Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Skating Minister

Raeburn's masterpiece
Fantasy Bob has learned of tensions within the authorities at the go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton over the participation in this week’s imaginative scheme to project the nation’s best loved art works onto notable landmarks.

There was no disagreement that the club’s Grange Loan HQ is deservedly recognised as a significant landmark and, alongside such lesser sites as the Glasgow Concert Hall and Lincoln Cathedral, would be an appropriate site for such decoration.

It is there that the agreement stopped. For it was suggested to the club that the painting to be projected might be Sir Henry Raeburn’s iconic masterpiece Fantasy Bob Skating on Duddingston Loch.

The discussion got off to a bad start when the Doughty Groundsman expressed the trenchant view that to compare the ground to Duddingston Loch failed to reflect his sterling work at mopping up after the wettest season in the club’s history. He was sure that the artistic experts could find suitable works depicting Stakhanovite figures driving tractors or pushing mowers which would be more in mood with the surroundings. The DG’s views were duly noted.

A work to please the DG
But then the discussion became more heated. A significant group suggested that the club could not accept this painting due to the controversy over its attribution. For it is a matter of hot dispute in the art world as to whether this painting is genuinely the work of Sir Henry Raeburn, Scotland’s greatest portrait painter, or the work of a French artist, Henri-Pierre Danloux, who is believed to have been in Edinburgh in the 1790s, at the time of the painting's creation.

After several hours energetic discussion, the majority opinion was that the attribution to Raeburn, while controversial, remained sound. Above all there is no indication that M Danloux understood anything about cricket. While cricket is disappointingly not a major subject within Raeburn’s oeuvre, it was noted that his estate in Stockbridge once contained the land that is now Edinburgh Accies' ground and the Citlylets Grange home to Scotland and the Grange Club itself. This was compelling evidence in favour of Raeburn.

But there was more disagreement as to whether it is genuinely a picture of Fantasy Bob. Some present suggested that while FB’s propensity for skating on thin ice had often been witnessed, most particularly in his presentation of himself as an opening batsman for the All Star 4th XI, he had never been seen in such an elegant pose as displayed in the picture. Others were sceptical that FB had been around at the time the painting was made, although the club’s scorebooks failed to provide evidence one way or the other. A final clinching argument was made that the club did not need any more controversies around misattribution and FB. Close inspection of the scorebooks had seen many leg byes, byes and wides being erroneously attributed to him rather than the extras column.

The club therefore decided, with some sadness, to decline participation in the scheme.


  1. The DG tells me that if he had the slightest clue what Stakhannovite meant, he might be able to comment!

    He agrees, however, with the general sentiment that the work of groundskeepers up and down the country receives insufficient recognition.

    He has absolutely no quarrel on that score with the go ahead Edinburgh club; but he does note that the recent rehash of the 'national' website (cauld kale het up as my granny would have said) makes no mention of this important aspect if the game.

    He also notes that the 'volunteer of the month' (what a ludicrous concept anyway) last year made no recognition of the many hours of volunteer labour put in on numerous grounds.

    1. FB is surprised that the DG pretends to be unfamiliar with the Stakhanovite movement which originated in Stalinist Russia where groundsmen overachieved exacting wicket preparation targets through heroic hard work.

      FB fears the DG may be over critical of the national website which as well as featuring a piece by FB now contains a full description of the travails of one of the DG's colleagues - This piece confirms that the Stakhanovite movement did not die with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

  2. Apparently the term Stakhanovite refers to Soviet workers who regularly exceeded their production quotas and subsequently became the subject of government propaganda. Whether this applies to FB bowling a lengthy uphill spell into the wind is anyone's guess.

    1. While FB's efforts up the hill against the wind may rightly be regarded as Stakhanovite, he has yet to notice them being the subject of Government propaganda.

  3. The DG apologises to FB for failing to mention his own contribution - the one bright light in an otherwise uninspiring collection.

    He also thanks FB for drawing his attention to the recent addition to the national website. It wasn't there the last time he looked - yesterday. Certainly an amusing piece; but hardly a serious contribution to recognising and supporting the work of grounds people.

    1. A Stakhanovite effort would seem to be required to satisfy the DG's expectations.

    2. Sadly the DG's expectations are met.