Malaga to Caithness: return of the Mackem Diaspora

Gerry McGregor's shrine



Salut! Sunderland always takes pleasure in drawing readers’ attention to other corners of the web where the passion for matters Sunderland can be fuelled.

Some will recall the fascinating Mackem Diaspora series – click here if you missed it – in which Sunderland supporters scattered around the world, from all part of the British Isles to far-off places, gave their potted life stories.

One of those who contributed was Gerry McGregor, who lives as far north as it is possible to go on the UK mainland without falling into the sea.

Well Gerry gone a step further. No, not the northerly one that would get him a bit wet; he’s created a blog, SAFC in Exile. It can be seen at this link, though there is an excellent gallery of photos at Gerry’s other site

I invited Gerry to explain his new venture:

“I thought it would be interesting for Mackems to read a blog from a supporter who has spent most of his life away from Sunderland. I left there when I was 11, in 1963, and moved to Scotland. My Dad was not great at going to games so I never went while living in Sunderland.

Now I am living so far away back in the Far North of Scotland, to go a match would take me a three days round trip, so my ventures to Sunderland are very few. My views are what I get from internet, watching games online, reporters & fans views on Twitter & email lists like Blackcats. Living in Scotland we don’t get the same papers as you do, most are Scottish editions and so Scottish football.

I do always feel as if I have come home when I go to a game. I know where my heart is and always will be, no matter how much I love where I am living. All my writings are made out of love of the club, the team and the area. I hope that my blog makes a little sense and that you do enjoy it.”

And then there’s Kevin Spencer, who dropped me a line after a game we’d both attended – the Villa home match – without meeting. He knows Pete Sixsmith well and was responding to Sixer’s arm-twisting attempts to get him to write about an encoutner with the Malaga Mackems (link here).

Here goes:

Vamos Sunderland

During the last 10 months or so diverse locations and unfavourable local kick-off times when in places as Tenerife, New York, Melbourne, Sydney, Hong Kong and more recently Malaga have added to my experiences of being a Sunderland supporter.

True to her word (she says it’s all based on cheap flights!) the old girl organises another little trip away that clashes with a school holiday and a planned match but I’ll be honest it’s almost like going to a new away ground and I’m loving it.

After my own Arsenal match arrangements went pear shaped (long story but I ended up in the Gooners end) a little bit of research was done before the flight to Malaga; where to watch the Bolton match? Rather than drop into any old sports bar I like to meet up with true supporters wherever I go and this one was an easy internet search really as the “Malaga Mackems” was one of the first hits. The branch meets in a cracking boozer, south of Malaga in Benalamedinas (probably misspelt) which was closer for me to get to from Marbella where we were staying anyway.

A bus up to Fuengirola after the customary Full English and a quick train ride north got me to the easy to find Renas Bar venue by 12. A large Malaga Mackem sign welcomes you and inside there is more SAFC paraphernalia decorating the walls; I could have been back home in Ferryhill!

Half a dozen or so Sunderland shirts had already beat me there and started on the superb “soak up the liquid” buffet put together by Rena. The branch was set up by Gary (Gaz) and he informs me they usually have anything from 40 to 50 in on match days depending on fixtures and holidays.

By kick off numbers had pushed close to 30, mainly exiles, which wasn’t a bad turn out considering is was tossing it down. A worthy victory in the end and a venue that I would recommend to anyone to call into for a few sherbets, whether there is a match on or not, you will be well looked after and made welcome especially if you are showing your colours.

Maybe someday if The Sixer keeps nagging me I might spill the beans on some tasteful Magpie stories and the son of a well-known Geordie actor but at the moment I prefer to keep my job safe; maybe when I retire

Which reminds M Salut that a recent trip of his back to Sunderland put him on the track of another slightly odd hotspot for Sunderland support. Watch this space.

Monsieur Salut

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Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

One Response to “Malaga to Caithness: return of the Mackem Diaspora” Subscribe

  1. Jeremy November 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    Whist other clubs must also have their own diaspora, I do think that there are specific social and economic factors which make ours perhaps a little more interesting than most.

    Gerry’s circumstances are particularly interesting given that he didn’t have the opportunity to get to games as a small child, living in Sunderland. It was only in late adolescence that I was able to get to games regularly as my father had little interest at all in watching Sunderland.

    A night out in Malaga sounds like a must do for travellers to southern Spain mind!

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