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Camanachd - The Story of Shinty

Scottish shinty can properly claim to to be not only one of the fastest and most exciting team games devised by man, but also one of the oldest, most durable and most influential games in the history of world sport.

Shinty - or Camanachd, as it traditionally known in the Gaelic-speaking Highlands - was introduced to North-West Scotland along with Christianity and the Gaelic language fifteen hundred years ago by those muscular missionaries in sea-going curraghs from the North-East of Ireland.The popularity of the game spread quickly from its Highland heartlands.By the middle ages shinty had become the village sport from Gairloch to Galashiels and the deeds of its great players became the stuff of folklore and legend. Travellers to lonely St Kilda found the inhabitants playing shinty on the wild Atlantic shore; and on the gentler plains of South-East Scotland it is claimed that a game called golf was born out of shinty players practising, alone or in pairs, the art of driving a ball with the caman.

Shinty was taken, by Scots, all over the world. Twenty-four camain were standard issue to battalions of the Lovat Scouts during the Boer War. Highland emigrants to Canada, whose descendants still play "shinny" in winter on the frozen lakes, saw their game evolve into the national sport of ice-hockey.

At home the existence of shinty was frequently threatened, by Royal edicts against popular and uncontrollable games by the Sabbatarianism which followed upon the Reformation and which outlawed in many areas the playing of sports on the day of rest and by the rapid erosion of the old Highland way of life after the Jacobite sawn-song of 1745. But the game stubbornly survived in Highland glens and on island shores,in public parks as far afield as Wimbledon and Edinburgh, until a series of memorable exhibition matches, over a hundred years ago, led to the foundation of the Camanachd Association - a constitutional body which has led shinty, preserving it against all the odds as one of the last great amateur sports, through twenty-first century, into the age of sponsorship, national press attention and television coverage.

Printed with the kind permission of Roger Hutchinson. The above extract is from the dust cover to his book Camanachd! the story of shinty first published in 1989 by Mainstream Press