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In loving memory of a grand old lady - Short Story by Sandra O'Donnell

This is a short story by Sandra O'Donnell. The story won the first prize in the 500 Words for Falkirk short story competition, and it was published at the Firewords Magazine - Issue 14

She moved. Not in a graceful, elegant way. She didn’t glide or slide or gently bend in the slightest breeze; despite her grand age she didn’t shuffle slowly towards taking her final bow or rest quietly in a corner patiently waiting for the end.

Instead, she moved hard in a way bricks and mortar and beams of ageing timber shouldn’t really move; with a deep growl and a shuddering that rose from the ground, shook the turf and rattled the rafters.

Rumbling, ranting, rocking...

And she groaned. Loudly, while exhaling pungent fumes of Ralgex and beefy Bovril, Embassy Regal and artificial pine toilet cleaner desperately attempting yet failing miserably to mask the whiff of stale piss and puke.

When she roared, it was with the hopes and dreams of every Falkirk bairn within her.

But all too often she slumped, defeated, broken and undone, she hurt so badly that not even a pint, a chaser and post-mortem in Elliots could soothe her wounds.

She was adored but she wasn’t classically beautiful; her features more honed from the industrial graft of the town than a delicate country lady or New Town well-heeled mistress. But for those who stood on her crumbling terraces or diced with danger in her wooden stand, peering through cracks in the floorboards to see the shiny domes and bobble hats below, she was a grand old lady, a sweetheart, the motherland, the apple of their eye.

Of course, she’s gone now, replaced by aisle upon aisle of special offers and parking spaces. Simon smiles as the tills sing and ghostly faces check out loaded trolleys and carrier bags. Somewhere in the car park is the centre spot, the Hope Street terrace, the pie hut, the enclosure. The heart tugs as the bags are packed and memories flood back.

Nothing lasts forever. Time marches on.

Now, when Saturday comes, or if television dictates, Friday night, or Tuesday or Wednesday at 7.45pm after adverts for betting and takeaway pizza, the steel and concrete and the plastic seats have been known to move too.

The roar can still be heard when the whistle blows. Born in Brockville, it sweeps over Grahamston Station, thunders over land where iron was forged, greyhounds raced and pints sunk, skims the fringes of Fir Park to thumb its nose at the Shire and whistles across Victoria Park, where grand iron gates once stood and the memorial fountain no longer runs.

As Grangemouth looms it swerves like Crunchie on a run down the wing, swoops through the gaps in the iron turnstiles, climbs the concrete stairs and, in a tidal wave that began in 1876 and carries the voices and hopes of every generation of Falkirk Bairns, rattles the roof and shakes every blade of artificial grass…

Come on, it thunders, come on ye Bairns! 

A few words about the author: Sandra O'Donnell has lived in Falkirk for almost her entire life, much of it as a rather despondent Falkirk FC supporter. Having ignored her English teacher's advice to pursue a career in teaching, she opted for journalism and spent the next 40 years telling other people's stories for newspapers under her by-line, Sandra Dick. She is delighted to have won the 500 Words for Falkirk competition with her first piece of creative writing since leaving school. 

You may order your own copy of the Firewords magazine here: https://firewords.co.uk/

To read more stories from the 500 Words for Falkirk competition visit the Firewords blog


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  • References & Bibliography

Artwork by Dan Burgess

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