All of the science fiction books I have ever read have taught me that we all have doppelgangers. I haven’t read a lot of sci-fi books and maybe should read ones that don’t mention doppelgangers. However, the story of us all having a double that somehow lives a parallel life to ours is one that interests me. That, and time machines, but that’s for another blog. Maybe that person takes the risks in life that we are too afraid to make, maybe their grass is really greener and maybe their hair is not greying rapidly and their reading spectacles are not defunct after six months, not upgraded to the next strength as the written word seems to be moving farther away from their eyes. Maybe. Maybe not.
I was sitting in a library one day, flicking through books in the reference section. It was before the internet had taken over the world and I was doing some hard-copy study on a long-forgotten project but I was about to encounter my grandfather’s doppelganger. My pap, a quaint Northampton term for grandfather that, to my knowledge, has failed to root itself anywhere else in the world, was still alive but an old man. I was in the Northampton Central Library, a wonderful Victorian building that has nearly as much wood and marble as it has books, and it has a lot of books. I was stumped, or bored, probably both. I wandered through the hallowed aisles and found myself at the Sports Section. I was drawn to a history of Scottish Football. I am half-Scottish, love football and history and took the book to a reading desk. I flicked through the glossy pages and black and white pictures of long-dead Scotsmen, images of granite men with granite stares and thick slicked hair. Their doppelgangers would be the miners of the Lanarkshire coal fields or the Dockers hewn from the Cambuslang Clydeside steelworks. Looking imperiously from the past, they dared me to smell their strong liniment and hear their stronger accents. Lost in the past I was suddenly thrown back into the present. There, stuck in the pages of the book, was my Pap Kerr – looking a few years younger than he did at the time but unmistakably him. Confusion took over from shock. The old picture was from Glasgow Rangers 1929-30 all-conquering season. My Pap Kerr would’ve been nine in 1930, but here he was, a man of 35 maybe, staring at me, daring my brain to swivel around in my head. It obliged. It had barely stopped swivelling when I glanced at the team line-up and saw J.Kerr (Trainer) listed as the smart-dressed man in the top left of the picture. I think the modern day equivalent would be to text WTF? I mouthed the words of the acronym, anyway.
I returned to my pap’s bungalow with a photocopy of the picture. He would answer all my questions. He was my pap. This guy not only looked just like him, no, exactly like him, but he had our surname. Now I knew it wouldn’t be his father as Kerr was his mother’s maiden name, my pap being her illegitimate son, born in 1921 on her 21st birthday as if to rub salt into a societal wound. I didn’t and still don’t know the identity of my paternal great-grandfather. For a man who loves the reference section of libraries, who now spends hours on the internet entertaining himself with obscure facts, trivia and knowledge, this was anathema to me. I had to know who this man was.
“Well, bugger I,” was my pap’s only response.
Disappointing to say the least. I loved him too much to push him on what was a painful childhood that had spawned a rueful and reflective grandfather. I had a hundred questions I wanted to fire at him but kept my powder dry. Not the first illegitimate child ever to grace a family but this one was my pap. I kept my counsel and he sadly died a few years later.
With the advent of the internet this picture popped up on my screen many years later. The men in the line-up were now younger than me, including, J.Kerr (Trainer). Many hours of investigation into my family tree have so far been unable to pick this fruit. It hangs in front of me waiting to harvest. The same surname, the same geographical location, the exact features. I simply have nothing to link him to us.
Why should it matter? I suppose it doesn’t really. Pap Kerr and J.Kerr (Trainer) are both long gone and exist only in glossy picture histories, photo albums and family reminiscences. Whilst not strictly doppelgangers they do fulfil the criteria of exact doubles leading separate lives, though their timelines are slightly out of kilter. Maybe that time machine I mentioned for another blog would come in fairly handy right now!
My father was an excellent footballer who played semi-professionally, me a mere gifted amateur, my boys more X-Box than X-rated tackle. It seems that if we are related to the Rangers trainer in their all-conquering 1929-30 season then the family tree has been severely pruned.
One interesting fact did come up from my internet search. Patsy Gallacher, Irish and Glasgow Celtic footballing legend of the 1920’s (pap of Kevin Gallacher, ex-Blackburn Rovers, all you footy lovers) had some of his medals sold at auction about 10 years ago. One of them, a Scottish Cup Winners medal, won in 1923, was gifted to one J.Kerr (Trainer) for Gallacher’s appreciation in Kerr’s help in recovering from a severe leg injury. I like the fact that the fiercely Catholic and Protestant clubs were at least exchanging gifts and goodwill in a time that I have been brought up to believe consisted of nothing more than knife fights and bile. Of course I know only the story behind the medal, little else of J.Kerr (Trainer), save for a black and white photo which still makes me wonder and smile. I like the fact that he was a coach, still teaching after all these years.