Scotland v England, 1990

13 – An anthem is born as we win the Grand Slam

March 17, 1990

IF ever a moment stirred a Scottish heart, then Murrayfield 1990 would be one…or two…or three of those moments.

It was a glorious victory and started what has become a Scottish tradition.

Taken purely as a sporting spectacle, Scotland captain David Sole marching (instead of the usual jogging) his men out of the tunnel would cause any heart stamped with a Lion Rampant to swell with pride.

It was classy, it showed steely intent and it brought a lump to the throat.

You knew right then that they were going to win!

It was a close-run thing, though.

It was thrilling and tough. A true-grit victory against a very good team. The Grand Slam is a rare occurrence for Scotland – we’ve not done it since.

Scotland won the match 13-7 (David Cannon/Allsport)
Scotland won the match 13-7 (David Cannon/Allsport)

The fact that the opposition captain was Will Carling, who somehow always managed to rub us up the wrong way just by being very Englishly English (good rugby player, though), only added to the euphoria.

And, somehow, the imposition of the Poll Tax upon Scotland that year – Margaret Thatcher’s most hated policy – had been injected into the build-up by a disgruntled Scottish press.

To make matters worse, a few months earlier English football thugs had for the first time travelled to Hampden Park in great numbers. The ensuing pitched battle outside the stadium had resulted in the age-old yearly fixture being banned.

The nation was restless.

We felt hard done by. We wanted to take out our anger on someone.

And then the crowd sang Flower of Scotland.

The stadium sang it with gusto. The players held their heads high and belted it out.

Murrayfield, in those days, was largely all-standing. There was no roof over the terraces to reflect the sound but anyone will tell you that didn’t matter. Shivers slid down every spine.

You might say Scotland would have won that day with or without the song.

But the passion rolling off the terraces, especially during that rendition of Flower of

Scotland, can only have helped.

Of such stuff, legends are made.

This was the first time Flower of Scotland had been used to such startling effect. It had been growing in Scottish public consciousness since Roy Williamson of The Corries wrote it in 1967 and is now our unofficial national anthem. The football team adopted it in 1997.

The lyrics refer to Robert the Bruce’s 1-0 home win over the English King Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

It appeared in the right place at the right time. With the rise in Scottish patriotic feeling over the past 40 years, a rousing but easy-to-sing lyric, telling of a celebrated historical event was always likely to find favour.

Detractors label it a mournful dirge but when sung by thousands of voices, for instance at the Commonwealth Games, it is powerful and inspiring.

It has become the sound of Scotland.