Wednesday, November 28, 2012


“Ooh, What a night
Late November, back in twenty twelve”
You betcha. That’s the way uh-huh we’d like to remember the annual Glen Dinner Dance if, in fact, we can remember it at all which is not something to take a bet upon. Last Friday night a busload of dedicated Glen revellers sped along the A82 to the Clansman Hotel where they sat down to a delightful repast, according to choice, of :

Scotch Broth/Prawn/Chicken Pate
Toffee Pudding/Pavlova/Dark Choc Truffle.

As per usual the Wing Centre could not quite recall what it was exactly that he had ordered. Doubtless that is a common problem which could easily be solved by either remembering the said order or indeed writing it down and keeping the piece of paper with the info in a safe place. Yes, you can see the problem. A more original solution is to make sure you sit reasonably close to the serving hatch where an eye can be kept on the various serving persons as they leave the kitchen with their plates of scoff. If you fancy say “the beef” as opposed to “the chicken” which you may or may not have actually ordered, it is easy enough to say yes to the passing server who will most likely shout out what is on the plate in the hope of an honest answer. The veracity of the answer is, however, most unlikely to be checked and that way a pleasant evening can be had while the anxiety of worrying about what you might or might not have ordered is therefore removed- as are all feelings of guilt because you may be assured that someone elsewhere will be doing the exact reverse of what you are doing, Thus karma is restored and all is well with the world- or then again perhaps not though, as a tactic, it ranks up at No 5 in the Wing Centre’s samizdat self-help  publication “Social Skills for Young Shinty Players.”
All this is of course by way of digression for the real business of the evening was the dishing out of the annual awards and this quickly got underway-once the venue had been checked for the spy from the Skye Camanachd website who appears to be able to infiltrate any shinty gathering throughout the kingdom however remote. It is difficult however to winkle them out because as the Wing Centre has stated in an earlier article, wherever you go in the Glen or indeed the whole Highlands, there is a Skye person to be found. They have intermarried with the natives and remain as “sleepers” within the general population. Indeed the only group in the Glen that may be regarded as Skye-free are those Mackenzies who hail from that part of Wester Ross which stretches from Lochalsh to Lochbroom- and there are one or two in the Club. Why so? The answer lies in the fact that their ancestors spent the greater part of the Middle Ages extirpating Macleods from the western seaboard so successfully that unless they had moved to Nova Scotia the only native Macleods are now confined to Achiltilbuie and Assynt, where it is hoped they may stay.
As soon as the venue was declared, in as much as it could be, free of the Sgiathanaich, the Chairman rose to his feet, commanded the children to be quiet, and paid tribute to retiring Secretary Hazel Stewart who was giving up the privilege of negotiating  the Camanachd and other Associations forthwith.
 Also honoured were Jan and Alan Bell who after coaching the primary youngsters in the hall, tennis court and field over many years, finally decided to step aside and pass the caman on to a younger generation of coaches.
Young player of the year, for the second year running was Fraser Heath. He has had an excellent season despite a nasty hand injury earlier on. A member of the under 17 London Shield side at the end of last season, he took his place in Ronald Ross’s under-17 squad for Ireland in the summer, moving on to be picked for the under 21s in Ennis in October. Fraser has had an excellent year in Glen colours and has turned out in defence, midfield or attack as required
His performance in the MacAulay Cup final before a nationwide TV audience won him the man of the match award despite several of the goals scored by other players being clear candidates for goal of the season.
Senior team player of the year was David Smart. Dave has had a simply excellent season. Week in week out he has put in the hard graft that is required to win Premier League points and he has shown the vision that sets up chances for others.  He always had a fine touch with the club but these last two seasons he has worked hard at his fitness and the effort has paid off with a winner’s medal in the MacAulay and a call up to the International squad.

Second team player of the year was Drew Maclennan. He too has had an excellent season and also showed a great deal of resilience when he received a nasty mouth injury in the league at Kinlochshiel and as a consequence missed out in the semi of the Sutherland against Newtonmore and the semi of the Strathdearn against Fort William. His return to the fold was greatly welcomed in the last few weeks of the season and he put in the effort v Kingussie in the Sutherland final re-run though he was disappointed as the whole club was to have missed out on the win.
Highlight of the evening was the arrival of the MacAulay Cup winning side who came into the dining room just before the meal was served to display the Cup to the fans, and those who were unable to do so on the day accepted their medals. Amongst those recipients were Andrew Macdonald and the two managers Drew MacNeil and Fraser Mackenzie (Official).
The company then rose and toasted the health of Shinty in general and the MacAulay
Association in particular.
The relevant pictures which are included here were taken by the Wing Centre. Suffice to say that he is no Neil G Paterson and he may have indeed missed out on some of the hot snaps because he had a choice of sitting where he might get a good view of the presentees or where he could be near the hatch to be assured of his choice of food. The food won out as it always would do. Sweetest of the pics is Mr Reid with his flowers-Nice innit.
The tug of war pic? Billy who is at the front of the tuggers became the poster boy of Glen shinty for reasons that need little explanation. His image has become ubiquitous and he certainly sells the brand. He walked round the Games with the Cup and Olympic torch along with the poster boy of a previous generation, Alan Bell – and the pic included here came from the front of the Glen Highland Games Programme in 2012. Billy missed the dance because he was off-shore keeping the UK economy afloat, but he has promised to do the bungee jump. Let’s hope he wears the sponsors’ jersey this time.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Glen still paying the price of excess

How do we pass our Saturdays?
Good question indeed and one that has been put to the Wing Centre and all his wee pals in the Glen over the past two weekends. In fact it was uttered to him this very day at the entrance to the shop at the bottom of Balmacaan Road- of course the Wing Centre gives  the by now  well-rehearsed  line  “I go up to the Chairman’s  house and look at the MacAulay Cup.” by way of response. The real answer, however, is that he doesn’t really pass them very well.
 Last Saturday for instance he was raking up leaves: next Saturday he may be cutting kindlers- and truthfully the crack about the MacAulay Cup was just that-a crack…… because the Wing Centre has not seen the MacAulay Cup for some considerable time. The rumours are that the actual trophy is back in the Glen but nobody is really sure where it is: the Chairman is most likely keeping it at a safe house, probably up the Glen. It may even be at Shewglie, though if history teaches us anything e.g. The Raid of Inchbrine, it teaches us that keeping things at Shewglie is no guarantee that stuff kept there won’t fall into the hands of Lochabermen.
Outwith Saturdays much of the time is spent thinking about ways of raising money. As all shinty clubs know the real skill in shinty is not how to hit a ball but how to raise money to allow guys to hit a ball in other parts of the Highlands as well as the Glen.
Which is why the Wing Centre’s thoughts switched to fundraising and its importance in keeping the game afloat. It is a subject he had mused about a few weeks back when he cast his mind over Russ Cameron’s prodigious efforts in climbing the Meall and rowing the Loch. Then there was the sponsored swimming, the shinty on every park in the world and of course the ritual of letting the ducks go swim year about in the Coilty and the Enrick. The cycle tour of the Loch was another event which was referred to and illustrated with a photo- and the original was so sharp and clear that in order to balance matters it’s as well to include a couple of gritty homemade ones which turned up in a cupboard. Only it referred to a different and earlier cycle event which, until these grainy pics were unearthed recently, had been almost erased from the collective memory of the Glen
Talking of things which are gritty and homemade Mr Reid and Alan Bell fit that bill perfectly but that is only partly why the snap of that gruesome twosome is included here. The main reason is that they are at the heart of fundraising for the Club via the Lotto draw which takes place every Wednesday at a glamorous location somewhere in uptown Glen or downtown Drum. The Club has depended for the last year or two on just a few sources of funding: sponsorship, community events and of course the Lotto.
Of these the Lotto is probably the most labour intensive - and it is thanks to Mr Reid and Alan in particular that the show is kept on the road. Alan sells large amounts of tickets every week on his round while Mr Reid co-ordinates the uplift of tickets, organises the draws and generally keeps the Treasurer in check since he appears to resent the fact that from time to time someone pulls a winning ticket, as indeed happened this last Wednesday when a lucky punter picked up an early Christmas bonus of £1,500.
Amongst community events the most regular money spinner is the annual Shinty Sale of Work which draws the Drum public in greater numbers than you could imagine- and it is always the biggest earner of the season thanks to the garden produce, cakes and other delights which can be purchased on the night. Cue lots of photos. Surprisingly not. The archives have been ransacked and very little has been found apart from one snap from the 1980s and another from two years ago. The first is of course a nostalgia shot not least for the images of the folk who were in it, but also because of the fact that it shows us the bric-a-brac stall of not so blessed memory. We don’t do bric-a-brac stalls any more - nor do we do sponsored events any more - at least we didn’t until last weekend’s first leg of the Grand Bungee Jump in aid of the Highland Hospice.

Originally scheduled for early September after the Newtonmore away game the event was cancelled because of a power failure in the lifting winch at Highland Fling Bungee who run the Killiecrankie site.
The Highland Hospice has of course a special place in the hearts of local people and it is particularly dear to Glen co-manager Fraser Mackenzie in that it was the death of his mum at the start of the year and his gratitude to those that cared for her in the Hospice that confirmed his intention to initiate a fund–raising campaign. Everything was going very nicely indeed until Glen won the MacAulay- and everyone knows what happened next.

The cup got broken, then the boys got slagged and then after it had all gone viral people felt sorry for them and they also felt bad themselves. First they had a whip round which they sent to the MacAulay Association who passed on the cash to the Oban Hospice - and they then turned their minds to helping Fraser raise money for the Highland Hospice. First a pile of cash was raised at the Highland Games when people queued to have their photos taken with the MacAulay Cup which was on display with the    Olympic Torch.
Then it was the day of the High Jump carried out by Drew McNeil, Rory MacLean, Jack Hosie, Euan Lloyd, Ali Mackintosh, Garry Mackintosh, Fraser Heath, Dixie Maclennan, Fraser Mackenzie and youngster Ewan Ward, son of Fraser’s girlfriend Sarah.

A few guys could not make it
Neale Reid- broken arm, Arran MacDonald injured; David Smart unavailable but should make next jump; Liam Girvan bad back; Cameron Maclennan working but has been given the chance to do the next jump.
The follow-up jump which will include all the Aberdeen based players and the fabulous Mr Tembo is scheduled for the 2nd December- and after that the cash will be totalled. At the moment it is approximately £9,000- but there is every hope that it will creep up to and beyond the £10,000 mark.
You could help that by giving a little something yourself at
There is no truth in the rumour that when it is Billy’s turn to jump he intends to take the MacAulay Cup with him over the edge. The suspicion is that it is the fear of just such an outcome that has led Mr Chairman to conceal it in a Shewglie haystack.
Check out the Bungee Boys in the pics.Now we know what Drew meant when he said the boys were for the high jump after the MacAulay capers.
Surely the guys have paid their debt to society by now.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Fifty Shades of Green?

Sometimes it’s best to reflect for a while rather than come out with an opinion right away: that of course does not ever guarantee that the resultant response is any better than what would have come out right away but it should have a greater chance of being rational with the provision of a little more perspective. Well then again maybe not.
What actually happened anyway? You’ll know all about it by now: there are reports on the Camanachd website, the Skye website and on the GAA website. There’s a mass of stuff on other sites pointing out that Scotland lost heavily and questions-legitimate ones and mischievous ones -are being asked about the national side. Indeed sometimes the same question can fulfil both functions. The Wing Centre’s old mate, the journo guy from the Sunday Herald also put a piece in about the match though it’s doubtful if he was even there.
This is what he wrote anyway :

2012 Hurling/Shinty International Series Second Test
Scotland v Ireland, Cusack Park, Ennis
Ireland 8-11 (51)   Scotland 4-3 (23)
(Ireland win the series 6-2 on points)

Ireland’s hurlers gave Scotland’s shinty players a master class in how to take chances today in the second test of the mixed code game in the process running out easy winners and  making them International Series champions for the fourth year in a row. 
Having hung on to a respectable score line courtesy of two late goals in Inverness, Scotland came to Ennis full of hope that they could turn the series round. These hopes were dead and buried long before half time as it became clear that the Scotland back line simply could not cope with the deadly finishing of the Irish forwards.
In an attempt to get early points on the board the Scots started off with five front men and the tactic seemed to pay off when Kevin Bartlett popped a point over inside the first minute. Irish keeper Bernard Rochford then made a tremendous save to deny Keith Macrae before the home side struck back to even matters with a break away point from Tipperary’s Seumas Callanan. Two further superb saves at close range by Rochford and some frantic Irish defending denied Scotland the breakthrough goal their bright start merited - and then all of a sudden the sky fell in and the match was finished as a contest. 
Brendan Murtagh started the rot in 6 minutes with a single point but when a run from deep from Tipperary’s Patrick Maher in 7 minutes resulted in the first Irish goal of the day the flood gates opened.
Ireland rapidly increased their lead with a goal and a point from Murtagh and a hat trick from Shane Dooley his second goal coming from an unstoppable direct hit and the third after a slip by Scotland defender John Barr.
At the other end Scotland contrived a brief spell of pressure but first John Stewart then Keith Macrae failed to convert further chances while long balls from the centreline were scrambled clear by tenacious Irish defending. Kevin Bartlett did get a point back in 35 and a minute later Finlay Macrae blasted home a free hit for Scotland’s first goal of the afternoon but the tide swung yet again with Callanan scoring single points three times in quick succession to send the home side in at half time with a comfortable 24 point cushion.

Scotland opened the second half brightly and neat play from Kyles Donald Irvine set up a Bartlett strike which brought another fine stop from Rochford. Ireland stretched their lead further with a fine goal from Barry MacFall before Bartlett, Scotland’s best player on the day found space on the left to score his side’s second goal.
Try as they might the Scots could not keep the Irish out and two rapid points from Dooley and another goal from Murtagh kept the pressure on the visitors.   Bartlett scored another for Scotland in 61 minutes but a point from Murtagh, another goal  from Callanan and two late points for Dooley meant that Keith Macrae’s last minute goal for Scotland could hardly count as consolation.
A humbling score line on the day then - and one which leaves The Camanachd Association and Scotland coach Drew Macneil with much to think about before next year’s Test Series.

Yeah. All very well but what does the result suggest about the future of the International series?

It’s not for the Wing Centre to say-that is a matter for the sport as a whole to have a say upon-but from a Glen point of view the area is proud of the guys who over the years have turned out to play in the International series both at Under 21 and senior level. Going back to Burton Morrison, Ron Fraser, Billy Macleod and Jim Barr back in the 70s right down to this year’s crop of five,  participation in the series has given a boost to the profile of shinty in the school and community , not to mention the prestige it gives to the guys who have actually been picked. It’s maybe not the same everywhere but here beside Inverness where Rugby Caps, Boxing Caps, Hockey Caps, Curling Caps and Athletic Caps etc. are not uncommon-especially at under 21 level - the shinty international series sends out a message to kids and parents that Shinty is a sport that has an elite International level too.
Yes we could spend the money- always assuming it was available –in different, purely shinty ways but we will never get the status for the sport any other way.
Of course the game played is neither shinty nor hurling but a compromise sport where the rules have not has yet reached their definitive form. This year the points for goals were increased from 3 to 5- good or bad?
Not good for the Scots in some opinions- the National Manager was consistent saying this well before the first test in Inverness - but for the spectator it made the compromise game infinitely more watchable. In previous encounters the Irish centreline were inclined to fire the ball over for easy points from vast distances without having created anything.

Last weekend, in Ennis they successfully went for goals-though it’s not hard to have doubts about the teamwork aspect of the sport. There were some lovely touches but only one goal, by Dooley, looked like a shinty goal whereby one player knocked the ball through to another who first timed it home. Most of the rest seemed like solo efforts where a player gathers the ball deep and runs flat out balancing it like an egg on a spoon before batting or battering it past the keeper. When it came to one on one in these situations the Irish players were too fast and too strong to be stopped by Scotland’s defenders. It would have helped if the shinty lads were as fast and strong as the hurlers – and maybe in some years that was true but that wasn’t the case on Saturday.
To rub it in, the doubters are always keen to tell us the Irish don’t even play their top guys- and that they use the fixture to reward a range of players from different levels. On the face of it this appears true enough though the vast numbers of hurlers available in Ireland for selection makes the Wing Centre doubt that the best players are always found in the elite counties. It was certainly not true in Shintyland- Keith Loades was one of the most gifted shinty players of his generation; he never won a Camanachd Cup medal because he played for Kinlochshiel and not Kingussie. The same syndrome will also apply in Ireland.
Anyway this time because of availability issues all the best shinty players in Scotland were not on the park in Ennis last weekend, though a fair few were. Some of the guys absent could not commit to the training; others will have decided that the physical ferocity of the encounter does not suit their stick-playing style.

As far as the training issue goes the Manager has given a detailed interview to the Skye Camanachd website which is worth a read. The betting is that the Irish lads have even more taxing regimes at Club and County level though what they do at international level is outwith the Wing Centre’s knowledge. The issue is that should certain Irish players fail to commit then there are hundreds of other players available for selection who can perform at an equally high level - the absence of Patrick Horgan was more than adequately covered by the inclusion of replacement Seumas Callanan. Scotland just does not have that depth of playing resources, so perhaps we have to look at matters again but is that fair to those who are prepared to commit to the programme as it stands?

There are no easy answers but it’s perhaps just as well to spell out the questions.
So what positives did the Wing Centre take out of it all?  Cabers’ Kevin Bartlett is some player- so is Newtonmore’s Steven Macdonald and Shiel’s Finlay Macrae: they would all be worth serious money in a professional game. John Barr, Neil Macdonald and in particular Neil Macphee were the guys who had the obvious physique to challenge the Irish guys on their own ground. Norman Campbell is another who has that ability but for much of the game he did not seem to be in a position which allowed him to show that. The game was actually for the first time a half    decent TV spectacle – and in the end when you get right down to the bare bones, it was good to see so many Glenners involved: it does the club no harm in the Community. There you go- all straws successfully clutched- and the whole illustrated with some nice action pictures and a snap of Drew from Neil Paterson. Neil has a website at .
 As for the rest they were provided by the Glen’s own Hazel Stewart and though she does not have a website yet, she does have as large an archive of shinty snaps as Hugh Dan. Thanks Hazel. Why two of Jim? We are very proud of him in the Glen, that's all.

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