Published: 12/09/2014 10:46 - Updated: 12/09/2014 11:47

Concert remembers shinty's fallen heroes

Duncan MacGillvray.
Duncan MacGillvray.

A SPECIAL concert on the eve of the 2014 Camanachd Cup will show that players of the sport were not just heroes on the shinty pitch.

Glòir nan Caman/Home and Away is part of the 10th Blas Festival of Highland music and culture and brings together the Gaeltacht’s national sport and the centenary of the start of World War I by remembering the shinty heroes who were lost in the conflict.

Former Inverness Courier shinty and Gaelic columnist Hugh Dan MacLennan, who is presenting Glòir nan Caman, says each performance has been tailored to the area where it is performed, but the Inverness event at Eden Court’s OneTouch Theatre will be more general and have a special focus on the events of a century ago in the 1914 Camanachd Cup Final.

Held in Glasgow, that saw Kingussie beat Kyles Athletic 6-1. 100 years on, Kingussie are again in the final, this time up against Glenurquhart.

"Kingussie had six players in the 1914 team who never came back," MacLennan said.

"All the players on Saturday will have a special commissioned team strip which will have a poppy on it and each one will have the name of the man who played in that position in 1914."

Also marking the links between World War I and shinty will be a performance on a special set of bagpipes, themselves survivors of the Western Front.

The pipes belonged to Beauly shinty player Lance-Corporal Donald Paterson of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, who was killed at the Battle of Festubert in May 1915 after tending wounded comrades.

His brother Alastair, a fellow member of the Beauly shinty team which won the 1913 Camanachd Final, died three weeks later from wounds he received at Festubert.

The restored pipes are now in the care of renowned piper Duncan MacGillivray of Calrossie near Tain, who has played them at venues worldwide, including Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach when Pope Francis visited Brazil last year.

"To have the pipes that were actually on the battlefield being played is a knockout moment," MacLennan said.

"Duncan is so immersed in that stuff that he just cuts the part. When you see him coming on, it’s as if he is just coming back from the trenches."

Perhaps fittingly, given the context of the show, MacGillivray, who performs in Glòir nan Caman with his four children as the MacGillivrays of Calrossie, is well known as a former member of the Battlefield Band.

He is also named after his relative Duncan P. MacGillivray, who is commemorated in shinty’s MacGillivray Cup, the former seniors trophy. As an expert in Arabic language and culture, the earlier MacGillivray also served in World War I where he worked alongside desert hero Lawrence of Arabia.

The rest of the line up will include brother and sister Megan and Alan Henderson and a more recent shinty hero, Scotland and Fort William captain Gary Innes.

He is not the only accordion playing shinty star. Glenurquhart goalkeeper Stuart MacKinnon plays with Inverness band Schiehallion and it is hoped he might also make an appearance.

• Glòir nan Caman/Home and Away is at the OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, this evening, Friday 12th September, at 8pm.

Eden Court’s Empire Theatre hosts the Blas Festival Grand Finale on Saturday at 7.30pm where the emphasis will be on youth with performers drawn from the fèisean movement of youth festivals.

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