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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Sectarianism at Dens?

What's that? I hear you cry. The "S word" in a Scottish football context means the Old Firm to your average Dundee fan. The very idea that Dundee fans can be tarred with the same brush is met with bemusement and even hurt from the blue half of the city. Even Dundee United fans express mild amusement at any assertion that their bitter footballing rivals are sectarian.
There's no smoke without fire, right? In the dim and distant past Dundee executed a protestant only policy to surely merit such a reputation? Well no. The club has been open to all and heavily supported in catholic areas of the city. Dundee were set up, much like other clubs, to keep (in this case) protestants from mixing with catholics and others? Again, no. The club was created through the merger of East End and Our Boys in 1893 for the sole purpose of league membership. The fans. The fans are to blame, singing of bygone religious wars and glorifying in barbaric acts of terrorism. No. No Dundee song is sectarian. So these accusers are out to cause malice? Well, there's the rub.
In the age of the internet, there is now an outlet for fans of many teams, separated by great distances and who do not normally come in contact that often to express their views and read the views of others. This is also a time where the Scottish Government has sectarianism high on the agenda. Significantly though, the Government seeks to tackle sectarianism in football by focusing, in part, on the minutiae of behaviours and words expressed in songs sung by fans and discussing at great length what is to be deemed sectarian and what is not.
So when a Dundee fan refers to "the Derry", he is simply referring to the South Enclosure - the cowshed at Dens in much need of flattening. When he refers to himself as a "Derry Boy" he is using a popular adjective used in the local parlance to describe his footballing loyalty. Simple? Well not quite. In some parts of Scotland, it is baffling to some why a football fan with no sectarian agenda would wish to use such terms.
This is best highlighted in the famous thread on the Pie and Bovril website. Believe it or not, this is the second such thread to appear on that site. The first thread was locked by the moderators where it then sank to the bottom of the list of threads and was subsequently purged when the site underwent a major face lift. It seems that, when you sift through the usual trolls and wind up merchants, that there are genuine concerns by fans of other clubs as to why the fans hang on to this Derry word. I used to be of the opinion that, as I'm not a bigot and the club I follow is not sectarian, then there shouldn't be a problem with the D-word. Upon many heated debates on the aforementioned site, I've come to the conclusion that perhaps the issue does need to be discussed and the wisdom of continuing to use the D-word challenged.
The reason for this, before I'm lynched, is that the continued use of the word exposes the fans and the club to people with obvious agendas and ill intentions. If you look at the thread on P & B, you can see the usual suspects labeling Dundee fans as bigots, usually met with unhelpful rebuttals such as "sectarianism is the West Coast's problem!" The overly critical and judgemental overtones of the accusers only serves to form a siege mentality amongst the Dundee fans, who will invariably start using the Derry word more proudly and loudly, safe in the knowledge that they are not using the word to promote their ideals, but in effect, to get it up right up 'em. The P & B thread has the opposite effect from it's supposed aims.
Which brings me to the point of this post. While I wholeheartedly welcome intelligent query regarding the use of the Derry word, I reject the intentions of the author of an article in the 6th edition of the 12th Man.
I feel the article falls into the trap highlighted above- there are too many preconceived assumptions made and very little intelligent query. There is an over eagerness to prove the existence of sectarianism at Dens and very little actual thought on why the Derry word is still used. However, this isn't surprising, given the author. It doesn't take a huge leap of the imagination to work out that the author is the poster known as Hebridean on P & B. Given that the article is practically a word for word copy of his blogsite it really offers nothing new, other than the opportunity for "Hebs" to promote his egotistical musings to a wider audience. Hebs has constantly been challenged to report the club and fans to UEFA, the SFL, the SFA, in fact anyone with any real power to do something about Dundee's "rampant sectarianism". He, conveniently, skirts the issue of actually doing so, however. Whether it is relevant that his avatar on P & B is of Bonnie Prince Charlie is debatable; as is the interesting personal mail I received from a fellow Clyde fan of his that stated he is regularly warned by moderators on a well known Clyde FC internet forum for his constant posting of religious viewpoints. The latter was partly confirmed by Hebs himself but played down. [see comments]
The article actually starts out as a promising attempt to question the origins of the word Derry in relation to Dundee FC. Hebs' research, much like the Daily Record - all internet based; points to a fleeting, unsavoury period in the 70's when Dundee fans latched on to the union flag. Hebs rejects the other possible reasons for the reference to the South Enclosure as the Derry:

"The number of excuses, and I’ve not listed them all, do no favours for the possibility of there being a non-sectarian explanation, and their pitiful naivete deals it the hammer blow."

I'd counter that by saying the reasons for the pitiful naivete is more to do with just that- naivete to the probable sectarian overtones once prevalent amongst some of the support. It's frustrating that Hebs doesn't explore why there are so many explanations to the origins of the word Derry. It's also frustrating that we are not given a time period the unofficial renaming of the South Enclosure took place. Could it be that the name "Dens Road End" was just too delicious for those pseudo bigots of the 70's not to exploit? No seriously, I'd like to know. Okay, it's unlikely, but would it harm the author to investigate farther?
The author, quite rightly, points out that the argument that sectarianism doesn't exist in Dundee is invalid. I feel that the refusal to separate sectarianism within the city and within individuals from sectarianism as displayed in the club you chose to support is another failure of the author.

"It may be retreating into the mists of time, but it’s not rocket science to work out why the
Brigton Derry Boys, Gorgie Derry Boys and Dundee Derry Boys have Celtic, Hibernian and the one-time Dundee Hibernian as their respective arch rivals is it?"

Is it? As he is keen to stress on P & B, Dundee United has done a lot to get away from any possible connotations the reasons for their formation may create. Dundee Hibernian has never, at any point, been an "arch rival" of Dundee. The two clubs have never met in a competitive fixture and at the time of the "Wee Hibs'" run (1909-1923) there were many Dundee teams on the go. Indeed, one of the reasons for Dundee Hibs' demise was the inability to attract the Irish immigrant fans it sought. It is no coincidence that at this time, Dundee FC drew a large proportion of its fans from Lochee- at the time a largely Irish community now part of the city. It seems the author has got his time lines all wrong. Unlike Rangers and maybe Hearts, there was no reactionary stance taken by Dundee due to the formation of Dundee Hibs.
Given what we know about the author's reluctance to report Dundee to the proper authorities it seems bizarre that he'd make this statement:

"Rangers and Celtic have had to be dragged for much of the way by legislation and the threat of sanctions. Dundee, sadly, may need the same “incentive”."

At this point in the article the author becomes contrary and states that he believes there to be "predominantly" no sectarian intentions by the continued use of the word Derry (although the cynic in me thinks that may be a form of legal protection). This revelation seems strange after the assertion there may need to be some sort of authoritative intervention to stop the sectarian sentiment spewed forth by the Dens collective. The accusation that Dundee FC has done little to combat the problem seems odd. The official name of "the Derry" is the South Enclosure and as mentioned, not one Dundee song is sectarian. It begs the question of what the author expects the club to do.

"a club statement accepting its origins and dissuading the support from its continuance."

What was the origin again Hebs? Ah yes, that was never determined. The belief the board of Dundee FC is more enlightened than the lifelong fans who support the club and the assumption that the club is holding on to dark secrets like some secret society conspiring to conceal the ultimate truth is just laughable. The latter part of the author's recommendation holds some water though- should the club distance itself or put pressure on fans to drop the D-word?
It's the startling inconsistencies within the article that frustrates. Here was a great opportunity to graduate from the childish school of thoughts on display in the P & B thread, and have a meaningful discussion on the subject- but that was wasted and instead we just have more of the same. Post no. 5 of the P & B thread is as far as you need to read in that case. Like the P & B thread, the article will achieve the exact opposite of its supposed aims given the poorly researched and condescending voice it adopts. Would the 12th Man have allowed such an article on Celtic or Rangers? It brings to mind a quote from a moderator on P & B:

"All this comes down to is a few smug, self centred individuals thinking they can change the world by, er, taking something on that no-one else gives a fish's tit about.

If these people set about eradicating sectarianism from the areas where there ARE problems, then I'd have much more respect for their actions.

As it is, it's a campaign built on cowardice"


  1. Would be grateful if you'd read posts 2343 and 2341 of the thread on P&B you've linked to.

    The evidence that the article was based on can be found in one of these posts, and the other deals with the fact that the second-hand allegation above is a false one.


  2. Post 2341 is an example of the sort of debate that you should be seeking to encourage. It's an ongoing debate that Dundee fans have been having for some time. What I find repugnant is the blatant re-writing of Dundee's history to try to give credence to your ultimate assertion of the club as a sectarian organisation.
    As for the second hand allegation- if you refute those claims then I accept that. However, it was included in the post above as when you were originally challenged on the subject you did acknowledge the accusation as a half truth but as I said, you played down the severity. I felt it's inclusion was relevant given the subject matter of your article.

  3. Excellent article. I don't fully agree with your concern about how the "Derry" can be misinterpreted, given the behaviour and attitudes of the few people who get worked up about it, but the rest of the article was spot on.

  4. While I acknowledge it is a tiny minority, there are a few Dundee fans who don't do their team or fellow supporters any favours on this issue. I'm thinking particularly of those who took Union Jacks to Celtic Park for last seasons cup tie. It may only have been to "wind up" the Celtic supporters, and carrying a Union Jack doesn't necessarily make you a sectarian bigot, but in my opinion such actions bring undeserved disrepute on the vast majority of decent Dundee fans.

  5. sweep sweep sweep

  6. Late 60's early 70's some Dundee "supporters"decide to ape the cretinous Weedgies and sang the sash at Dens, someone spray painted Derry's Walls on the back of the south enclosure and it became known as the derry. Thankfully this wee chapter came to a swift and inglorious end after a couple of seasons much to the credit of the Dundee fans.
    It was boring then and it's boring now and could easily have swung the other way given that a fairly high proportion of the Dundee support is RC, lapsed or otherwise.