The Passion of Harry Bingo. (Further dispatches from unreported Scotland) by Peter Ross: Book Review.


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Had it not been for my good friend Tim Maguire I would never have stumbled across this wonderful anthology of odd little stories from the underworld of Scotland.  By underworld I don’t mean seedy, just slightly off the beaten track.

The titular hero is a fan of Partick Thistle. (Glasgow’s third football team – the one that people who don’t support football support – actually you might argue that it’s the one that people who DO support football support, because ‘The Jags” don’t come with the baggage of the Old Firm.)

Harry Bingo is 97 and has supported The Jags since 1945 – his passion.

The stories are written in a peculiar style, impossible to replicate, the best I can describe them tonally is a like like a reverential Scottish Louis Theroux.  I like Theroux, but some of his documentaries are seriously taking the piss out of his oddball cast of characters.  Peter Ross has similarly collected together people that at times could be mocked for their unorthodoxy, but while Ross writes with a twinkle in his eye that never turns into a sneer.

We meet a Sikh Pipe Band, The Burry Man, a man that protects the River Clyde dragging the bodies of the dead ashore, a wall of death rider, a bunch of bitchy (butchy) drag queens, The Naked Rambler, The Clavie King and we visit circuses, poultry shows, sex shops, car boot sales ,The Barrowlands Ballroom and the World Crazy Golf Championships.

Each short story, 5 to 10 pages long, sets up an indelible image, some familiar – most not – of characters that care deeply about something in their life – it may even be their job.

In places it is laugh out loud, but never mockingly, we laugh WITH these wonderful people.  The people that make up the rich tapestry that is Scotland’s culture.

They were all commissioned by Scotland’s leading newspapers, mainly Scotland on Sunday but also The Guardian, The Big Issue, The Times and The Herald.

They are little nuggets of Scottish gold.

Go read.  I have a signed copy!