Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Legend of the "Currachd Ruadh"

It has been a wee while since the Wing Centre has tapped on the keyboard of truth- what with the dinner dance going past in a blur (Neale Reid was young player of the year it appears) and the very game of shinty having receded from his mind under the weight of Yuletide domestic chores which were heaped upon his broad shoulders. He had his 5 cards to write, kindlers to buy at the garage and the AGM books to get balanced. Then there were the money extorters at Alton Towers to pay for the dubious pleasure of appearing in the Premier League next season. What’s all that about the first heap of League fixtures being played away from home?
“Let it go, Wing Centre,” said the Lady of the House. ”Poor Astie’s only doing his best. More like you to tidy up that heap of books and rubbish at your side of the bed.”
Which was duly done and the clash of the ash faded from the Wing Centre’s consciousness for a day or two until-
He was going up Balmacaan Road in a dwam between Xmas day and Zandra’s sixes (of which more with snaps later) when he was hailed.
“WC- have you got a pound?”
The hailer was Jimmac Mackintosh and while no one would like to see Jimmac stuck for a pound, the use of the term WC as a familiar form of address was disconcerting. After all Jimmac has a number of close relatives who have been initiated into the arcane rites of the craft of plumbing and the Wing Centre well knows that those involved in the order of the bathroom use the term WC in a very specialised way- and perhaps it was that the use of the term implied a criticism of a descriptive nature with regard to the nature of the stuff the Wing Centre was including in the “D”
A glace at Jim’s genial physog banished all such paranoia- and the pound was parted with.
“Congratulations!” said Jim “ You have just bought a ticket for the Strathglass Shinty Club Xmas Draw!”
Jim then tore off the ticket, borrowed a pencil and started to sketch out possible shinty tactics on the back of the paper. The Wing Centre, who doesn’t really have a head for abstract thought, tried to follow the flowing lines and whirls of attacking formations as if he were a subaltern on the Western Front trying to follow General Haig’s plan of advance at the Somme-only Haig’s plan must have been less complicated.
A diversionary tactic was required .
“Where did you get all those red hats, Jim?”
“What ones?”
“The ones the Up the Glenners were handing out after we beat Kilmallie for the nth time- we were all down in the Blar with the cups and that”
“These are examples of the Currachd Ruadh- the traditional red hats of the Glen team. That is what the players in the 1880s used to wear- and we have carried on the tradition ever since although” he added pensively “the pattern was lost until the early 1990s”
The Wing Centre was somewhat dubious at this explanation- the shape of the cap did not appear to match the ethnographical pattern of other highland hats like the Glengarry, the Fore and Aft or even the old Shepherd’s bonnet , brought north by the Borderers in the early 19th century and illustrated in the works of Thomas Faed.
“I can assure you it is the true Currachd Ruadh. The shape is due to the fact that it dates from a period before the Free Church came to have such a hold on the Glen.
If you wish to check the facts of the matter I refer you to Peter's book . You can look at page 90-there is even a Gaelic poem about it too.”
“How did the pattern come to be lost, Jim?”
“Hard to say. At one time the whole village of Milton was engaged in their manufacture- after Lady Seafield had set up one of those Highland Home Industry schemes. Indeed it was from the mills which turned out the material for the hats that the village of Milton got its name. Anyway I think some minister or other objected to the hats and the whole industry died out inside a generation and the pattern was lost. A great pity too after the way the charm of the Currachd Ruadh kept the local men safe in the Great War. It seems that the local squadron of the Lovat Scouts got permission from the War Office to wear the “Currachd Ruadh” as part of their field dress- the other squads wore the bush hat. It was a concession to local sentiment I suppose - and when the Scouts went to the Dardanelles, the Currachd Ruadh for some reason went down a treat with the locals.”
“How did you get the pattern back again, Jim?”
“Well, DP was renovating an old barn up Balbeg ,one of those with the thatch underneath the tin. And when they took the roof off they found the worm for an old whisky still, a rusty sword from Culloden and a Currachd Ruadh. From that the ladies of the up the Glen WI started to make them for local sale, though they never sell them to those east of the Polmailly burn. That is a pity though because it would be far better for Donald Skinner to be selling them up at the Lodge instead of “Jimmy” hats and Nessie toories. At least these are genuinely Scottish”
And so with that little potted history of the Currachd Ruadh and its links to Glen Shinty the Wing Centre rings down the curtain on a successful year for the Glen. Have a Good New Year and enjoy the photos of these local heroes wearing their Currachd Ruadh.

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