Commonwealth Games: Alex Marshall looks back at doing the ‘Tattie’

Alex Marshall practises at Gold Coast in Australia
Alex Marshall practises at Gold Coast in Australia
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For a while after Glasgow 2014, the “Tattie” was a thing. Bit like the Mobot. Or the Lightning Bolt. A “get it up ye type of thing”, Alex Marshall says.

A gesture following a lawn bowls semi-final victory over England at the last Commonwealth Games captured the imagination of the Scottish public, earning the East Lothian lawn bowler an unexpected dollop of fame and notoriety in equal measures.

“But you know what? I actually got reprimanded from the bosses at Team Scotland for about that,” the now-51-year-old reveals. “It wasn’t directed at a single person. It was more or less a release in pressure because I played two of my best shots. I’ll probably never do that again in my life.

“You know some people do say that bowls is boring then you know you’ve got to celebrate. It’s like football when these guys score a goal in the last minute. You know it’s two shots that I drew that I’ll probably never do again. But you’ve got to celebrate some kind of way.”

Four years on, its legend lives on. “I still get people coming up, asking me for a selfie in the street, but you know, with that gesture.”

He’ll merrily risk the wrath of Caledonia’s behavioural prefects if he managed to add to a list of significant accomplishments that includes an extraordinary 19 world titles in addition to the four Commonwealth golds in his cabinet as competition at the Games begins this morning.

A fixture in the upper reaches of his sport for over a quarter-century, he has arrived keen to defend two crowns on the Gold Coast, both in the fours and in the pairs where he will again link up with Paul Foster.

The duo remain ferocious apart and in unison. “He’s the best lead throw in the world,” Marshall says. “He’s always gets it done in the end.” Better still, he adds, they are friends first, team-mates second. “You get good camaraderie as well, with the two of us. We know each other’s games inside out. And I think that’s a big factor.”

Having started out on the greens at eight years young, many of his rivals are now closer in age to the Marshall of then than now, a tribute to longevity but also hunger. Despite losing in the first round of the recent world championships – “I wasn’t well, to be fair, with a terrible flu” – he has ceded none of the self-confidence that has spirited him this far.

“I just get more determined as the older I get because there’s so many good youngsters that are coming up behind us and I think that just keeps me on my toes,” he affirms. “I just always want to just compete at the highest level, but yeah it’s just hard work. You know my mind’s always focused on the job ahead and just trying, as I say, play at the highest level for as long as I can.”

Yet with bowls about to gain one of its occasional supra-normal exposure to a wider audience, he concedes that the concept of a young pup emerging to punk one of the old hands would do the image of the game no harm. It is still easy to lean on the portrait of a granny, tea and biscuits on the tray, tuning into BBC2 of a weekday afternoon as either the action or dulcet tones of Dougie Donnelly tempt her away from a nap.

“Yes,” Marshall concedes, “it’s always been tagged as an old man’s game.” But no longer, he insists, with a vibrant development programme luring teens into the fray. “You know it’s been a project, when I got back after Glasgow, the Commonwealth Games, I went back to all the schools in East Lothian and just gave them a talk about my background and the sport, and how I’ve achieved what I’ve achieved today, type of thing.”

They had 100 youngsters come through the doors of his local a few weeks later. The power of success. The potency of brand recognition. Testimony to the lure of the Tattie. “Yeah it’s very important that you try to get kids involved in the sport because then, it’s got a future.”