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Slàinte Mhath

Introduction: From an unnamed article in No1 Magazine written by Debbie Voller on 30 May 1987, sent to me by Kristie English:

Fish: "This is pronounced slanj-navah! Everyone says it in Scotland, it means 'cheers, good health!' This is a very Scottish song, about broken dreams, and guys meeting in pubs and going, (adopts very drunken accent) 'Och, if ma wife hadnee left me and ma book hadnee been ripped off, I'd be famous now!' When I write, I like to sit with a drink, read a book, write on a beer mat and doodle at the side. So I'm doing this in Edinburgh and this guy comes over and goes, 'Scuse me! Whatya dooin? Are y' a writer? I'll tell you somethin' to write abooot!' and proceeds to tell me his whole life story. And how he'd been down on his luck! And I wanted to say 'You made a mess of your life, don't blame it on fate,' but instead I just said, 'Cheers, good health!!'"

Jeroen Schipper's FAQ: "Slàinte Mhath means literally 'Good Health' - slàinte translates vaguely as health, 'mhath' is the feminine form of 'math' (pron. "maa"). In Scots Gaelic, we aspirate to make an adjective feminine. Thus the name 'Mairi' (Marie) is given extra feminine emphasis by aspiration - 'Mhairi' (pron. 'Varry'). "

It is a Gaelic word, too, which is where Fish picked it up. Irish, Gaelic (Scottish), and Welsh are all related languages.

Pronounce 'Slàinte Mhath' as Fish does - 'Slanzh'va', and utter it when someone buys you a drink!"


'Drambuie'
A rather pleasant whiskey liqueur type thing.

'Flanders and Bilston Glen'
Flanders is an area around the Belgian city of Brugges. Bilston Glen is a depressed region of Scotland, known for its coal mining industry. Or nowadays, the lack of one. Steve Ross added: "The Bilston Glen area in Lothian also had several large coal mines which were closed by the Thatcher government in the 1980's. Much employment in the area relied on these mines and several violent labour riots occurred at the time of the announced closures."

Darren Moore provided even more detail: "The colliery was the largest employer in the area of Dalkieth where Fish grew up, but specifically, and this always confused me, it's referring to the barbed wire in the song "Flanders and Bilston Glen". In the miners' strikes there was barbed wire fences placed and the picketers stood on one side and the police on the other. So, the lyric is referring to the barbed wires of two battlefields, one in war (Flanders) and one in unrest (Bilston Glen)."

'Clydeside'
The Clyde is the river that runs from Greenock on the West coast of Scotland through to Glasgow. The conurbation of Clydeside, which includes the cities of Glasgow and Clydebank, is the largest ship building and marine engineering centre in Great Britain. To a local, Clydeside is virtually synonymous with the docks and ship building. In the 1940s and 50s, the shipbuilders on the Clyde were amongst the best in the world.

Since the 1960s, the industry has been in dramatic decline, with the attendant problems of high job losses and poverty developing. Successive governments failed to support the industry, despite saying publicly that they would. In the late 1980s, some of Clydeside was redeveloped and now experiences the same issues of gentrification that impacted London's Docklands.


'Firing Line'
One of Fish's most powerful plays on words, 'Firing Line' refers both to Flanders and Bilston Glen\ Clydeside. In the First World War, the trenches were dug about eight feet deep, such that men walking in them would not be visible to the opposing side. Firing Lines were the banks of sandbags upon which the men would stand to enable them to take pot shots against the enemy, until, more often than not, they were cut down by the ferocious machine gun fire. In the more recent context, it refers to the lines of men waiting to see whether they would keep their jobs in the heavy industries, the implication being that the men of the 80s' unemployment lines were no more or less f***ed than their grandparents standing in front of the guns.


Songs with a link have explanations.

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