Remembering Starkey-and Forgetting January.
Thank goodness that is January gone. Once upon a time shinty used to happen in this month: no more. There was more than enough going on what with heaps of snow lying on roads and pavements without having shinty to worry about. Not only that but as the Vice Chieftain said himself to a large and motley company the other weekend “Thank goodness that lady got back to Cape Wrath with the turkey and was eventually reunited with her husband. We all feel the better of that” And the Chief was right-how on earth could you concentrate on preparing for a new shinty season when the outcome of that domestic drama elsewhere in the Highlands remained unresolved?
However that is now in the past and the other night –Wednesday 27th to be exact-the streets of this picturesque hamlet by the loch were thronged with shinty players training under the sharp eyes of Jim, Whitey and Corky. Yes you’ve guessed it: the Glen are gearing up again for the new season. Not that they had suddenly restarted because it appears that for the best part of this past month they have been heading into town to fitten up at one of the towns Premier Gyms.
Not that the usual duff MacTavish draw did the morale any good- seems once we beat Kingussie and then Newtonmore, the rest of the matches including the final should be a caker. They will certainly be worried about that in Badenoch.
More seriously though, it is appropriate to note with sadness the passing of former Glen stalwart John Stark. John or “Starkey” as he was known to his teammates was brought up at the bottom of Balmacaan Road and was a fixture in teams of the late 60s and early 70s. He was also for a time (1970-73) Club secretary as well as a player. Having come into the fringes of the top side when he did, he unfortunately missed the glory days of trophies in the early 60s but was present in the team which lost to Kilmallie in the Torlundy Cup final of 1967. He was also a member of the 1972 Glen junior side which upset the odds and won the Strathdearn Cup beating Boleskine 5-4 in the final. Starkey continued to play for the second team up until season 75/76 when increasing work commitments and a move to Aiten Farm, Mains of Ardersier for a change of career from insurance to farming.
His move away from the Glen really was the end of his connection with the Glen Shinty Club in an active sense but he continued, as do all former wearers of the black and red, to take an interest in the result – and he and his good lady were of course guests at the celebration dinner at Blairbeg Hall on Saturday 17th August 1985 to mark the centenary of the founding of Club.
As always with Glenners there are stories and the one that will always be linked to Starkey was that memorable occasion when the Glen side was returning from a match in Portree. It was of course the days of ferries and probably queues. Whatever the reason the guys had gone to the watering hole up the village and left the car driver to manoeuvre his way down to the end of the slipway and on board when eventually the ferry arrived from Kyle. Arrive the ferry did and like all Kyleakin crews they were keen to make the return crossing without hanging about for tardy shinty players. The fiery cross was sent round and the boys made it down and on to the ferry with the exception of Starkey who was left a little behind in the rush to regain the mainland. As he ran down the slip way the boat began to slowly pull away from the pier leaving the ramp down. Starkey charged down the slip and went up to his thighs in the sea but eventually made it aboard the ferry to the mirth of his team-mates and to an obvious lack of concern from the Sgiathanach crew.
The photos for your interest are those of Starkey as he was in more recent times and of course in his playing days- the second for those who are interested in these matters was taken at Ferry Park Beauly. Starkey it seems will always be associated in Glen minds, with ferries.
** Last January, another of the Glen’s shinty stalwarts, Professor Peter English died suddenly. A book that he left unfinished because of his untimely death is now in print. Entitled A Bridge to the Past: an Oral History of the Families of Upper Glenurquhart , it may be obtained from our Vice Chieftain Peter Macdonald, Broombank, Balnain who along with Duncan Macdonald and Jan Bell was instrumental in completing the project.