A Wet June Day in Oban
It is a wet June Wednesday in Oban : is there any other kind of Oban day? Mossfield is looking damp, the hill in the centrefield seems like it should be in Kintail from the way the burn is running down it so swiftly and there are 7 under-13 school sides gathered together for the MacBean Under 13 Scottish Championships.
“Does it always rain in Oban?” I asked a kid in the Oban team
“Every day in my life,” he said, “ but we just get on with it.”
He was right but where are the other schools that have young kids that can play-not there anyway : no Inveraray kids, no Kyles kids, no Caberfeidh kids , no Strathglass & Glenurquhart kids and surely worst of all no Kingussie/Newtonmore kids. Is this what Scottish secondary schools in the shinty playing areas think of the indigenous sport- well probably not . There will be a plethora of sensible reasons ; not enough notice perhaps, other activities pencilled in to the calendar but above all it will not be quite high enough a priority for them ,given the other competing pressures people have at this time of the year. The bottom line probably is that none of the imported teaching staff care enough about teuchter traditions to travel away with a side of kids. There’s not a lot of glamour in it. Take them to the rugby at Murray field on free tickets - yes surely but shinty ? Not really.
Anyway I have brought a team- and they are not that good but not that bad. Taking part is the main thing-I tell myself that. There is a full back who can hit the ball well and a wee goalie who will stop most things and a bunch of other guys who can hit the ball off the ground. The best player cannot make it because he was sent home yesterday with a chest infection. We have been on the road for three hours and two of us have been sick in plastic bags on the journey. I don’t feel so good myself given the state of the A82 and the fact that I have had to dump the sick in the bin and buy a pack of tissues at Onich so the guys can wipe the spew of their tops. The bus begins to smell like the hold of a slave ship.
We get there and Davie Hamilton of Oban Celtic has started to ref the games along with Ally Rothe- he once played for our wee school team but I don’t tell the wee guys and Ally Rothe probably did not bother giving him the role model stuff either.
There was a nice crowd of people and I even saw Scotty Buchanan the best shinty goalie in the world looking on from under the overhang at the Mossfield Pavilion.
The team were under pressure from the start but they had good little spells in every match. The bravery of the goalie- no helmet and only tears when he laughed- inspired them and they all hit the ball off the ground several times in each match. I was pleased. They lost lots of goals to the good teams and I suspect from the size of the kids that some sides were breaking the age rules but that is a given in shinty : the age rule is not really bothered with : as long as the kids haven’t actually started shaving they will do in the under13s.
Then they won a game- pushed forward and scored two goals. I found it hard to believe but they began to think they were good and in the last couple of matches against better opposition they lifted their commitment and gave a good account of themselves. Then they were so taken with events that they stayed to watch the final, standing in the pouring rain holding clubs and helmets.
“Hardly any people even Scottish people know about shinty,” one of them said.
“That’s because they are pathetic,” I said back.
“Yeah,” he said.
They learned how to rock a minibus- the big guys from Lochaber taught them that- and they had a lot of singing , miming and rapping on the way back.
On the way back we saw pheasants which we would like to shoot, places at the sides of lochs and rivers where we would like to fish and some deer in fields which struck us dumb.
At every settlement we went through- Benderloch, Appin ,Ballachulish, Fort William ,Spean Bridge, Fort Augustus , Invermoriston, Drumnadrochit but not Inverness I shouted “Into your seats and on with your belts. There will probably be police here.”
They immediately belted up and sat as quiet as nestlings in a tree when the pine marten is nearby. They got out of the bus in Inverness and melted off back to their flats on bikes.
Next morning one said “I fell asleep at 9.30 last night”
I cant say I was surprised but it certainly showed he had embraced the only way to enjoy a wet day in Oban.