It’s a double celebration this year with both shinty in Lewis and Harris and the Hebridean Celtic Festival marking special 20th Anniversaries.
This marks the 20th HebCelt, which has grown in size and stature since its establishment, and the Festival’s links with shinty run back to 2007 when they first provided a trophy for the Hebridean Celtic Festival Cup, then played at the old Acres Pitch. However, whilst this year will see the ninth running of the cup, the sport of the Gael, for many years moribund in the Hebrides, marks a 20th Birthday of its own.
To coincide with the Hebridean Celtic Festival, a full week of events are planned for Fèis Camanachd na Fichead Bliadhna, tying in with the fact that 2015 marks twenty years since the revival of shinty by the late Dr Alasdair Barden at New Year on the Tong pitch. Two decades later, and now the Hebrides plays host to a vibrant local shinty scene, with Camanachd Leòdhais competing weekly in the North leagues and youngsters from the Butt to Barra all having at least some opportunity to play the sport from a young age, with Uist Camanachd running a succssful youth programme.
The week will tie in well with the Thursday night debut at the Festival of Curaidhean na Camanachd. “The Shinty Heroes” concert has been an acclaimed success since it premiered in Fort William in 2013. It explores the contribution and losses of shinty playing communities in the Great War – and every performance has had a local flavour, so shinty historian Hugh Dan MacLennan and musical director Gary Innes will be sure to touch upon the effects that the conflict had on practically wiping out the sport of the Gael by the 1920s.
The night before on Wednesday night, there will be the first shinty action of the week – The Craig Morrison Stornoway Sixes. This event will be open to all-comers and is an annual celebration of the life of Craig Morrison, an enthusiastic and committed Lewis player who passed away tragically at the age of 20 in 2009. This event will start at 6.30pm and run until around 9pm, with teams from the island and guests from away also invited to be involved.
The youth will be catered for as well with the annual Camanachd Leòdhais Summer Camp at the Smith Avenue Astro from Monday 13th July to Friday 17th July – run in conjunction with the Comhairle’s Motiv8 programme. There is limited space on this camp and booking should be done by contacting Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais on 01851 822800.
The 20th Anniversary Week will culminate with the renowned HebCelt Cup between Lewis and Uist. With it being a prestigious week for their Northern rivals, the Uibhistich will be desperate to put a spanner in the works and stop the North Division Two side claiming the Cup for the third time in a row. Always a great spectacle for the visitor, make sure you are there to see this great sporting event.
However the ladies will kick off the week with a game on Saturday 11th July with the visit of Skye Camanachd to the island and will also close the Fichead Bliadhna festival when they play a challenge match after the men’s match is finished on Saturday 18th July.
Thanks to Caroline MacLennan and all at the Hebridean Celtic Festival for their support of shinty at the Festival. Tickets can be bought here.
Monday 13th July – Friday 17th July Motiv8 Shinty Camp 11am-2pm
Wednesday 15th July – Craig Morrison Stornoway Sixes 6.30pm
Thursday 16th July – Curaidhean na Camanachd – Shinty Heroes, An Lanntair, 7.30pm
Saturday 18th July – 9th Hebridean Celtic Festival Challenge Cup – Lewis V Uist 2pm