Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Shinty must get Mod to get...anything, anywhere even.

The Mod Cup again- and this year with the Mod being held in the “Utter Hebrides” as Bain the artist was wont to call them, the game to decide the fate of the trophy was between the shinty youngsters of Uist and the shinty youngsters of Harris and Lewis . A good thing too.
Apart from perhaps the fact that there are no trees to speak of on Uist and none to make camans of on Lewis ,at least none that you can legitimately cut down , I have never understood why the kids and the adults of the Western Isles have never embraced shinty.
Certainly the islands were marginalized at the time the Camanachd Association was set up but if my memory of ancient texts serves me right there did exist in former times the ritual New Years day game on the machair at least of one of the Uists. But the Islands are rightly proud of their Gaelic heritage and of course shinty should make more of its Gaelic origins-it’s the only way forward. Of course it’s a sport but it’s also a serious part of the culture of the Highlands and given modern Scotland’s obsession with kicking a ball , shinty has to press the cultural buttons to get any sense of fair treatment.. So I was glad to see the kids in the western Isles getting a shot at the Mod trophy.
What is it with these Islanders and football anyway? So Andy Gray’s mam was raised on gugas and Murdo Macleod has two names that would be acceptable on Perceval Road . Ronnie Mackinnon? I’m sure the major part of his DNA was from Skye. The thing is they are keen on sport : the pity is they didn’t get shinty when they should have. I’m sure a social historian will hazzard a guess as to why : I just know that they would have been good at it and what’s more it would have kept them away from the old Rangers/Celtic thing which they pretend doesn’t affect them. I’m sure there’s a Rangers supporters club in Stornoway and I’m pretty sure there’s not one on Barra. And my point is?
There isn’t one really -simply a rant but let shinty in the western Isles flourish - and it would be nice if some educator in the Nicholson Institute encouraged the guys to play shinty. Fat chance I should say but it would be nice all the same.
Anyway to the Mod Cup . The Uist lads won and 70 kids took part. Congrats.
Indeed no self respecting shinty player should let his career slip by without playing in the Mod Cup. Here is one from yesteryear. 1977 I believe and a snap taken in that most unlikely spot for shinty Brora. It was supposed to be the first shinty match played in Sutherland for 60 years . Fortunately the presence of Alan Macrae in Helmsdale interested a few lads in shinty and Golspie school played an Irish club recently but with the exception of some lads in Assynt there is no serious shinty in the county of the Cat. Shame!
Brora used to be a coal mining town before inflated Nigg wages tempted the honest coal cutters away and Polish imports and increasing labour costs turned that unusual piece of Highland industry into an exhibition corralled into half a room in a heritage building. All we need is to use the town as the set for a film of a kid who aspired to build a rocket.
Anyway, once upon a mod time in 1977 when John Howie was winning the Gold Medal in Golspie , up the road in Brora a shinty match was taking place. It was in front of a good crowd on an excellent surface- the machair of East Sutherland is perfect for golf and makes for a superb shinty sward.Problem was there was a strip of concrete right across the park about the halfway mark. Goodness what that was for.
Beauly who were third in the old Division 1 at that time of the year had a good opening but could not score. Then Ally Mackintosh ,moved up for the day from wing centre to the forward line hit two neat goals and Billy Macleod picked up the next and there it was 3-0 for the Glen with DP Mackintosh getting the cup from Ron Macdonald , Mr Brora of that day and many more.
The picture shows the teams together in the spirit of Modly friendship that ought to mark the sport. It rarely does. Still its nice to see Gerry Maclennan with a smile.

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