THE man behind the visiting Northern California Camanachd (NCC) remarkably thought shinty was a historical game after swotting up on the sport in text books but after going down 4-2 to Lewis Camanachd in cathartic weather conditions the American visitors could be forgiven for wishing to consign their historic match in Stornoway to the annals of the past.
To see a team of American guests, who are more used to the sunkissed conditions of California, taking to the sodden playing fields at Bayhead under a deluge of monsoon-like rain was quite a sight to behold but NCC co-founder and president Michael Bentley, who is also the only qualified shinty referee in all 50-states, laughed off the weather and spoke of his delight at having the chance to play shinty in the Western Isles.
“The first attempts to form a shinty club were in the early ‘80s and when we first started we actually didn’t realise the game was still being played because we’d read about it in a historical context,” explained Bentley as the heavens opened with furious rage overhead
“I came over in 1983, some of the other guys came over a little later, and got proper caman’s and rules. After that we tried to form a club but it didn’t come off at the time so it took a long time.
“We officially formed this club in 2001 and this is our 10th anniversary. We only have one club but within that we have three teams in the sixes league and they play each other. There are a couple of other clubs but basically every club is going to be dependant on having their own league as the cities are so far apart.
“But I think it is getting better every year and this is our fourth trip to Scotland, as a club, and we’ve played a few teams and have a few wins.
The California Camanachd’s have made a handful of trips to Scotland with a long-standing friendship now established with Skye who actually visited the Sunshine State as part of the 2009 ‘Cuairt gu California’ tour where they ran out in front of thousands of spectators at the Pleasanton Highland Games.
Now having hosted NCC on Lewis for the first time, Lewis Camanachd player boss Paul Duke smiles and admits to dreaming of leading the Leodhasach’s across the Atlantic for an away day to remember.
“It could happen and I don’t see why not,” smiled Duke. “It would be much better to play shinty in the sunshine of California than in the rain and gales over here so it is a possibility in the future although I don’t think it will happen any time soon as we have league commitments – but I would like to think it will happen sometime.
Lewis won the first ever cross-Atlantic clash 4-2 thanks to a brace apiece from Donald Lamont and Craig Morrison.
For more on this story see next week’s Stornoway Gazette out on Thursday, September 29th.