Daisy and I were walking through Bruntsfield Links last week, a place among many others in the vicinity of the capital, which claims to be the home of golf. The game played on these particular links, however, is more of the nature of pitch and putt. I believe that the course consists of not the usual 18 holes but 36. Perhaps even more? This claim to be the original appears to be an issue that pervades the Edinburgh landscape. Many a cafe and other eatery claim to be the home of, or inspiration for, a very well-known and successful book and film franchise.
As Daisy sought out some fresh fox poo to roll in, as is her want, I noticed a hacker playing with four balls, each of which he had managed to land on the green and which in order of distance from the pin he was now attempting to putt. Each one in turn missed its desired destination and, noticing this, I offered my condolence to the golfer. 'Ach it was near enough' came the surprising response. This was a man with a 'glass half full' attitude. After exchanging pleasantries, we bade farewell and I moved on.
'Ach it was near enough': what an excellent, inclusive phrase for the new post-Covid UK, when and if it comes. Taken in one sense to its ultimate conclusion, it might mean that success is not perfection and near enough is the result of effort and practice. What a wonderful nirvana-type state of being to live your life by this maxim. I wanted some of this spiritual enlightenment in my life. I had, without realising it, met my guru. He had set me on a path of understanding and enlightenment by conveying the simple truth to me that 'ach it was near enough'. No thunderbolts, no choirs or any of that paraphernalia. Just an ordinary man with a couple of ordinary golf clubs, a chipper, a putter and a few golf balls.
Later on, as I was preparing for bed, I thought a bit more about what happened and with the euphoria of my spiritual experience receding, I started to doubt my initial notion and began to see that maybe 'ach it was near enough' might have some flaws. I mean, if I were ever to require a heart surgeon to perform a life-saving operation on me, I don't think I would want to have one who lived by that adage. Or perhaps were I to be involved in a dispute with a builder who had completed some shoddy work, resulting in my loss and claim for recompense, I doubt I would be happy if I was met in response to said claim that the other party involved were countering with 'ach it was near enough'.
Talking Pictures, television's care home for forgotten films, last week unearthed 1947's The Brothers,
directed by David MacDonald, and starring Patricia Roc and pretty well every Scottish actor of the day – from Will Fyffe, Finlay Currie, John Laurie and Andrew Crawford to Duncan Macrae – as fisherfolk on the isle of Skye in 1900. The film critic James Agate said of it: 'Heavy breathing, heavier dialect and any number of quaint folk customs... the island and its local inhabitants are all right, the rest is Mary Webb with hair on her chest'.
It is hard to disagree. Asked to name the top 10 or 20 films set in Scotland, the chances are this one about love, lust and the domineering patriarchs of feuding fishing families will not appear. BBC Scotland in a radio documentary about Fyffe, for instance, made no mention of it. As The Brothers
was his last film, that says it all.
In it Roc, a convent waif from the mainland, is maid to Fyffe and his two sons played by Macrae and Maxwell Reed. Roc, desired by both sons, is not above flirting with the son of the rival McFarish family which causes trouble. For its American release, they changed the ending as audiences there like things to end happily. In the British version, the lovers are drowned after setting off in a boat sabotaged by the spurned Macrae who then faces a horrible death at the hands of the islanders as the punishment for his crime. In American cinemas, the lovers survived and the police took Macrae away.
The photography is beautiful, the only pity being that the film is shot in black and white. It may not be the greatest film ever made in Scotland, a few studio shot interiors apart, but it is well worth seeking out. It reminds one of Fyffe, who had a formidable screen presence, starred in several films from the 1930s onwards, and was also a great comedian. He made the transition from Scottish star to British star on the Palladium stage, as well as being a composer of songs that have never been forgotten, such as I Belong to Glasgow
Old films can capture a time and place, and although the community's behaviour in The Brothers
may owe more to the imagination of the director and the novelist than reality, the crowd scenes when the islanders assemble for funerals and fights are filled with real islanders of the day. Forget Whisky Galore
or Sunshine on Leith
. Dismiss the travesty that is Braveheart
or the works of Ken Loach, Bill Forsyth and Peter Mullan. The most watchable Scottish film of all has to be The Brothers
. It made a wet Sunday afternoon spent with ghosts – all the star players are long gone – a delight. That last shot when we see the punishment Macrae faces is far scarier than what happens to the hero in The Wicker Man
. One can only hope it is not still like that on the Isle of Skye.
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