On a a detour off the picturesque route from Dundee to Glasgow, flanked by peaceful rolling hills and dazzling outcrop of rock, where the A91 meets M80 not too far from Braveheart’s William Wallace’s memorial, a madman with a gun once cut loose.
Thomas Hamilton, then 43, went on a rampage, shooting down 16 children and one teacher in 1996 at a Dunblane school.
The grimness of this contrast to the scenery is matched — only in fiction — by George Orwell’s dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four, which he conceived on Scotland’s island of Jura, gazing at the sunsets and the sea to the waft of whisky distilleries.
Hamilton changed Dunblane, which, in turn, changed the way Great Britain viewed guns. It might also hold some answers as to why this Commonwealth Games’ shooting schedule and the total number of medals of medals on offer seem so thin.
Tucked away at the Barry Buddon Range in Dundee, there were just 19 gold medals on offer, compared to 33 at Delhi. It was bare enough for Indians to reach Glasgow believing that the hosts had conspired to deny them medals in events the Indians monopolised – standard pairs and centre-fire pistol.
India’s 12 medals in pistol from Delhi 2010 were down to 7 this time, including 4 gold from the events dropped by the hosts.
The conspiracy theory will be hard to prove – or disprove – given it is the hosts’ prerogative to decide the events. Scotland even dropped tennis from the Glasgow Games despite the presence of Andy Murray but between Dundee, where the range is located, and Glasgow, there might be answers to Britain’s abhorrence of guns.
Andy Murray was, in fact, at the Dunblane school when Hamilton went beserk. Mother Judy Murray has recently spoken recently about the trauma of rushing to the school, and suffering from a survivor’s guilt long after her two sons had hid in the headmaster’s room and escaped.
“Andy’s class had been on their way to the gym. That’s how close he was to what happened. They heard the noise and someone went ahead to investigate. The kids were told to go to the headmaster’s study,” she told Radio Times this June.
Both boys had, in fact, known Hamilton as he ran boys’ scouts clubs locally at the high school — the family had even given him lifts in their car.
“He was a bit of an odd bod, but I wouldn’t have thought he was dangerous,” she’d told the BBC’s radio service. Murray, himself, had previously recalled “patchy impressions” of the day, “such as being in a classroom singing songs”.
Dr Mick North, a soft-spoken academic, who lost his daughter Sophie that day, has since led efforts in Scotland continued…