As much of the Shinty Revivals of the 1990s in Lewis were focused in Back thanks to Boyd MacKenzie and the late Dr Barden, the Loch a Tuath News is a great source of info for those years, as well as a marker of how important that area has been for the redevelopment of the sport in the Island. The Comainn & Cleas section of this invaluable social record has a richness of articles that shed light on a crucial time in the sport’s history in the Western Isles.
January 1998 an article marks the two years of shinty in Back and gives a flavour of the club’s activities, with competitions, tournaments and barbecues. Some fixtures are recorded, including a Back V Sandwick tournament between Under 16s (Sandwick 3 – Back 2) and Under 12s (Back 11 – Sandwick 9) placed at Knock.
The March 1998 issue is tinged with sadness as it provides an essay by Dr Alasdair Barden (pictured above – photo by Angus Smith) where amongst many personal anecdotes he talks about how his wife Donna reading about the old custom in Lewis of a shinty game on New Year’s Day led to him suggesting that she organise a match. The rest is history as he says himself. Sadly Dr Barden would not live to see the fruits of his labours in shinty, but these are obvious in the small articles placed to keep interest alive in the sport. April 1998 advertises training at Gress and the visit of Allan MacMillan from the Camanachd Association and May 1998 has a potted history of shinty collected from various sources.
Sadly the July/August edition opens with a Tribute to Dr Barden who passed away in June 1998 and mentioned is his devotion to shinty, alongside Gaelic, politics, music and of course, religion.
The Comhairle’s Education Department provided goalposts for use on the Gress Machair in summer 1998 according to the September 1998 edition – what ever happened to these posts?
April 1999 sees a mention of the history of shinty in Scarp from Angus Duncan’s “Memories of Scarp”, a list of dates showing training and tournaments and a preview of trips to Uist for the Lord of the Isles at Prince Charles request and a trip to Lochinver for the Assynt Shinty Festival.
May 1999 is packed with info, including both the Lord of the Isles tournament in Berneray which was won by Muirneag (Sandwick/Borve select against Back. The 1998 running had been cancelled due to Dr Barden’s death. The 1999 festival was run in Berneray to coincide with the openeing of the Berneray Causeway and Prince Charles wished to see the trophy he had so kindly donated 2 years before. He was presented with a caman by Donna Barden. Teams from North & South Uist, and Barra all competed.
Back – Ian Kennedy, John MacKenzie, James MacKenzie, Daniel Gallacher, Andrew Ross MacLennan and Alan MacKay
Muirneag – George Mowat, Donald Lamont, Sean Smith, Eoin Smith, Peadar Smith and Alexander MacLeod.
It also gives information on a Scotland V Italy match held on Gress Machair on Saturday 24th April. As part of Iurosgoil 99, a pan-European festival for children from minority language communities, Lewis palyed host to a gropu of Ladin speakers from Northern Italy. A Matthias Declara was man of the match for the Ladins. Other children from across Europe all had the opporuntity to try shinty later. The fixture was organised by Mr D.A. Stewart headmaster of Sgoil a’ Bhac. His mother remembered shinty being played in Back in her youth.
October 1999 gives an account of Back’s trip to the Assynt/Lochinver Shinty Festival. The team consisted of Daniel Gallacher, Andrew Ross Maclennan, Craig Macdonald, Gavin Macdonald, John Mackenzie and James Mackenzie. Angus Macdonald travelled as adult helper. The youngsters made a trip out of it having a barbeque and sports quiz on the night before at Inchnadamph. Despite a 4am alarm clock mix up, Back defeated an experienced Beauly team in their first fixture, Craig Macdonald scoring the winner, as well as securing a draw in another game. Andrew Ross Maclennan did well in goals. The tournament was won by Assynt. Medals were presented by broadcaster and former shinty commentator Ian Anderson. In the photo below the team are joined by Mr Kenneth Campbell and his wife. Kenneth Campbell was originally from Scalpay but was a vet in Skye for many years.
Later issues of the newsletter have less shinty, although there are pictures of a shinty team at the Tong Village Fete in 2010, as well as a mention of Scott Murray being voted World of Shinty North Division Three player of the year for 2012.
However, there is one large article written by Alasdair Murray, Scott’s father, about the 2011 season which sums up nicely the contribution that Loch a Tuath has made to shinty in Lewis. Covering all the highlights and adventures of initial league entry, it is well worth a read.
Cuimhnichibh na daoine bhon tàinig sibh!