It’s hardly surprising that mention of the word shinty sparks happy memories and reminiscences in the sport’s Highland heartland.
The group Badenoch Shinty Memories has generated hours of joy with participants since its inception in 2019, and is now looking for funds to be able to carry on.
Based in camanachd-steeped Kincraig, Insh, Drumguish, Kingussie, Newtonmore, Laggan and Dalwhinnie, the group is a joint venture with the Highland Folk Museum under the umbrella of Shinty Memory Groups, an initiative to help people living with dementia and other mental health issues such as depression, isolation and loneliness.
Before lockdown, the group was going from strength to strength holding events and talks in local hotels, halls, sports venues and care homes, often attracting upwards of 80 attendees.
Undaunted by the pandemic, the group moved online to offer quizzes and reminiscence sessions, which “worked great in care homes,” says group chairman John MacKenzie.
Mr MacKenzie is a Newtonmore shinty legend, playing with the Blue and Whites between 1962 and 1983, and winning 10 Camanachd Cup medals.
He is now chieftain of the Camanachd Association.
He said: “It’s inspiring to see the faces of people when we reconnect them with the game, and even those with no connection knew what we were about and got involved.
“The shinty community knows of many people who have dementia.
“We have so much we can contribute by talking to people and triggering memories through our photographs and memorabilia.
“Sharing our memories is so important.”
More reminiscing is sparked by showing images of local scenes including villages and farms, and things like a picture of a ration book can get conversation flowing too, Mr Mackenzie said.
As the project develops the plan is to collate and digitise participants’ own shinty images and memorabilia for use by the group and wider community.
The images will also go towards the establishment of a national shinty collection, archive and library.
The group’s initial funding from the Life Changes Trust has now come to an end and the hunt is on for funding to continue the work.
Mr MacKenzie said: “A lot of shinty history has formed in and around these communities.
“I’ve been privileged to play here in an era when we won virtually everything, I’m privileged to live in the community and be steeped in it, both on my mother’s and father’s side.
“Now I want to put something back into the community.”
Dr Hugh Dan MacLennan is a director of Sporting Heritage UK, and involved with the national Shinty Memories group.
He said: “We will continue to develop our online work even after Covid-19.
“Events of the last few months made everyone think about the way all sorts of services are delivered and we expect that that our activities will continue online for the foreseeable future.
“Our key focus for 2021 has to be sustainability, recruitment and training/support. Our sport’s archives and collections remain central to the creation of resources to help us maintain the level of service we aspire to in the crucial area of the application of sporting heritage to sports reminiscence therapy.”
Key targets for the national group in 2021 include strengthening activity in Argyll and on the west coast and Skye, including Lewis and Glasgow.
Anyone wishing help financially or donate materials such as match programmes and old yearbooks, should contact Shinty Memories Scotland.