22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This review is from: McCrae's Battalion: The Story of the 16th Royal Scots (Hardcover)
This is a stunningly good book. It is part football story, part social history, part military history, part political history. However categorised, it is superbly well written, with intelligence and a nice dry sense of humour. There is also just the occasional "Edinburgh-ism" in the language which natives will enjoy.
The football story is the birth of Heart of Midlothian football club and the first forty years of its life, leading to the famous (in Edinburgh at least) voluntary (although as the book shows not quite spontaneous) mass enlistment of the players into the army in 1914. There is a fine description of how manager John McCartney in a couple of years turned a bottom half of the league side into championship contenders.
There is also a wonderful evocation of the social and political life of Edinburgh of the time and of the complex and intimate relationship between the classes.
It is also a military history of the Western Front, a new slant on a familiar story made more poignant and tragic by the link to the rich civilian life portrayed beforehand.
It is far from a simple tale of heroes, and deals with the complexity of the emotions of and influences on those who rose to do their patriotic duty but before doing so were pursued by the proffering of white feathers by those who never had and never would fight for their country.
The complexity is hinted at by a quote from Pat Crossan, one of the players who volunteered. For a long time he was apparently remembered fondly in Edinburgh for turning, during one of a sequence of recruiting marches and events around Edinburgh, and saying to a potential recruit "Have you got bairns? Well then, dinnae be sae daft", thus incurring the displeasure of Colonel George McCrae.
I have not even mentioned McCrae, a fascinating man himself. But I would reserve the title of hero of this book for all of those whom John McCartney described as he saw them leave Waverley Station for the unimaginable horrors ahead as "the finest men I have known".
(24 customer reviews)
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