Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The past is another country; shinty was different then.

The fixtures are out , the  cup draws have been made and before we know it shinty’s phoney war will be over and the Glen will be back at the business end of their camans once more-provided, that is, that the weather holds. You have to say that the whole Glen has been lucky so far-the pitch looks in fine condition after Mr Reid has rolled it twice and cut the top corner near the bowling green.

It is quite hard to remember that a few years ago just after the trees had been taken off Herd’s Hill and with a collapsed drain on Balmacaan Farm, the pitch at Blairbeg was completely out of commission and the Glen had to play for a full season on the outside pitch at the Bught. Long may the Jetstream park itself somewhere else!!

At a time of the year when there is little shinty related to do except draw the lotto numbers and watch the training, the Wing Centre was alerted to a programme on BBC Alba which touched on the indigenous sport. Filmed back in 1978 at a time when the Highland Constabulary still thought they could catch the killer of Renee Macrae the programme featured Newtonmore just as it lost a filling station and gained a by-pass with the creation of the new A9. It must have been very interesting for folks in the village to see all those who are gone- the Wing Centre did not recognise many of them with the exception of the late Jock Paul Mackintosh and Sandy Russell- but what did strike him was just how great the change has been in the portrayal of shinty on the media. That change has certainly been for the better. The Newtonmore side of the 1970s were the best side of their day and their Kingussie opponents were on the cusp of becoming the most successful shinty side in history yet from the tiny snippet of the game that was shown the impression was given of a sport dominated by violence and absence of skill. A game of shinty between two of the best sides in the sport was patronisingly edited down to conform to a stereotype which probably persists in some uneducated parts of the Highlands and beyond still. What was especially sad was that the legendary Findlay J who was doing the voiceover- doubtless he had no control of the script-using that distinctive antique Hebridean accent, allowed himself to characterise shinty as a “form of warfare” and Mr Cameraman lingered on some dubious swinging by Davie Thompson, a punch from Ian Bain while Rab Muir and Kenny Mackintosh were filmed doing a Keystone Cops routine over a stick. Meanwhile ref Brian Watts was involved in an argument with a spectator while the boss of Tulloch Homes, big George Fraser battered the Kingussie keeper over the line into the net. The rest of the game was left on the cutting room floor-in those days literally: shinty-and the Highlands- was ill served by such coverage.  Has it improved? Massively but then again it could hardly have been worse.
Of interest too was the Newtonmore Shinty Club Committee meeting. Again the TV Agenda was skewed to focus on compensation to a player for losing his front teeth in a match. Of course that did occasionally happen as it still in the modern game –though gum shields and face guards have made the sport much safer-but the Wing Centre has been involved in shinty committees over many years and they have always dealt with much more complex issues such the provision of team development opportunities, sourcing equipment, transport, pitch maintenance and improvement. Admittedly the film did look at the new pitch that was being created on the Eilean though why that was not filmed being discussed in the Committee meeting only the producer knows. Newtonmore Shinty Club was at the forefront of shinty’s facilities revolution and the club was stuffed with able articulate guys like John Mackenzie, John and George Fraser yet they were never asked for an opinion. Pity. Even more’s the pity that the programme was called “Shinty Town” when the subject was so poorly dealt with.
Afterwards, one was left with the sense that one had been watching a programme as remote from our present day experience as it would have been had it focused on the lives of a tribe of Indians living in the Amazon jungle. Perhaps not, but one hopes things worked out well for the lad Kirk who like so many small time  filling station owners in the Highlands was summarily shafted by a big oil company.

 Back in the Glen where the Loch Ness Monster builds the quaintness factor into village life, the Shinty Committee is much exercised with enlarging their sponsor base – and a quick look at the new website will reveal that much has been done - Nodram, Cobbs, The Loch Ness Inn and HIS all appear as main funders and that fact will no doubt be celebrated on the new club jerseys which will be unveiled before too long.  The Committee are also greatly exercised with the creation of a “rebound wall” for player development and with any luck it will be ready in the near future. It is for those who are not well versed in these things the equivalent of the old gable end of the stone cottage against which the young player of yore used to hone his skills. The only difference will be that the surface of the newly created wall will be too smooth for authenticity in comparison with that of the old rubble built cottage. Personally the Wing Centre would also like to see the inclusion right at the top of the wall off a wee window to encourage accuracy of shooting though sadly that did not meet with the agreement of the rest of the committee.
Also approved by the Committee was the removal of the “solar panel” which worked the sign so well for a year or two. Now the sign will run off a cable which has been run underground to the pavilion and is powered by an exercise bicycle in the wee fitness suite which is to be found in the said pavilion. The Pavilion too has had its lighting restored and the photo included here has already been featured on the Club website, as has of course the congratulations to the P7 and under youngsters for  winning the Inverness Area C C  tournament at the start of February and as a result they have progressed to the national final in Fort William.
That takes us neatly on to the cup draws which everyone knows by now. Glen have a trip to Skye in the MacTavish while in the Sutherland Iain Macleod’s lads face GMA at Drum and in the Strathdearn they face Lochaber also in Drum. Well done to the WAGs and also to the Camanachd Association for getting City Provost Alex Graham into the picture for the draw.
Next up – a home friendly with Skye while the seconds seek out Boleskine on the Farr side of the loch. These games will both be testers. So far, from what the Wing Centre has seen the guys have been doing well in training-last Saturday saw a successful full sided work out between two full Glen sides at Blairbeg – but only time will tell how that will transfer to the actual game on the day.
Chi sinn.
Photographs ? The Pavilion at night all lit up ;
: the guys in the practice  then doing stretches and of course the Primary 7s.  Enjoy.

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