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Douglas MacKintosh Obituary

Douglas MacKintosh

Douglas MacKintosh MBE, Newtonmore. Master decorator, shinty player and administrator. 30th Aug 1930 -10th Jan 2017, aged 86.

Douglas MacKintosh, or “Dougie Dhai” as he was almost universally known in the shinty world, gave outstanding service to the administration of the sport which is such a central element in the culture of the Gaelic-related population of Scotland and in particular his home area of Newtonmore.

His first memory of shinty, he recalled himself, was the purchase of a new caman for his ninth birthday in Inverness for the hefty sum in the late 1930s of twelve shillings and sixpence.

After a relatively late start in 1947 due to his National Service in the Camerons, Douglas had a reasonably successful playing career in the game culminating in a Camanachd Cup Winner’s medal in 1958, but cut short by injury thereafter. In his native village, he served for 12 years as a Committee Member of Newtonmore Camanachd Club and as Secretary and eventually Chieftain, the principal office from 1972 to 1975. He first entered the Executive Council of the Camanachd Association, the ruling body of shinty, in the 1970s and he was a central figure in what was arguably the most significant decade in the sport in the 20th century, serving for more than 30 years.

A member of the newly-founded Shinty Yearbook committee in the early 1970s he was closely involved in every key development of the time, some truly ground-breaking such as the Shinty Forum (1974), the initial forays into major sponsorship deals, the Referees’ Association as Founding President in 1974 and the Aviemore Indoor Tournament of which he was the principal architect and Chairman for 20 years (1978-1998). He served as Referees’ Convener after 1981 and then as President of the Camanachd Association from 1985 to 1990. He was thereafter Vice-Chief and became Chief in 2000, the 'elder statesman' Honorary office in the game.

Born in Craggan and brought up in Newtonmore, Douglas exemplifies the best traditions of that community and its shinty club, claiming the most illustrious honours record in the game of shinty. He was Dux of Newtonmore School (for all that he was the only one in the class at the time, he was very proud of the fact) and an active member of Newtonmore Youth Club before his National Service in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders at Fort George. One his life’s great ironies and talking points was always the fact that he had come through swathes of time in the Officer’s Mess to become a life-long abstainer and a key cog in the wheels which spun shinty and the Glenmorangie company together for many happy years through his great friend Peter Cullen. Apart from a short period of employment away in Dundee where he met his wife Anne, during his apprenticeship training, he conducted his business as a master decorator in his native locality well beyond normal retirement age. He worked latterly for Sir Tommy MacPherson and was a great friend and confidant of Newtonmore legends such as Jock Paul MacKintosh, Sandy Russell, Gabie Fraser and Jack Richmond with whom he shared so much of what marks Newtonmore out as a singular community.

He served as a special constable in Highland Constabulary and was awarded the long service medal with bar for his service of 36 years.

As far as shinty is concerned, he did it all as a player, a referee and an administrator. While he would never have numbered himself amongst the playing greats of the village, he achieved all the cup-winning medals possible at both Junior and Senior level before an eminently more influential period and performance as a referee. For the Newtonmore Club he was first Secretary and, eventually, Chieftain from 1972 to 1975.

He ultimately earned a reputation as one of the outstanding refereeing officials in the history of the organised sport. He officiated in every major final event, including two Camanachd Cup Finals (many would have thought he could and should have done more, but Newtonmore kept getting to finals at the time) and, in particular, he refereed an outstanding 5-5 drawn Shinty/Hurling International between Scotland and Ireland in Glasgow in 1976.

He played an influential part in developing this sporting and cultural relationship, often against ingrained traditional prejudice and gained warm notice in the Irish national press when, at the initial height of the Troubles, he took the Newtonmore team in 1972 to Dublin to play against Na Fianna, an 'all-stars' Ireland. As President of the Camanachd Association, he shared the notable responsibility of establishing since 1988 the current series of the International engagements in which Scotland has been successful against all the expected odds. His period in the office of President covered an important time of reorganization, including the appointment of the first professional executive officer. Such was the esteem in which he was held that he became Chieftain of the Bute Highland Games in Rothesay, donning the kilt and perhaps even having a dram.

His appetite for innovation and sense of purpose were only surpassed by his very special gift of selflessness and the cultivation of human relationship in sport, giving of himself - aided by a very supportive wife and family - in tens of thousands of miles of travel and hours away from home and his business.

Douglas MacKintosh received the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2000 for his services to shinty and, appropriately in November 2001 when he attended the Palace, he was the longest-serving member of the ruling body’s Executive Council at the time. Soon after, in 2002, his contribution to the game itself was further recognised when he became the fourth recipient of the Marine Harvest Centenary Award.

Douglas’ career in sport led to many unique achievements, winning it is believed every competition possible as a player; officiating at every cup final possible including, probably uniquely for a north-based official at the time, the Celtic Society Cup final; officiating at every pitch there was at the time, and holding, it is thought, every significant administrative post in the game. His record will not be replicated.

The whistling days gave Douglas most enjoyment and he regarded games as “easy to do”. He just laughed and whistled his way through them. He said himself he had “great times, met great players and had a lot of enjoyable times”. He claimed to have formulated the recipe for success as Shinty’s President: “The wisdom of Solomon, a razor sharp administrative and legal brain, infinite patience, the stamina of a long-distance runner, skin as thick as a rhinoceros, a sense of humour and a well-padded posterior for the long meetings.”

Latterly Douglas lived with dementia and made an outstanding contribution to a television feature on Shinty’s sporting memories. He died peacefully on 10th Jan 2017 in Raigmore Hospital Inverness and is survived by his wife Ann, daughters Katrina, Gillian and son David, seven grandchildren, five great grandchildren.

The Shinty world has lost one of its greatest ever ambassadors.

Our Sympathy is extended to the family at this sad time for them all.

John Mackenzie

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