“The MacPeever Wrangles: Over The Football Match”

reading between the lines

This story is part of the popular series by A.P. Macdonald. It was originally published in “The People’s Friend” in 1906.

It was early on Saturday afternoon, in a lot of places, of course, but about the Dumbarton Road, in Partick, in particular.

Colin MacPeever glanced feverishly at the clock for at least the fiftieth time that day, and fidgeted in ratio.

He was a football enthusiast, and Mrs MacPeever was a conscientious objector. So there was always wordy war between them before he was allowed to escape to the match.

As there was no way of doing the thing secretively, he pulled on his stoutest boots with brazen ostentation, and laced them with a determined air.

He even fetched his overcoat in from the lobby, and struggled into it in her full view. (Not that she looked up once during the operation).

As a final act of aggression, he donned his very latest cap of assertive pattern and with sportive scoop, and then — he quailed.

For his indifference was painfully laboured when he remarked —

“Weel then, Jean, I’m goin’ oot.”

Mrs MacPeever glanced at his obviously outgoing toggery with assumed surprise.

“If ye hadna telled me that,” she commented ironically, “I’d ha’e concluded ye were goin’ to bed wi’ your overcoat and buits on.”

MacPeever sat doggedly down on the edge of the table to fight it out. He preferred to have his passport, her gracious permission, for his own peace of mind.

But he realised that a piece of her mind was unavoidable as a preliminary.

“Can a man no’ get a braith o’ fresh air withoot bein’ subjected to sarcasm?” he demanded plaintively.

“Does a man need to put on his buits to breathe wi’?” she countered austerely.

“I was half-thinkin’ o’ takin’ a guid lang country walk,” he explained artlessly. “Ye can expect me back —”

“I’ll expect ye back when I see ye — after the fitba’ match. Ye’ll observe I ken the other half o’ what ye were thinkin’?

“Ye’re goin’ to tak’ a guid lang country walk the len’th o’ Meedowside Park, ten meenits awa’ — if ye dinna tak’ the caur.”

“Noo that ye’ve put in into ma heid, Jean,” placated Mr MacPeever jocosely, “there’s nay sayin’ but what I micht drap in and see the fitba’, casual like.”

“I can tell ye the kind of casualty it’ll be like, too,” she informed him acidly. “Ye’ll be trampled to daith some day, and maybe get your claes torn forbye, wrestlin’ wi’ a horde o’ wastrels like yoursel’ to get jammed through the turnstiles in time for the kick-aff.”

“Tuts, woman,” argued Colin genially, “that’s whaur the sport o’ the thing comes in. What aboot yoursel’ when the summer sales are on? Ma certie! Talk aboot ye bein’ the weaker vessel,” — (which she had no intention of doing apparently) — “and belangin’ to the gentle sex.

“‘Mph! There, ever in the forefront o’ the battle, ye’ll see Jean MacPeever grabbin’ at a flee-blawn blouse or sic-like (marked doon, I suppose frae two shillin’s to four and eleven-three), and literally tearin’ it oot o’ the clutch o’ a still weaker vessel than hersel’.

“Guid siller thrown awa’ for rubbish in the fierce joys o’ pheesical conflict and moral victory.

“Noo, at a fitba’ match, on the ither hand, ye get value for your money in healthy excitement without —”

“Ay, I mind the excitement we got aboot your health when ye took that chill on the lover watchin’ the cup-ties—”

“Havers, Jean! There as nae chill aboot it. Ma illness was unqualified liver pure and simple. I traced the whole affair back to its very footain-heed at the time.

“Its primeval source was undoubtedly that dish o’ dressed tripe I swallowed to please ye.”

“I noticed at the time that ye left nane o’t to please onybody else. But that was five lang weeks afore your unqualified liver pure and simple cried alood for first aid to the injured.”

“For five solid weeks, Jean, ma iron constitution, inveegorated and sustained by the qualifyin’ cup-ties, grappled wi’ the deidly effects o’ that tripe.

“Slowly but surely the inseedious poison was workin’ in ma system. Then cam’ the black week o’ frost when fitba’ was impossible; I missed ma match, and naiturally succumbed in the unequal strife!”

“Colin MacPeever, I heard ye tellin’ the doctor no’ to blame the fitba’ whatever he did.

“If he wud diagnose it as some kin’ o’ stomach trouble ye wud be vastly obleeged to him, and, if he had to mak’ ony references to chill and exposure, wud he kindly refer to them in the oreeginal Greek or Latin, so as to spare the wife’s feelin’s.

“And I can further remind ye that ye took ill the very evenin’ efter one o’ thae eternal cup finals —”

“Jean Rattray! I rise to a p’int o’ order.”

MacPeever, who had been appalled at the foregoing unexpected disclosure of his guilt, rose from the edge of the table and sidled in the direction of the door as he made his technical correction.

Time was wearing on.

Here’s a little bonus — a video of Illustrations Editor Manon creating the fantastic design for this story!


“There’s nae eternity aboot a cup final. That deplorable fact I grieve to state, for I’ve often wished it had an ambrosial flavour o’ perpetuity.

“But, alas, as the poet says aboot it, it’s ‘Like the snowflake on the river, a moment seen, then lost for ever.'”

“Awa’ ye go then to your snowflakes,” said Mrs MacPeever scornfully. “And if ye get anither chill on your liver wi’ them ye can think up some poetry aboot dressed tripe. I’ll no’ seek to interfere wi’ your fitba’ revels.”

“Ye needna, guidwife. Ony misguided attempt o’ the kind’s foredoomed to failure.

“I’ll dae mony a thing for ye — for the sake o’ peace. I’ll defer to your inferior wisdom — as lang’s I can defer it.

“I’ll gi’e in to ye on maist p’ints — of ye dinna press them in. I’d cheerfully lay doon ma life on your account — samplin’ your experimeental cookery and so forth.

“And as I’ve let ye keep the purse in life, I’ll no’ object to ye tourin’ roond the bargain sales wi’ ma insurance money — when I’m deid.

“I’ve even gone the len’th o’ wearin’ a pair o’ troosers ye made for me wi’ your ain fair hands in oor strugglin’ days — and further than that the love o’ man for woman canna go. But when it comes to fitba’ —”

The door swung violently open at this moment, and Mrs MacPeever’s brother William, from her native city, Dundee, burst in, and finished MacPeever’s oration for him.

“When it comes to fitba’, Colin, it’s ‘Up wi’ the Bonnets o’ Bonnie Dundee.'”

Will Rattray lilted the musical part of his sentence jubilantly. Had he not followed his team south for the special purpose of being exuberant about them in their League combat with Partick Thistle!

Mrs MacPeever welcomed him with a radiant smile, switched on at a voltage that was both delightful and surprising after her husband’s diatribe.

MacPeever hailed his brother-in-law with equal joy.

“It’s up wi’ the bonnets, d’ye say?” he chaffed good humouredly.

“I’m raither inclined to say it’s a’ up wi’ them, for this day, ony wey, Will Rattray.

“They’ve got the Jags against them ye’ll mind. Hooever, we’ll ken a’ aboot it when the match is played.”

“If ye dinna look shairp and get awa’,” intervened Mrs MacPeever quite agreeably, notwithstanding the topic of conversation, “I’m thinkin’ the match’ll be played withoot ye.

“I’ll ha’e your teas ready for ye when ye get back.”

Thus generously did Jean drop the football argument for the time being.

“As a maitter o’ fact, Will,” supplemented Mr MacPeever discreetly, “I was just kind o’ hoverin’ on waitin’ on ye.

“I kent ye wudna miss the match if ye could win awa’. I was sayin’ as much to Jean there.”

From which statement it would appear that the dialogue  previously reported is, at best, fragmentary.

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Iain McDonald

Iain is Digital Content Editor at the "Friend", making him responsible for managing flow of interesting and entertaining content on the magazine's website and social media channels.