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'Caman' see how shinty's story was written!


By Tom Ramage


In the year when the art of making a caman or shinty stick was officially designated “critically endangered” Badenoch's 2019 Dr Johnnie Cattanach Memorial Lecture will focus on the art and history of making the caman.

“an elegant weapon, graceful to wield, and of delightful capacity for hacking an opponent's head, or elevating his knee-cap (picture Aidan Woods)
“an elegant weapon, graceful to wield, and of delightful capacity for hacking an opponent's head, or elevating his knee-cap (picture Aidan Woods)

The illustrated talk, which will draw on archival material held at the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore and will use rare images and sounds, will be held on Thursday, November 7 at 7.30pm at the folk museum and will be delivered by Dr Hugh Dan MacLennan from the Academy of Sport, University of Edinburgh.

The caman is, along with the ball, is the most important element in any shinty match and has, over the centuries, undergone little change in terms of its fundamental shape. Its manufacture, however, has been subject to significant external influences which have radically altered the way camans have been made and finished.

Described in a late 19th Century newspaper article as “an elegant weapon, graceful to wield, and of delightful capacity for hacking an opponent's head, or elevating his knee-cap”, shinty has faced many challenges in terms of supply.

The caman has been to war and weddings, featured in court casesand international matches and is now recognised as one of Scottish sports most recognisable iconic images.Camans have been treasured possession and life-long friends, cared for lovingly and in their silver-mounted versions, regarded as being amongst the most highly prized honours in the sport.

Dr MacLennan will trace the history of the many changes seen in shinty stick production through individuals and organisations such as John Macpherson Stores, Neil Blair, Rivdal, Prolam, Leisuropa, Heron, Tanera, Willie Munro, John and Mabel Sloggie.He will also be displaying numerous examples of other individuals’ efforts to make camans, which often helped keep the game alive in Highland communities.

Hugh Dan said: “One thing I would like to see on the evening of the talk is a range of the sticks which players and others in the shinty community have gathered and cared for, many of which will be of a significant age now.It would be nice to see what the oldest one we could find would be, apart from the venerable versions we will have on display from various museums and other sources.Every shinty stick has a story to tell and I am sure there will be a few surprises. Let’s see what people can unearth and what stories can be told."

For details about reserving places at the talk, see the attached poster.



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