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The ancient game of shinty

The ancient game of shinty
Mick Atkinson moved to Kames 30 years ago. He’s a fishfarmer and a supporter of local shinty team, Kyles Athletic. Here, he fills us in on the ancient game.

Shinty, the fast-paced and skillful game played predominantly in the north of Scotland, has for many years held a place in the hearts of the Tighnabruaich community. Indeed, I write this piece after a day of elation in on Saturday (11 August) as our local team Kyles Athletic defeated old rivals Newtonmore to claim their place in this year’s Camanachd Cup final – the pinnacle of the sport.

Home games take place on The Kyles of Bute playing field in Tighnabruaich. Any summer visitor to the area who is lucky enough to be around could spend a happy afternoon watching the teams do battle. There’s always a good local crowd – knowledgeable and appreciative – and other spectators are very welcome. The scenic waterfront setting is second to none. The blue waters of ’The Kyles’ seem to almost reach the playing field and you might even see the world’s last ocean-going paddle steamer, The Waverley, cruise by – truly a sight to behold.

The ancient game of shinty is played by two teams of twelve, using wooden sticks or ’camans’ to strike a leather ball. The aim is to strike the ball into the opposing team’s goal. The camans used by the Kyles players are hand made from laminated hickory by Neil Blair and Sons, a local firm of ex and present-day shinty players.

The modern game is played by dedicated, fit young men. Training is held twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) with everyone welcome to come and give it a try and find out what the game is all about. Shinty is still a truly amateur sport, with clubs run from top to bottom by people who are not looking for any reward, but do it simply for the love of their clubs and of the game.

As I mentioned earlier, Kyles Athletic eliminated the league and cup holders Newtonmore at the semi-final stage of the Camanachd Cup. This will undoubtedly lead to a very quiet village on 15th September, when all roads will lead to Oban as Kyles take on Inveraray in an all-Argyll final. Can the magnificent old trophy be brought home to Tighnabruaich for the first time in seventeen years? We certainly won’t fail due to lack of effort.

So many people from our community put a huge effort into making our club a success at all levels, from primary school right through to the first team. Days like the up-coming final are our ultimate objective. No Tighnabruaich teenager can remember the ’Big Cup’ residing in our village, and it’s high-time this was rectified.




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