Shinty match to honour WWI dead 100 years on

The two sides competed for the Camanachd Cup 100 years ago. Picture: TSPL
The two sides competed for the Camanachd Cup 100 years ago. Picture: TSPL
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A SHINTY match will be played tomorrow to honour players who perished on the battlefields of the First World War, a century on from a historic cup final.

Kingussie and Kyles Athletic competed on the turf on 4 April, 1914. The clubs met in the Camanachd Cup Final in Glasgow exactly 100 years and one day ago – but nine of the stars never played again.

In the months that followed, many would be sent to fight and die in the trenches.

The teams meet again in a league match tomorrow, and a minute’s silence will be observed in honour of the players who were fated not to see out another game.

Kingussie historian John Robertson said: “The match will pay tribute to everyone who died in the Great War. There were 60 men in Kingussie killed, with a further 49 from the Kyles area. Six players from Kingussie died, with three from Kyles.

“But on the day of the final, they were just there for the shinty.

“The war had an devastating effect on Highland communities, and also on shinty teams. Players in Kingussie decided to begin playing again after the war in honour of those who died.”

More than 200 fans travelled by train from Kingussie to the final at Possil Park.

While Kyles opened the scoring, Kingussie produced one of the best performances in the club’s history to win 6-1.

Nobody realised at the time it would be the last competitive match the club would play for many years, and the final game for those who gave their lives in the war.

Exactly four months later, Britain had declared war on Germany.

On 5 August, the Kingussie contingent of the Cameron Highlanders left Kingussie railway station to join their unit in Inverness before heading south to Bedford to prepare for war.

It was at the Battle of Festubert that the first member of the Kingussie squad was killed. John Macpherson died on the first night of the battle on 17 May, 1915.

William Macgillivray, the Camanachd Cup-winning captain from the year before, was killed the next day.

The Camanachd Association produced a roll of honour after the First World War to remember the shinty players who gave their lives in the conflict.

As the preface to the roll states: “Players of the old national pastime of the Highlands readily came forward and laid down their lives in the greater game of war, when the contest was for King and country.”

The tale of the Kingussie men echoes the story of other Scottish sporting teams who left their previous behind to fight in the war, such as McCrae’s Battalion, which included most of the Hearts football team.

Highland councillor Dave Fallows, who writes shinty reports for a local newspaper, said: “This is a fitting tribute to those men who died for their country.

“This was the last final before many of these brave men tragically died. Highlanders are famous for their efforts during conflicts, and many from this area died as a result.”