Mystery of the Middlesbrough Mermaids
By Mick Richardson
Friday 21 Jun 2019 09:30:00
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The first time I saw somebody larking around in water was at Berwick Hills baths. A group of young lads were bearing their lily white arses to a posse of parents who had lined up to watch their own children during a swimming gala. Unfortunately, said Mams and dads were facing the portholes, fastened tight in the opposite wall and had to endure the full mooning session for nearly an hour. That seemed ok to me though, because the location was a swimming pool and the young delinquents were wearing swimming attire.

The first time I witnessed a fully clothed individual larking about in colder water though, was at Albert Park. Its an episode that sticks in my head mainly because, to my young eyes, it looked just so out of place. Especially when his mates, whom had pushed him from the safety of the rowing boat, then proceeded to drop bread all around his bobbing head. This action had encouraged a hundred mallards and one angry swan to encompass the poor lad, all trying to feast on the soggy loaf about his face. It was a scene Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud of, though the Parkie was fuming, I found it Funny as.

I mention these two episodes here, to try and find the answer to a question that has bugged me for years. Who are the Boro fans who swim in water fountains in the hours before a cup final and why do they do it?

Now if you’ve not seen these Middlesbrough mermaids for yourself, then I’m guessing you’ve never been to Trafalgar Square the night before a Wembley cup final. Though the famous London landmark isn’t the only place this bizarre ritual has occurred. Bristol, the night before the Carling Cup final, I witnessed a lad doing backstroke amongst the fountains. He was hampered somewhat by the fact that those water jets were on a timer and kept turning on and off. (A bit like the ones outside MIMA) though to his credit he never gave up. He simply waited till the water lubricated his path again and continued on his way.

Then there was Eindhoven square, where one lad, p*ssed as a newt and thinking he could probably swim like one, belly flopped off the low level wall, much to the adulation of the travelling red army. I seem to remember he did about 50 lengths that day. Mind you, it was warm like.

The ZDS Cup, Coca-Cola final and FA Cup all brought out these Teesside tadpoles , who at some point during the day/evening thought it would be a good idea to jump fully clothed into the tepid waters of a beautifully carved water feature. But why?

Are they performing a self sacrifice to the watching Lord Nelson in the hope it brings us good fortune? Is it the cost of a pint of lager in our capital that pushes them over the edge?

For answers I turned to my own fountain of knowledge, my old man, who has supported the Boro for over 60 years and been through thick and thick with them.

“Well son” he said, with a face of resignation.

“If you ask me, they probably just can’t face leaving Wembley after yet another cup final defeat.”

“What, you mean if they’re soaked to the bone, they won’t get in through the turnstiles” I asked, seeking clarity.

“No son. Following the Boro has never been easy. Time and time again they build you up and you dare to dream. Only for the rug to be pulled from you at the last minute. Ask Emile Heskey.  One of the hardest things you can do is hold your head up high after losing a final at Wembley and pretend you’re not bothered. It’s the pre expectation you see?”

I nodded in agreement. ‘Singing win or lose, we’re on the booze’ as a ditty was wearing a bit thin. Though it did seem dad knew the answer to why these human dowsing rods took to water just prior to critical moments in Boro’s season.

“It’s obvious isn’t it boy,” he said, lifting his paper back up to eye level...

“They’re trying to drown themselves.”

 Mick Richardson

Author of the Boro Phallacy


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