Monday, January 23, 2012

Memories are made of days like these

With the publication on the website of the forthcoming friendly fixtures, including the Macdonald Cup and the Ali Ban, the Wing Centre at least has the illusion that progress is being made towards the new season. Training is also in full swing on the Astro though the ability to actually play on grass has been very much compromised by the incessant rain which has turned the fair field at Blairbeg into a green sponge. If it’s been that bad in Glenurquhart , which was shown in the 80s & 90s, according to the little weather station, at the school to get as little rainfall as Bournemouth –presumably it all fell in Strathglass before it reached here-then goodness knows how bad pitches must be in Skye, Lochcarron or Balmacara. One can only guess at the situation in Bute, Inveraray and Tighnabruaich while the permafrost no doubt still covers the Dell and the Eilean.
The matches scheduled are as follows

Sat 11th February
Strathglass V Glenurquhart (Macdonald Cup Throw up tbc)
Strathglass V Glenurquhart (Ali Ban Throw up tbc)
Sat 18th February
1st team - Glenurquhart V Lochcarron - 1:30
2nd team - Boleskine V Glenurquhart - 1:30
Sat 25th February
1st team - Glenurquhart V Fort William - 1:30
2nd team - Beauly V Glenurquhart - 1:30

- all of which shows just how little the Wing Centre has to write about when he is reduced to repeating a list of fixtures the Chairman has already published on the website.
However having spent some time looking at the squad training, the vibe is a positive one. Of course, the situation is as it always is at the start of a season-one of anticipation and hope but of course success will depend on how much effort and commitment the lads are willing to give over the whole course of the campaign. Early signs look good- and there is certainly a buzz about the place and not just because for the moment the lotto stands at a nice round figure. This is not either the time or place to write about managers or players–it’s too early for one thing- but that will come in time. Suffice to say that despite how the village changes the Wing Centre simply wants to see more bairns going up and down Balmacaan Road with shinty sticks in their hands going off for a wee knock. One was spotted the other day-the first wee swallow of the summer-but there are not enough of them. Mind you they don’t go down the road with footballs either, not in this village nor nationally which is why the SFA managed to persuade someone in authority to create seven National Football Academies throughout the land where the kids are chosen by ability and receive specialised coaching as part of the curriculum. Given that they do the same thing at Plockton for pipers and fiddlers you wonder why the indigenous sport doesn’t get a wee bunk up too- with our own network of shinty academies? Of course the Wing Centre knows perfectly well why not. Not only football but rugby, badminton even hockey get a better deal than the indigenous teuchter sport but at least he is thankful that for the moment that an aforementioned football academy has not been established in the North though doubtless the townies will be squeaking for it. If the nation really responding to the public demand and preparing guys and dolls for a lifelong participation in sport, we should be setting up Academies for snooker, pool and darts. If it is the economy that requires boosting then there ought to be academies for science, engineering, construction…….at this point of course in full rant mode it is time to return to the shinty itself. Why? Because to continue in this vein is to compromise sanity and lead to madness, so it’s back to the shinty ghetto with some reminiscences about days gone by when every bairn in the Glen had Mac in his surname - the Frasers, Grants and Chisholms were always Norman incomers - and went to school with a shinty club and a slab of dried porridge for his play piece.
One little piece of memorabilia came to light a week or so ago when James Gibson dug out an old programme which was created to mark the centenary of Glen School back in 1993. James did not actually have any photos of the teams involved on the day but the programme which was a little faded indicated a match between the “Has Beens” and the “Would Bes” on June 12th 1993.
The “Has Beens” were the side which in May 1967 won the MacPherson Cup –a date incidentally which has gone down along with 1977- into the history of Glen shinty despite other achievements having been equally great. A side including Graeme Young and Dugald Ross won the Macpherson in 1979 but then of course the presence of Strathglass’s Roy Mackenzie may have properly caused it to slip from the Glen’s collective memory.
While few can recall with any certainty what the score was in the Commemorative match and the Wing centre was inclined to remember it as a draw.However a communication with Iain Macleod of the youthful "Would Bes" elicited the information that it was a draw 3-3 with captain Burton Morrison credited with all three scores for the vets.In Iain's recollection Andrew Macdonald salvaged the reputation of the youth with an equaliser late in the match.
Of the side which defeated Lochaber High in Fort William in May 1967 a good number including Ally Mackintosh, Ron Fraser, Mike Cameron and Jim Barr are still very close to the club while Burton Morrison had a long and distinguished career with Mid Argyll and Ken Kennedy was still involved with Kilmallie last season. Many of the others played their part in Shinty at Aberdeen University (Mike Girvan/Ruaraidh Taylor) the late Davie Morrison played for Aberdeen Camanachd when work took him there while Donny Paterson and Ronnie Smart also played for Glen big teams. James Gibson also played Glen shinty for a time while Kenny Carmichael was a superb full forward at Aberdeen University and also returned to star in the Glen 1st team for a number of years. The only player that it is hard to recall as having played in the adult team is big Duncan Campbell- but then he may well have done-though his career was not a long one.
Of the “Would Bes” a number have been and are still to the fore in Glen sides i.e. Eddie Tembo, Calum Fraser, Andrew Macdonald, Paul Mackintosh and Iain Macleod. Charlie Duncan was a regular in the firsts for a season or two even after he settled in Edinburgh and Lee Lendon served for a season as top team keeper before he left the village. The other three Glenners in the side were Andrew Allan, Jon Trelfer and Kenneth Macpherson while Strathglass boys Dean Harrison and Gavin Rafferty filled the remaining places. On the bench were Colin Macrae from Drum and Cannich’s Chris Burke.
A little piece of Club history is then recalled by an old programme and as luck would have it Iain was able to provide not one but two pic. The first which shows the two captains jointly about to receive the trophy after the match. It is to be presented by Home Economcs teacher Mrs Jessie Mackay whose late husband Murdo taught Science at Glen School and who managed the boys of '67 to victory.

One further thought does occur. Why did so many of the 1967 guys stick around with shinty over the years when fewer of the ’93 guys did - given that the ’93 guys had been nurtured in the heady excitement of the late 80s and early 90’s when the Glen was winning stuff and getting to a Camanachd final? A social change in the population which plays the game? More things to do? Maybe it’s just chance.

The nostalgic train of thought is continued in the two photos displayed here also. Recently the Club won the London Shield a victory which not only occasioned the photo which was uploaded but also a little conversation about when the Glen had won it last. The picture recently shown of the school in which James Clark was included was of course of Glen School and the Wade Cup. The two photos included here are of the London shield winners: the first in 1991 at Beauly (grateful thanks again to HD and his book) where the result was a 4-3 win over Oban Celtic. The other picture marks the team of 2001 and the background is clearly the Jubilee at Ballachulish. The team defeated were Inveraray but without HD’s book to give the score all that can be claimed is that it was a Glen win. How do we know the date? It is printed on the photograph at the bottom right. 26. 05. 2001.
Thanks to Iain Macleod and to Glen secretary, Hazel Stewart for the pics.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Our revels now are ended: let the shinty begin….soon …please!

In the Glen for the moment all traces of stick game activity have vanished completely off the radar and for the connoisseur of the Celtic sport for the time being there has been little diversion save reading about the game, watching Caman on the telly and going down to the A82 to read the notice board at the field. This last is understandable if you want to find out the lotto numbers but apart from a general Happy New Year to all and sundry, there has been little to catch the eye of the committed shinty fiend.
The Wing Centre has poured all his festive energies into reading in particular two excellent shinty publications. The first of these, and the one the Wing Centre did not open until that dull windy period between Christmas and New Year was “Toss thine antlers, Caberfeidh“ It was read in a oner and a fascinating oner it was. Edited by Hugh Dan Maclennan -where he gets his unlimited bags of energy and enthusiasm is a mystery to this writer-it takes the reader through the successes and personalities , past and present of Ross-shire’s greatest ever shinty club. Family connections, continuity, loyalty, courage and tradition-it is all there. When the Wing Centre thinks of Cabers, he always thinks of Willie Maclennan as the player par excellence in a blue jersey but doubtless there were heroes in every generation and if the performance of Kevin Bartlett in the international against the Irish recently is anything to go by the present generation is no different from those that went before. And the Glen angle? - because there usually has to be a Glen angle in anything that gets into the “D” On page 18, in the centre of the picture of the victorious Cabers team which beat Kingussie 2-0 in the McGillivray final at Inverness in 1963 is none other than “Doey” Fraser (Doey Kerrowdown) who played for and managed the Glen in the 1970s. “Doey” was a fine player and a gentleman and his untimely death in 1980 at the age of 46 was not only a family tragedy but left a gap in Glen shinty which took a long time to be filled.
The second publication which the Wing Centre had time to read with some care was of course Aberdeen University’s “Keeping the Camanachd Flag Flying” which came out in August in time for the 2011 Sutherland Cup Final which the Glen failed to reach (to the chagrin of the Wing Centre who had already booked accommodation in the Silver City in anticipation of a great Glen day out)
The Glen angles to this book are far too numerous to mention running as they do the full gamut from Peter English to Jamie Bell and from John Alec Mackenzie to Billy Urquhart but if the Wing Centre was to think of Aberdeen University then the player par excellence that comes to mind is Burton Morrison- and his piece on the 1970s was a particularly pleasant if nostalgic read .
The Wing Centre-and his good lady – spent an interesting afternoon picking out the Glenners in the pictures- and truth to tell it was an endlessly diverting pastime because no sooner did you think you had got them all when up would pop Jamie Macpherson or Corky in a photo. Should you count those who went to Drum School but did not play for the Glen as bona fide? No –Well perhaps it’s always best to agree the rules of a Christmas game before you start to play it.
Thanks for production of this excellent book of course go to Steven Mackenzie who hails from Beauly but despite that little blip he has worked tirelessly on behalf the indigenous sport in the Granite City over the years. Steven also popped up on the final episode of Caman to talk about shinty in Aberdeen- and the verdict has generally been that the series has been a positive thing for shinty, showing the community roots and the athletic focus of the players. Also on the last episode was the First Minister. Did he really say ‘fitba’? That can be said in an Aberdeenshire accent and be natural-and Oor Willie can say it- though only in writing if you catch the Wing Centre’s drift-but otherwise it just sounds a little patronising given the surrounding verbal context. But then who is the Wing Centre to talk (or even write) about the subject of patronisation! However, given the momentous events about to happen in the next year or two, it is probably a good idea to sound genuine.
With snow on Culnakirk it was simply not sensible to nip over the top to see the Lovat/Beauly New Year game (which Greg Matheson won with his usual brace) so further effort had to be put into diverting oneself without any actual games to watch. As always the Skye website keeps one up to date with matters caman-shaped and Torquil Macleod, the Chief Operating Officer of the Camanachd has provided the Sgiathanaich with a 6 part interview which pretty much says it all, though there is still some uncertainty about where the Association stands on the Iranian nuclear question. Perhaps T will let us know in part 7.
What did catch the eye however was a really nice piece in the WHFP (23/12/2012) which escaped the Wing Centre’s attention until the windy day after New Year when he was going to use it to light the fire. By Angus Peter Campbell, it dealt with Kinlochshiel’s Noel Gordon and was filled with shinty crack about Kinlochshiel and Sorley, as well as a nice picture of the ‘Shiel Sutherland winning side of 1962 with Willie ‘Doonsie’, Noel and his brothers, Colin Campbell, Philip Mackenzie from Kyle and of course Iain Dubh. This latter picture sent the Wing Centre back to Hugh Dan’s “Shinty-100 Years of the Camanachd Association” –the only work of Shinty reference known to man- and this tells us that Shiel beat Kyles 5-4 at Fort William. This was of course a year before the Glen managed their solitary triumph in 1963 at Spean Bridge, Kyles being once again on the losing side.
And that was all the Shinty fix that was available unless you count Radio nan Gaidheal’s Annual Sports Round Up which took forever to get round to the Shinty. The Wing Centre had to sit through football, rugby, the Island Games and goodness knows what before they reached that memorable commentary of Gilleasbuig going mental at the Camanachd final. It has to be said that it is only memorable after being heard on 31st December for the first time, since the Wing Centre was at the match in question and thus never heard it on the radio. Now he wishes he had.
Hugh Dan was talking about Rugby. The Wing Centre hopes that for Uisdean it’s only business and that he can find some time to update his book because without an update you are never going to know who won what, when and where unless you go looking back through old Camanachd Cup Final programmes, and then the one you find only has a list of the referees. To get Hugh started, the Wing Centre will give him a title –“Shinty – 119 Years of the Camanachd Association”. Yep-it’s really been that long though perhaps it wouldn’t seem so bad if the Wing Centre got out more!

Come on HD. The Wing Centre has even done the Maths on the cover.

The last pic ? The Glen coaches get prepared!! Good.

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