Great day for Lewis shinty

The scoreline may have been 1 – 7 for the Lochbroom visitors but Saturday’s first league shinty match in 108 years was well worth the wait for Lewis Camanachd.

Playing for the first time this season in front of a home crowd, not even the final score could take the edge off the day.

When referee John Macleod, of Skye, threw up the ball at 3pm on Saturday, the first Camanachd Association league match to be staged on the island, or anywhere else in the Western Isles, got under way.

It was a day of endings. A day of beginnings. The end of decades of struggle to revive the sport, sustainably, in Lewis and the beginning of regular competition with mainland teams.

Stornoway Athletics did try to get things going, back in 1893, when they sought, but failed, to gain entry to the sport’s gilded Camanachd Cup.

However, this winter, the Camanachd Association took the historic step of allowing Lewis Camanachd entry to North Division Three on a one-year trial basis. Saturday’s first home game, therefore, was a milestone.

Somewhat comically, the team’s official website puts it in perspective, saying: “Shinty, home at last, older than the Lewis Chessmen and a lot more fun to watch.”

For the island players Saturday’s fixture was something of a relief. The condition of league entry, imposed by the governing body, was that they would play all their fixtures away from home until the Cal Mac ferry timetable switched to its summer programme.

So far, they have made weekly trips Jules Verne may have balked at; one epic to Ardnamurchan taking the best part of two days for some.

The BBC’s Gaelic programmers have been following Lewis’ journey towards Saturday and new Camanachd Association President Archie Robertson was there to witness history.

* See the Gazette on May 19 for the full match report.