Friday, January 30, 2009

Glen Shinty mourns the passing of Peter English (1937-2009)

Kilmore Church was filled to capacity on Saturday 10th January 2009 for Peter’s funeral. The weather was horrendous with a strong westerly gale and driving rain but the large crowd which attended stood in respectful silence as the coffin passed a long guard of honour comprised of Glen players past and present on its way to its eternal resting place. This is a detail worth preserving not least for the sake of the history of the Glen Shinty Club because it reveals the respect in which Peter was held by those associated with both the Club and the sport, which he served for a lifetime. Of those that stood in line in the wind and rain, the youngest was 16 and the oldest were those who had played with him in the Glen teams of the late 50s and early 60s. If there was ever an illustration of the power of shinty to bind the generations of a community together this was it – and one can be sure Peter would have approved.
Peter had of course a very full and varied life beyond the world of shinty and the congregation not only comprised relatives, friends and shinty folk but colleagues and former students from the world of agriculture in which he spent his professional life.
Peter’s professional and indeed professorial life has been well covered in a number of obituaries which have been recently published in papers both national and local but for those who come upon this tribute from the outside the Glen, the main highlights of this aspect of his career can be simply restated. Peter had a distinguished academic career spanning four decades at Aberdeen University. His subject was Agriculture and having graduated BSc with honours in 1961 he remained with the University until he retired in 2001 as Professor of Animal Science and Husbandry. These 40 plus years were rich in research and teaching, for Peter was at once a scientist, an innovative researcher into animal husbandry and an educator. He published a phenomenal number of academic papers and became one of the world’s leading figures in the field of Pig production, a position which saw him called upon to travel throughout the world lecturing and advising on animal production. This was a jet setting lifestyle which took him very far from the Glen and indeed Aberdeen, but it was also one which enthralled those who worked with him on the production team of his book on the history of Glenurquhart Shinty Club. Until he sent in his introductory remarks, which indicated the far flung places in which the various chapters were composed few had realised just how international his lifestyle was.
His academic publications were also published world wide in 23 languages and his principal book “The Sow, Improving her Efficiency" became one of the best selling agricultural books in the world.
As a result of these publications and his development of an internationally recognised post graduate course in pig production at Aberdeen he was presented with numerous awards for his work including the David Black Prize for services to the pig industry. He also spent nine years on the Farm Animal Welfare Council advising the UK Government –a post from which he had only recently retired.
In the Glen however Peter was especially revered because of his lifelong association with Shinty. Born at Lochletter in 1937 he came on his mother’s side from a family, which had been involved in shinty from the earliest days of its organised existence. Peter’s grandfather Alexander Macdonald (Ali Ban) played in the epic encounters between Glenurquhart and Strathglass in the 1880s, matches that laid the foundation for the establishment of the Camanachd Association in 1893. How fitting it was that Peter was to serve that organisation for 10 years as Vice President and it more than probable that had not his working life been spent away from the main shinty playing areas, he may have aspired to the Presidency of the Association.
As it was he excelled as a player, and having been part of the group which reformed Glenurquhart Shinty Club in the post war era, he was part of a team which became one of the most successful ever Glen sides.
In the 1960s they won two McGillivray League championships, two Strathdearn Cups and finally in 1963 the Sutherland.
By this time however, Peter was resident in Aberdeen, where as a student he had played not only for the University Club but also for Scottish Universities gaining a blue into the bargain. Being settled in the Granite City with a growing family, meant that Peter could no longer commit to travel back to the Glen to turn out for the red and blacks but that by no means meant the end of his shinty career. Along with George Campbell (now Club President of Inverness) and John Brown (Boleskine) he helped form then play for Aberdeen Camanachd, a side that went on to enjoy some success at junior level in the 60s, 70s and 80s
As well as that he established the Aberdeen Shinty Festival- a successful event which included the innovation of a skills competition. In 1971 Peter became the founding editor of the Shinty Year Book, a post he was to hold until 1976. He initiated this publication out of a concern that results, stories and above all the people playing the game should be remembered. The Yearbook took off and its present healthy existence is a fitting tribute to Peter’s memory. Long may it continue to be so.
This interest in the social history of Shinty lead him to research and publish his history of Glenurquhart Shinty Club, which came out in 1985 to coincide with the centenary of the Club and it is was still a passion of his right to the end. Some three weeks before his death he was present in Inverness at the inaugural meeting of the Camanachd Historical Society where he stressed the importance of oral sources to the history of the game.
His retirement to Bunloit saw him once more pick up the cause of shinty in the Glen and he was instrumental with Jimmac Mackintosh, his old sparring partner from the 1960s team, in re –establishing the Glenalbyn Primary League. He also roped in Jimmac to help in 2007 & 2008 when he reinvented the Aberdeen Shinty festival as a youth skills competition at Blairbeg. Peter was never happier however than when he was coaching his Balnain Primary School youngsters amongst whom he numbered his grandnephews. Indeed, one of the Wing Centre’s fondest memories of Peter was of him in late November reffing a Primary School Match between Balnain and Drum on the Astroturf while at the same time coaching his own team It was a unique performance.
There is more of course that may be said beyond the shinty pitch- his interest in social history led to a book about Arnisdale and Loch Hourn where his uncle farmed and subsequently to the funding of a new Community-centre/ceilidh house which opened in August 2008. There was also his initiating and organising of the Glen Challenge Race at the annual Glenurquhart Gathering where as morning announcer his familiar tones on the fourth Saturday in August would to ring out across the field, encouraging, amusing, admonishing and of course occasionally announcing results.
Peter’s passing was sudden and unexpected and his death not only leaves a hole at the heart of the Glen Club, but also marks the loss of yet one more link with the team of 1956-63. The photos at the top can speak for themselves: the single of Peter is taken from the veterans picture features in the Jan 2008 blog while the classic shot of Peter and Johnny “Ach” Macrae has featured widely. For good measure the other pic is that of the 1960 MacGillivray winners. After three successive defeats in cup finals they tasted victory at the fourth attempt defeating Newtonmore 9-2 at the Bught.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lewiston finally win Zandra's Quaich at Club Sixes Competition

It has taken them five years to do it but Lewiston finally came out on top in the annual Zandra Mackintosh Memorial tournament held on the all weather pitch on Monday 29th December.
As has been traditional since the competition was inaugurated the weather was bitterly cold although this year the fair sized crowd was spared the rigours of spectating in the lashing rain as happened on a previous occasion. This competition now seems to have become a fixture in the annual Hogmanay festival that livens up the Glen in the run up to New Year's Day and there were a number of visitors to the Glen in evidence as well as some returnees from abroad. Amongst the latter was numbered Martin Douglas and his son Hamish back in Drum for the festive season. Martin has been 9 years in Perth, Western Australia and for all that the weather at the Astroturf was -2 for most of the afternoon he seemed cheerful enough. Hamish seemed to thrive on the cold and scooted about all over the place at the same pace and in the same manner that Martin himself used to do as far as the Wing Centre can remember.
The competition for the trophy was as always fierce-and teams appeared representing Balmacaan, Up the Glen, Lewiston, The Blarmor Bar , Hillside, The Town , Druimlon, and The Smiddy . This last team however had a change of heart half way through the competition and changed its name to “Wildcard” and because it consisted of three young ladies and Iain “Balbeg” Macdonald plus assorted others they certainly put up a good show. The eyebrows were initially raised at Mr Corrigan (sen) in goal but they widened with wonder at the dexterity of his stick work.
The rules of course indicated that each team needed to be made up of at least 8 players amongst whom should be numbered a lady , a youngster and a veteran - though to be truthful these rules do appear to be more than a little flexible. Hillside consisted of the Fraser brothers and the Abriachan Barrs -though El Presidente himself was not involved. Balmacaan with Mike Cameron , Big Ron Fraser, Dixon and Ruaraidh looked good on paper though sadly the competition was not played on paper. “Peem” Gault turned out for the Blar as did Steven Callendar of ‘Shiel but it was the appearance of Ken Fraser between the posts as “hailstopper” that took the biscuit. Meanwhile Druimlon seem to have roped in players from Kilmore Road and Pitkerrald and Geordie Stewart -yes believe your eyes- was in the vanguard of the Town attack.
The Wing Centre did not really pay close attention at all times to what was happening on the park because truthfully the social atmosphere on the sidelines was too much of a distraction though he did think that the Up the Glen side seemed to be in with a fair shout what with Ally Mackintosh (jun) , Charlie Duncan, Andrew Macdonald and Andrew Corrigan on the team.
The bitter truth for the West-the-Burners was however the fact that Lewiston appeared to have retained Paul Mackintosh who along with the Reid brothers and Big Arran Macdonald certainly made for a top combination.
At the semi-final stage Lewiston managed to sneak through against the Hillsider Fraser/Barr combo and the Up the Glenners , competitive as always , managed to knock out Lewis Maclennan and the Druimloners. It certainly puzzled the Wing Centre that Lewis wasn’t playing in the Lewiston team given that not only was the place called after him but his granny lives there!
The final was a fiercely competitive struggle and in the end Lewiston shaded it in the penalty shootout after the real match finished even at 1-1. It was third time lucky for the Lewiston boys and girl because they have lost out in the final of this competition over the last three years.
The competition closed with a few words of thanks from Donald Paul to one and all and especially remembering Mairi Moffat of the Blarmor who had organised the catering with supplies from Carl Falconer (Highland Hog Roasts) and heaters and generators supplied by Garry Mackintosh (HIS)
The Zandra Mackintosh Quaich was then presented to Debbie Surtees and Neale Reid of the winning side by Mrs Pauline Trelfer one of the Glen teams' band of faithful followers. Pauline has hardly missed a Saturday on the sidelines home and away this past season.
Enjoy the pics above but sorry about the werewolf eyes though-may fix them later. Then again maybe not.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Neale Reid confirmed as Young Player of the Year at annual Ceilidh Dance

This little section on the blog is a catch up: truthfully the loss of Peter took away a bit of the heart of the Wing Centre for silliness- and in due course with the permission of the family the “D” will carry some words about Peter and his connections to all things shinty in the Glen.
One piece worth noting is that fact that the Club had an excellent evening of dancing and feasting in the Clansman Hotel on the 14th of November.
On entering the building the company, which included several of the clubs generous sponsors, were greeted by the President, standing in front of two large display boards of photographs from the successful season. There were many excellent snaps on display but there is only one which will become iconic. That was the Phil Downie pic of the MacTavish penalty shootout celebration which the Courier saw fit to print again recently as the definitive picture of the shinty season. That pic is fated to become the Glen picture of the decade-that is unless the Camanachd Cup comes into the picture somewhere if you catch the drift.
The two Cups, potent symbols of a successful season, were of course in attendance as were two large iced cakes-one honouring each team- which were with due and solemn ceremony cut up into chewable chunks and distributed to as many of those present as were partial to cake.
The meal was an excellent one the details of which are at this present moment somewhat hazy in the recollection of the Wing Centre though he does remember that he commenced with seafood and moved on to chicken, tenderly embalmed in a sauce of the most exquisite sort.
The night drove on with mirth and dancing, the music for which was provided by the band Schiehallion the accordionist of which is none other than our own Goalie, Stuart Mackintosh. Stuart has had another excellent season between the sticks and as may be seen further down the blog made it into the Scotland Senior squad for the victory in Kilkenny against the Irish hurlers.
So struck was the Wing centre by the wonderful music that came from the band that he wrote about it in his annual letter to Santa and the Schiehallion CD magically appeared in his surgical stocking at Xmas. It is an excellent listen and all the more so because Stuart does not appear to be singing on it.
The picture which heads this blog is of course the one of Neale Reid who was selected by the managers as a worthy recipient of the Doey Fraser Cup for the Glen’s “Young Player of the Year”
Neale had an excellent season-one remembers in particular a spectacular performance against Beauly at Braeview which ,if my moles are right, was one of the prime cause of the decision of keeper Steve Lymburn to emigrate- and well merited the selection.
The only little hiccup on the way home was that the bus had somewhat of a problem in negotiating the runway from the hotel back on to the A82 but then given the hassle the Glen have had with buses especially in Ireland-(there is a whole article about a driver called Seumas waiting to be written) this was nothing new- and with our new Premier status doubtless there will be more fun to come on the buses.

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