Tuesday, August 01, 2006

There’s only one Alan Bell - well, apparently not.

Hold the back page -or at least an inside page of the Press and Journal. It's official. “Alan Bell 71, is retiring from his post as chairman of Glen Urquhart Shinty Club after 35 years in the position.” The P & J said it , so it must be true.
Now what struck me about this piece of information was not that Alan was giving up or even the fact that he has served two life sentences as chairman without time off for good behaviour but rather that there would appear to be at least 70 other Alan Bells in existence. At least this is what one assumes to be the case having been made aware of e-mail addresses which carry both name and number to identify an individual.
The P& J of course is always first with the news , except on this occasion because it was made known in the Glen that Alan Bell 71 was stepping down in February at the AGM but remaining as Chieftain. However it is nice to see recognition in the Press for what has been a marvellous contribution to the “indigenous sport”.
There is no aspect of life in the Club which Alan has not touched. If he were not to make the effort then the weekly Lottery would struggle to break even : with his wife Jan , Helen Maclennan and occasionally some others ,he takes the Primary squad on a Wednesday evening and liaises with the school for Primary matches.
Alan has presided over shinty meetings for -well -35 years : he alone knows the chemical formula for mixing white liner. Until he packed in in February he was also most likely to have put up the nets and taken them down. He was equally likely to have tidied up around the pavilion , clearing away the glasses and condoms from the Friday night shenanigans on the steps, before visiting teams can arrive to have their visions of the green Glen of tranquillity shattered.
The P & J also made great play of the fact that one of Alan’s proudest moments in his tenure at the top had been when the team reached the Camanachd Cup final in 1988. This is not the whole truth. Alan would never be proud of being beaten by Kingussie in front of an audience. Nor was it the opening of the new Pavilion in 1997 nor even the Centenary of the Club in 1985 which one must acknowledge to have been milestones in the life of club ,ball and man.
Could that proudest moment have come when Alan stood with his team-mates to receive the Strathdearn in 1977? Seemingly not because Alan had the distinction of having been a member of an earlier squad to have lifted the cup. 1972 was the key year for the historically minded and so he does not treat the ‘77 result as the iconic occasion it seems to be in the minds of more recent Glenners.
There have been many other occasions when under Alan’s leadership the club has pushed matters shinty to the limits- except of course on the actual field of dreams. There was the publication of the Club history by Prof Peter English in 1985. There were duck races down the Enrick River including one time when a whole flock of the plastic creatures escaped down river into Loch Ness some of which were returned by the coastguard weeks later. One was later found to be floating in the harbour at Puerto del Carmen in the Canaries : others were never seen again.
There was also of course the occasion when a gaggle of Glenners played on every shinty pitch in the North of Scotland against every team in the North of Scotland in the space of a single day. Alan is proud of that but not inordinately so.
Yes he has served as Chairman of the North Association and commentated on MacTavish finals and while rightly proud of these achievements he also remembers the many shinty quizzes in which he has come second . There is also the fact that he accompanied the Club on Irish jaunts to compete with Kilkenny Club Dicksboro- a side which incidentally appears to have won their championship and will soon line up against Kingussie in the World Series.
However, back in 1991 ,accompanied by a pod of aquatically gifted amphibians of a shinty persuasion Alan swam a million lengths of the old Glebe Street baths in a memorable sponsored event. Unforgettable, unequalled ,indeed truly iconic. It can never be recreated not least because the old Glebe Street baths have been demolished .The picture exists yet- a truly unique shinty snap.

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