Monday, February 06, 2012

Glen shinty mourns the loss of Vice-Chieftain John Alick Mackenzie (1937-2012)

With the death of John Alick Mackenzie on the 27th January yet another link with the successful side of the 1960s has been severed. In recent years John Alick has been an ever present at home matches in the “stand”. His generous smile and cheerful disposition will be much missed by the regulars over the course of the season to come and far beyond.
Though born in Morvern, Argyll, John Alick spent his school years at Torgoyle in Invermoriston where his father worked with the Forestry Commission and in due course he took up his place at Glenurquhart Secondary School , though such was the state of communications at the time that in order to do so he had to take up lodgings in Lewiston. Though he had doubtless become acquainted with shinty before he arrived in the Glen, it was at Secondary School in the Glen that he honed the skills and made the lifelong contacts which were to be of lasting importance to him in the world of shinty. That this was so may be seen in the picture of the school team of 1952 which lost out in the semi- final of the Macpherson Cup to the eventual winners Kingussie.

After leaving school John Alick went on to Aberdeen University where he became a key member of the Varsity side of the late 50’s, winning three Littlejohn Vases including with the side pictured in season 1956-7.

He then returned to play for the Glen as part of the all-conquering side of 1963 which saw victory in the Sutherland Cup (3-2 against Kyles at Spean Bridge) and the McGillivray Junior League. A versatile player whose height and long reach gave him an edge over many opponents, John Alick played up front and in the centreline not just for the Glen and Aberdeen University but over the course of his career for Lochcarron, Glasgow Mid Argyll and Oban Camanachd also. The Lochcarron appearances were a particular source of amusement to him because he became part of a side that at the time included 11 Mackenzies, which even to John Alick would have seemed somewhat excessive.

When John Alick left the north in 1964 to take up employment in another shinty area in Argyll it meant that his playing days in the Glen, though not his shinty career, had come to an end. However, he was to pull on the black and red jersey once again as part of a Glen veterans’ squad which came together on 15th August , 1987 to play a team of Inverness veterans to mark the centenary of the Inverness Club. The Glenners are pictured above and of course there is delight as well as sadness evoked by the picture taken to mark the Centenary of the “Town” club. One can say “Town “ rather than “City” of course because back in 1987 Inverness still had to achieve city status while the Glen had yet to reach a Camanachd Cup Final.
The Wing Centre was present at the game and while the score has slipped from his memory he can remember the silky skills of Bob Macdonald on one wing and Jocky Macdonald on the other. Both Macs were on target that day, Bob’s strike being a first time drive from a ball slipped across from Jocky. Of course supplying the midfield power were John Alick, Peter English, Geordie Stewart and a tireless Jimmy Burnett who was guesting for the day. Jimmy was the player with pedigree on the park having captained Kilmallie to Camanachd Cup glory in 1964. Sadly including John Alick, six of these Bught veterans are no longer with us. Don Cumming, Bob Macdonald, Peter English, Jocky Macdonald and of course Jimmy Burnett himself have all passed away and shinty in the Glen is the poorer for their passing.
It was a wonderful day of shinty at the Bught not only because the old Glenners triumphed over the old Invernessians by 4 goals to 0 but also because for the afternoon the years seemed to roll away.

In more recent times sadly John Alick suffered both from health problems and from the personal tragedy of losing his son John in a car accident. His spirit however remained strong and over the years accompanied by his good friend Jocky Macdonald he took up his regular place in the stand- and on Jocky’s death in 2008 he maintained his regular attendance at matches accompanied now by his brother Davie who was also a member of that schoolboy team of 1952. He was made Vice-chieftain of the club in 2000
The pictures are as follows:
The Aberdeen University side of 1957. For some reason they are pictured without the Littlejohn. With John in the picture are Brian Denoon and the late Peter English.
Also pictured is the Glen trophy winning side of 1963 with John Alick to be seen.
The final snap is of the Glen Vets who played at the Bught to mark the centenary of Inverness Shinty Club
For those who are curious the players are as follows:
(Back) : Andrew Ian Macdonald, Peter Macdonald, Geordie Stewart, Jocky Macdonald, Tommy McKenna, Peter English, John Alick Mackenzie, Bob English
(Front) Don Cumming, Jimmy Burnett, Alan Bell, Iain Macdonald, Bob Macdonald, Calum Fraser.

See how many you can spot in the team of 1963.
Thanks to Brian Denoon for the Aberdeen Uni picture: the other b/w images came from Peter English's book on Glen Shinty (1985)

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