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shinty

The Celtic Sport

Once little more than a chaotic clash between Highland districts, shinty
is still a battle of sorts, played with enthusiasm across Scotland.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY PAUL STAFFORD

Newtonmore and Kingussie are small towns of 1,100 and 1,400 inhabitants respectively, located three miles apart along a stretch of land north of the confluence of the Spey and Calder rivers. Between them, they have produced some of Scotland's finest shinty teams and players, but also the game's bitterest rivalry.

The Eilan shinty (camanachd) field is one of Scotland's most impressively located sports pitches; it is cradled by this meeting of rivers and surrounded by the heaving sighs of the Grampian Mountains that enclose the two valleys. Around the emerald pitch, everything is doused in mauve, russet and pine green. But the only colours that matter here are blue and white.

Shinty has been played at the Eilan, home of Newtonmore Camanachd Club (who play in blue and white), since at least 1877. Like any good origins story about two adversaries, Kingussie and Newtonmore started life as one combined team. By 1890 they had split, forming their own respective rival teams that have since gone on to completely dominate the sport. Kingussie is no longer mentioned much by name in Newtonmore; it is merely referred to as "that other team."

The Globe, a long-defunct British newspaper, wrote of shinty on May 8, 1893: "In Scotland there are three games which can best claim to be native to the soil -- golf, curling and shinty -- and the greatest of these is shinty, whereof the Gaelic name is camanachd."

The full text of this article is available in the Spring 2019 issue of Scottish Life.

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Photo © Paul Stafford