This evening I learned of the passing of Jock Scot. Jock was a poet, raconteur and all round charming man. I don’t claim to have been a great friend of his, but I knew Jock on and off for the best part of two decades having met him while doing work experience at the Idler in the late 90s when I was 21. I immediately remembered some of the times I spent in his company, and every memory is accompanied by a belly laugh quickly followed by a deep sense of sadness that I won’t ever see him again.
Back in 2003 I was working on a book called Crap Towns with Sam Jordison that went on to sell rather well the following year. The planned follow-up was a travel book around some of the worst places to live in Britain featured in the book. The three week trip Sam and I went on was completed before the first book became a success and in the end the publisher decided to do a sequel instead of the travelogue, which was never published.
The trip included a few days in Edinburgh with Jock. In a forgotten folder on my hard drive I found a few hundred words from the book that produced a big smile on my face.
He was a great man and will be sorely missed.
6th June 2003
We drove on towards Edinburgh. As we neared the border the adrenaline running through my body took me by surprise. I’d never been over the border before. I felt suddenly nervous so I texted my brother, who is such a passionate Southerner that he’s found the farthest point South possible to live while still, technically, being in Britain — Jersey. He texted back a single word, which didn’t help, ‘Traitor’.
We were aiming to meet Idler contributor, poet and professional rabble rouser, Jock Scot in Edinburgh. Jock, writing under the pseudonym Stewart Enquiry, is the Idler’s racing correspondent. I rang his sister, Faye, who he was staying with and she pointed us in the direction of Musselburgh racecourse a few miles out of the city. Jock was with Kevin Williamson (founder of Rebel Inc), spending a day at the races. He was sure to be losing money so Sam put his foot, hard, on the accelerator.
Jock’s one of those people that would be a celebrity, in the old sense of the word when it meant something, if only he had something to sell. But because Jock had nothing to sell he just lived. And boy did he live.
One of my jobs, when I first started doing work experience at the Idler, was to type out Jock’s column. He would arrive at the office looking immaculate with racing ‘binos’ round his neck. Tom would immediately furnish him with a glass of absinthe and Gav would pull up his chair for Jock to rest his feet on. For the next half an hour Jock would tell his latest racing adventures while I tapped furiously away at my keyboard. Every now and then he would stand up and peer over my shoulder and point out my numerous spelling mistakes. ‘No, no, it’s not crack, it’s c-r-a-i-c’.
Tom told me once how he’d overheard Jock in a bar after someone had asked him what he did for a job. Jock had replied
‘A job? I havne time for a job! I’m reading the greats! James Joyce and Dylan Thomas! There’s ne even time for me ta read the books I want to read, never mind time for me ta have a job! Are ye mad?’
Sam asked where Jock was likely to be and I replied without thinking, ‘Where’s the bar?’ Sure enough, as we walked through the door I heard a familiar voice behind me, ‘Dan! Aha, Stewart Enquiry here. You made it! I’m losing all me money.’ I handed Jock fifty English notes, (the fee for his latest Idler column). He tipped his hat, looked down at the money and frowned. ‘English? No, no that won’t do. Let’s spend ’em quick.’ He waved his handful of notes in the air and proclaimed ‘Four pints of Tennants please barman’.
Knowing Jock’s track record I completely ignored his tip for the next race and decided to follow Kevin’s lead instead. Kevin opted for Cosmic Case so I followed suit. Sam went with Jock and backed Land of Green and Gold. I tried to tell him, I really did.
They were off. I didn’t have a clue what colours my Jockey was wearing. I took my cue from Kevin who was a picture of composure. Halfway round the course Cosmic Case was way back behind Special Branch who’d gone at least five lengths ahead. I was nervous and muttered my fears but Jock grabbed my shoulder and put my mind at ease, ‘she’ll never hold it, won’t last the course’ sure enough Special Branch was gradually hauled back into the pack. As they came round the last bend there were four horses neck and neck. They approached the finish and right on cue Cosmic Case got half a yard ahead and took it, by a head, on the line. Kevin was filming the final stages of the race on his camera as a contented grin swept over his face, ‘Cosmic Case, you beauty!’ I couldn’t believe that I’d won twenty quid. I smiled and patted Jock on the back who was already walking back in the direction of the bar, calling as he went, ‘Barman! Could you oblige us with another four pints of Tennants.’
We spent the next day getting a guided tour of Edinburgh but I’ve lost my notes. Although I do remember Jock introducing Sam and I to a packed bar as ‘his nephews’, which meant our money stayed in our pockets and our glasses were full for the rest of the night.