Charlie Kennedy, Footballing and Shinty legend

By any stretch of the imagination and using any decent sporting parameters, Charlie Kennedy of Clach FC and Boleskine Shinty Club (there is plenty of debate to be had about the order!). Charlie Kennedy was a legend and one of the Highlands’ all-time sporting greats. He died on Sunday aged 72.

In shinty terms, few have made such an impact as Charlie who arrived on the shinty scene as part of a young and inexperienced Boleskine team which took two important trophies back to Foyers after many years of the club being in the doldrums.

Then based at the Factory playing fields, they went all the way south to Strachur to bring home the Sutherland cup as Scottish Junior champions, with the fifteen year old Charlie displaying his unerring instinct for finding the net with two opportunist strikes in their 4-0 win over Kyles – achieved, incidentally, in the presence of The Russian Prime Minister of the day Kosygin and Foreign Secretary Gromyko who were being entertained locally by Fitzroy MacLean, but Charlie outshone them all.

Boleskine also won the Strathdearn Cup that year with Charlie playing alongside his brother Johnnie (Steptoe) and other Boleskine luminaries like Alister Forbes, the captain, and sundry Frasers under the watchful eye of Kenny Ross and Willie Batchen.

Charlie had, in fact made his mark with Boleskine even before that, indicating that he was destined to have a long and fruitful association with Boleskine.   As a juvenile player he was part of the team that lifted the six a side Strathdearn Juvenile Cup at the Bught Park in 1962.

Further shinty success followed the Sutherland Cup triumph in the next couple of years, before Charlie started playing Highland league football with Clachnacuddin, Elgin City and Nairn County. Charlie would return to play shinty for Boleskine in the football close season and when his football career was over returned to shinty in 1985 season.

While Foyers may have been his spiritual and favoured home venue, there is no doubt about Charlie’s eventual popularity and all-time great status in the Merkinch area of the town following his success with Clach FC.

A supremely gifted, prolific and talented forward, he was a popular figure at the Highland League side with players and fans alike, and his achievements with Nairn and Elgin are also fondly remembered. Among his many highlights at Grant Street Park, Kennedy will perhaps be remembered for his ruthlessness in front of goal.

He helped the Lilywhites win the Highland League championship and Qualifying Cup in the 1974-75 season. It was Clachnacuddin’s first league title since the 1947-1948 campaign and he was part of a squad which had an average age of just 23. That team is generally held to have been one of, if not the club’s best of the modern era.  The season previous to that, Kennedy proved to be on fire in front of goal when he scored a phenomenal 63 times.

It was a fantastic period in the history of the Lilywhites and Charlie’s understanding and relationship with Raymond MacKintosh marked them out as one of the most successful and feared partnerships in the history of the Highland League.

Not only renowned on the field of play, he was also highly regarded for his contribution as a manager of the football club he adored in the 1980s.

Tributes on social media from friends and sporting colleagues, including golfers where Charlie was as competitive as elsewhere, have been lengthy and fulsome and quite rightly so.  As William Corbett said: “There was only ONE Charlie Kennedy” and in terms of shinty, football golf and Highland sport in general that is absolutely true.  It is a great loss to the sporting community that Charlie’s presence and character on touchlines and in crowds will be so badly missed. That is nothing to the loss felt by his family, however.

The sympathy of the shinty, sporting and wider community is extended in these trying times to Charlie’s wife Anne, Graham, Cheryl and the extended family. Due to the current Covid 19 regulations the funeral will be private.

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