Almanac Memoir – My Favourite Trophy

My Favourite Trophy

 

 

 

This is the story of my favourite sporting trophy, though before I get to that bit I need to set the scene a little.

 

For the first thirteen years of my life, I lived in what was then a semi-rural part of Geelong, near Buckley’s Falls on the Barwon River. My family home was in quaintly named Maidie Street, one of the first streets in the area, carved out of subdivided farmland. Much has changed in this part of the world over the decades. Now, there’s plenty of housing and many streets, avenues and courts.

 

One of my earliest memories is at the age of three walking down to the river near the Queen’s Park bridge with my Border Collie/Kelpie cross, Cindy, and sitting on the river bank, dipping my feet in the water. In order to do so, I’d discarded a brand-new pair of leather shoes and tossed aside my socks. (My mother never let me forget about those lost new shoes, either, and still occasionally reminds me about them to this day.) Cindy stayed with me and guided me back home, where I was surprised – actually, I do remember being surprised – to see a search party of adults walking the paddocks near my house, spread out in various directions. Pretty quickly, I realized that they were looking for me. As far as my mother was concerned, I’d disappeared, and she was frantic.

 

Another early memory was of our milk (glass bottles, of course) being delivered (yes, home delivered) by a bloke in a horse and cart. Really! Though that didn’t last long. Soon it was done in a white van.

 

Some nearby kids and adults went rabbiting in the area, too, and one day our big ginger tom cat (a stray who adopted us) got its leg caught in one of the traps. He survived, and spent the next couple of months clomping around our house and with a large cast on his leg – the cast went right up to his hip. Ginger’s luck didn’t last forever, however. Dad, a shift worker, habitually rolled the family car silently down our hilly driveway so as not to wake up the family. On this particular occasion, though, the cat was not awoken either and Dad ran over him.

 

Bye-bye Ginger. He was a good cat. A fine cat! In fact, a memorable cat. But I digress …

 

One time I lost a heavy, rock-hard, gourd-shaped football (with a bladder almost bursting through the laces) over the small cliff near Buckley’s Falls. I can still recall seeing the footy bumping its way down the rocks before splashing into the water. Why I was mucking about with a football near the small cliff is anyone’s guess.

 

Just near this place, a little downriver towards Queen’s Park, and on the bank opposite the old Fyansford Paper Mill, I almost rode an older mate’s bike straight into the water. With its 28-inch wheels, it was too big for me and I couldn’t apply the foot brake properly, though was fortunate – in a way – to crash into a large boulder near the river and fly off onto the bare ground on one side, almost unharmed. I must have been about nine at this stage.

 

Around this time, Dad and I and sometimes a mate (of his and/or mine) used to go night fishing on the river, only hundreds of metres from our home. We’d take a thermos and a few sandwiches with us. Redfin and eel were the main quarry. I wasn’t a good fisherman, but one time I caught an eel and it ended up in my grandfather’s fridge. He was partial to them – eels, I mean, not fridges.

 

Yes, I’m getting closer to the point of my story…

 

Queen’s Park was only about four hundred metres, across a few paddocks, from our house. The park is nestled along the winding course of the Barwon River. One end of it is close to Buckley’s Falls, the other is near the Queen’s Park bridge. Within the park is an eighteen-hole golf course with a clubhouse, and there are also a couple of ovals and a picnic area. The basic layout of the park has remained the same for as long as I can remember. The Geelong Amateurs footy clubrooms – separate from the golf clubhouse – overlook the bigger, more picturesque oval, which is in a natural amphitheatre with its earthen bank on one side. I recall as a seventeen-year-old taking my tall, blonde HSC girlfriend Tina to a bush band gig at the clubrooms (a $10 “all you can drink” footy club fund raiser – but, no, we didn’t get pissed), though I’m getting ahead of myself here.

 

An annual Highland Gathering was held on the Geelong Amateurs footy oval for many years. I loved going to this occasion and went numerous times as a kid. It was fun, and I particularly enjoyed the sporting events – with big powerful blokes in kilts throwing massive shot puts, hammers, and tossing cabers. There were also kids and teenagers (and maybe some adults, too) wearing traditional Scottish dress engaged in all sorts of different dancing competitions, a particularly interesting one being the sword dancing where you stepped between crossed swords on the ground. Other features were the Highland Pipe Bands, the tents around the oval for numerous different clans, and the food stalls, though at that stage I didn’t possess my great liking for haggis, black pudding and other traditional Celtic foods. I developed that considerably later.

 

Anyway, one year – I’m pretty sure it was 1973, when I was eleven – the Highland Gathering had a couple of sprint races for kids, one for boys and one for girls. I was keen athlete and of course decided to enter. The main thing, as far as I was concerned, was to get one of those trophies displayed on the table for the first three finishers. It was going to be tough, though, as my specialty was middle-distance events, not the sprints, even if I was OK at them too. These running events also attracted many of the best young athletes in the district, so for a couple of reasons I was like that proverbial boy with the barrow – I had the job ahead of me.

 

The Highland Gatherings showed sport at its purest, which, looking back, was one of the things I most loved about them. For the boys’ sprint race of, from memory, 120 yards, all they did was line you up – and there were about 25 of us at one end of the muddy oval on this rainy day – and yell “Ready! Set! Go!” to set you off towards a couple of finishing markers at the other end.

 

On this slushy afternoon, I remember flashing home among the crowded mass of thrashing juvenile arms and splashing legs for a fast finishing third place, and was over the moon. Even if I didn’t win, I’d performed very well at a distance unsuited to me; most importantly, I’d gotten one of those trophies I so coveted. It even had a little bit of tartan stuck to its stem, to remind you where you won it.

 

I still have this trophy today, and the bit of tartan remains attached. It is definitely my favourite sporting trophy, even if, like many of us, I suppose, I ended up accumulating quite a few trophies over the journey, some of them much bigger and showier.

 

Interesting thing, too – many years later as an adult who liked researching family history, I discovered that I had some Scottish ancestry: the Scrimgeours on my father’s maternal side.

 

I shouldn’t have been surprised, should I?

 

 

1973 Geelong Highland Gathering, Boys’ Sprint Race Trophy, Third Place

 

 

 

 

 

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About

Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His work has appeared in print in Australia, the UK and the USA, as well as on many online venues. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, has just been published (late 2020) by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Recent other writing includes screenplays for films with a tertiary education purpose.

Comments

  1. I know a family of Scrimgeours here in Melbourne. Unusual surname. Wonder if you’re connected?

    Good yarn.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks Dips. Glad you liked the piece.

    There’s a fair chance that those Scrimgeours in Melbourne are related – it’s quite a rare surname, from what I can gather.

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