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Caberfeidh Shinty Club’s 125th Anniversary

A glorious record of 125 years and more of unbroken shinty play in Strathpeffer and the surrounding area has been celebrated with the publication of a new short history of the Caberfeidh club.

The origins of Caberfeidh shinty club lie in the crofting townships of Knockfarrel and Loch Ussie, which are situated on the high ground separating the valleys of the Conon and the Peffery and where shinty has been played long before the formality of rules and club structures.

The meeting which took place in 1886 in the Spa Pavillion, which led to the formation of the current club, was chiefly brought about by W. F. Gunn whose father was, at the time, factor of the Cromartie Estates. It was at his suggestion that the name Caberfeidh, after some debate, was adopted for the new club.
W. F. Gunn was elected the club’s first captain and he represented Caberfeidh at the meeting held in Kingussie in 1893 when the Camanachd Association for formed. By that time there were more than 40 established shinty clubs in the Highlands. Caberfeidh has taken part in competitions ever since except for a two year period in the 1920s when, due to a dearth of experienced players following the First World War, they turned Junior.

A win over Beauly in the MacGillivray Final of 1926 heralded the club’s most successful period which continued until the outbreak of the war in 1939. During that time they made four appearances in the Camanachd Cup Final, wining the premier trophy in 1934 and 1939. They also appeared in eight MacTavish Cup Finals, winning on four occasions. The MacGillivray Senior League was won 11 times including a record breaking ten wins in a row, long before the current Kingussie side made domination of the game a feature, with unbroken sequences of wins.

Perhaps their most memorable achievement of that era was when Cabers brought the Camanachd Cup to Ross-shire for the first time in the history of the game. This took place on a Saturday in April, 1934, before a crowd of more than 4000 at the Stable Park, Inveraray.

These events and many more are celebrated in a new book “Toss thine antlers Chabarfèidh : A Glorious record of 125 years” which was launched at a celebration dance in Strathpeffer at the weekend. In his introduction, editor Hugh Dan MacLennan states: “Caberfeidh is a key part of the community which offers its participants, whether they be on the touchline or, these days, on the end of a Twitter account, a sense of belonging and purpose which very few sports bring. There was a time when press reports of Caberfeidh’s victories in the 1930s were expressed in terms of there being “nothing else left to win”; there were “no other worlds left to conquer.” It is often forgotten – and this is not in any way to diminish the achievements of any other club – that Cabers’ domination of shinty in the 1930s was virtually complete. There have been significant individual achievements and whilst it is invidious to single out one of many, the role played by Ken MacMaster in playing terms and then off the field in administrative posts right through to President of the Camanachd Association bears testimony to Caberfeidh’s footprint on the wider game of shinty.”

Guest of honour at the celebratory function in Strathpeffer was Rev. Duncan Finlayson, now aged 94 in October of this year and retired in Strathpeffer . A University Blue at Glasgow, Rev Finlayson has been outed as the real identity of “Finlay Ross” whose article “My Greatest Hail” is included in Cabers’ new book. Rev. Finlayson, who will be 94 in October of this year, is one of Cabers’ oldest and longest serving supporters. He lived in the 1920s and 1930s in Strathpeffer before going into the ministry. His father was an estate factor at Fairburn Estate near Marybank while his mother was involved in the running of Holly Lodge Hotel as a boarding house. Duncan is a regular attendee at Castle Leod every Saturday and further afield if necessary to watch the team. When Duncan retired first he lived in Appin and had an involvement with Appin Shinty Club but travelled into the Lochaber area to watch Cabers any time they were playing in that area. He was a great fan of Cabers in their glory years of the 1930s.

Players past and present then gathered at Castle Leod on Saturday for a series of special challenge matches, the highlight of which was the goal-scoring performance of Cabers legend Ian Bartlett (“just 72”). The super-veteran striker showed the young guns how it was done with six goals, ending up on the winning team. His stamina on the day was, no doubt, due to the fact that he had not attended the dance in Strathpeffer Pavilion on Friday evening, whereas most of the other players had!

Copies of the new Caberfeidh book are available from the club through David MacMaster and cost £5. David can be contacted on 01997 421306 or email

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