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The Thistle and the Grail
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Classic Fiction, Fiction
Publication Date
30 April 2006
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Birlinn Limited

The Thistle and the Grail

by Robin Jenkins - Find out more about the author

‘His persistent creativity for a half-century makes this Scottish writer worthy of the greatest respect throughout the English-language world.’ – Paul Binding, Guardian

‘Let me alert everyone to the best-kept secret in modern British literature . . . if you are interested in books that are humane and wise, not slick and cynical; then treat yourself this year to some Robin Jenkins.’ – Andrew Marr

‘Many people can produce a novel, but very few are authentic writers whose sentences and paragraphs give intrinsic pleasure. Jenkins is one of them.’ – J. B. Pick

‘Jenkins [is] a remarkable writer whose gentlest touch induces the greatest of pleasures.’ – The Times

The Thistle is the unlucky local football team of Drumsagart, a drab industrial town in Lanarkshire. Cursed with poverty, an ineffective president and a string of defeats, the Thistle players are running low on morale, especially when so many people are against them, including the devious local policeman, the idealistic and sanctimonious new minister and sometimes their own wives. Despite their dismal prospects the team cling to the beautiful game as a last hope and dream. And, when they begin to win, a momentum springs up in their community as they soon come to represent ambition and hope. The Holy Grail of football, the Scottish Junior Cup, glitters at the end of a string of matches and suddenly the entire town of Drumsagart is depending on it.

This edition includes an introduction by Harry Reid, former sportswriter and editor of The Herald, who is also the author of Outside Verdict and The Final Whistle? Scottish Football: The Best and Worst of Times.

John Robin Jenkins was born in 1912, one of four children, in the village of Flemington, near Cambuslang. He studied English at the University of Glasgow. When World War II broke out, he registered as a conscientious objector and was directed to work for the Forestry Commission; he used this experience in the acclaimed novel, The Cone Gatherers. In 1957, he moved abroad to work in Spain, Afghanistan and Malaysia. In 1968, he settled in Dunoon where he remained for the rest of his life. In 2002 he received the Saltire Society’s Award for Lifetime Achievement. He died in 2005.                     


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