which I had never heard until I worked in Dublin for a while in the early 1990s.
If you are in Ireland (and certain parts of Glasgow) you do not need to specify “Irish” before RA: it is taken for granted.
When I worked in Dublin, one of my workmates was a girl who had been brought up in the notorious border town of Dundalk. I say ‘notorious’ from a UK point of view… Because it was near the border with ‘The North’, a reportedly large number of high-up IRA people lived in and near to small market town.
I went there once during the later stages of the most recent of The Troubles to see what it was like and succeeded in not speaking to anyone even when buying food in shops (because I have an English accent).
Dundalk was a very sleepy little place where you could fantasise that nothing ever happened.
The reason I went was because the girl in Dublin had told me a true story about her childhood in Dundalk. She swore it was true and I believe her.
At her primary school in Dundalk, she told me they used to have knitting classes.
They used to mainly knit black woollen balaclavas.
They used to knit lots and lots of them over a long period. Well, throughout her time there.
The children were never told why. It was only when they grew up they realised.