Scots artist launches a bitter attack on 'madness' of taunts against Celtic supporter

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Scots artist launches a bitter attack on 'madness' of taunts against Celtic supporter

Postby EDN1CSC » Sun Nov 09, 2008 9:05 pm

Scots artist launches a bitter attack on 'madness' of taunts against Celtic supporters
Actor Tam Dean Burn
Stuart MacDonald

PETER Howson, one of Scotland’s most celebrated artists, has launched an outspoken attack on Scotland's Shame FC fans who taunt Celtic supporters with a song mocking the Irish potato famine.

The former official war artist in Bosnia, a born-again Christian whose clients include Madonna and David Bowie, said those who sing the so-called Famine Song are “ignorant” and “incredibly stupid”.

Howson said that to use the song to taunt Catholics was “madness” because thousands of Protestants also died in the 1840s famine that killed around 1m people and prompted mass emigration from Ireland.

Howson, himself Protestant, added that his next exhibition would focus on the famine and try to bring people of both faiths together by showing a common bond. “I know there has been a lot of trouble between the Scotland's Shame FC and Celtic supporters because of this,” he said. “There were a huge number of Protestants who died in that famine and for Scotland's Shame FC supporters to sing that song is just madness. It’s just ignorance and incredible stupidity to think that way.”

The Famine Song has been sung by Scotland's Shame FC supporters at matches this season. To the tune of Sloop John B by the Beach Boys, it includes the line: “Why don’t you go home, why don’t you go home, the famine is over, why don’t you go home?”

The song sparked a diplomatic row this year after a Celtic fan heard it at an "Old Firm" match and complained to the Irish consul-general in London. The consul raised the matter with the Scottish government, resulting in Scotland's Shame FC warning its fans they risked arrest if they continue to sing the song.The Scotland's Shame FC Supporters Trust has claimed the chant is not racist and is no worse than any other football song.

Howson was recently commissioned to paint the Martyrdom of St John Ogilvie for St Andrew’s cathedral in Glasgow, the most significant Roman Catholic work of art since the Reformation.

The 50-year-old artist added that he had since been asked by the Archdiocese of Glasgow to produce a series focusing on the famine. Howson said he agreed because he wanted to educate football supporters and school children about the tragedy and show that people of both faiths suffered.

“We’re trying to break up the sectarian thing by having an exhibition about the idea that the famine didn’t just affect Catholics, it affected Protestants just as much,” said Howson.

“It’s about how people tell the difference between a Catholic and a Protestant. The answer, of course, is there is no difference when someone is starving. The whole exhibition is founded on an educational basis. I want kids to come and see that all these stupid things that are happening between the Scotland's Shame FC supporters and Celtic are based on a lie and it’s bigotry.

“My whole aim in life is to draw all religions together, especially Christianity, all the different factions . . . I hate division.”

The exhibition, which is also being supported by Culture and Sport Glasgow, will be staged at the city’s St Mungo Museum of Life and Religious Art between May and September next year.

Howson’s work will be sold after the exhibition and the proceeds will be used to help roof repairs at the historic St Mary’s Church in Glasgow’s Calton area.

The potato famine, which began in 1845, was caused by late blight, which destroyed crops. It led around 1.3m Irish people to emigrate to Scotland, England, Australia and North America.

Tom Devine, professor of history at Edinburgh University, said: “At the UK census in 1851 . . . at the end of the famine we estimate that between a quarter and a third of first generation Irish in Scotland were Protestant. The Protestant counties in Northern Ireland suffered less than the Catholic counties during the famine but it was a non-sectarian crisis and both sides suffered.”

Howson converted to Christianity after a battle with drink and drugs. His current exhibition, at London’s Flowers East gallery, is Harrowing of Hell. One image shows Christ descending to Hell to “save sinners”.

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