Ken Thomson of Strathglass. Shinty player, moderniser and football administrator.

Donald Skinner, Ken Thomson, Peter Cullen & Alan MacMillan

Born, 28 June 1953, Died Friday, June 14, 2019, aged 65.  

Ken Thomson was, arguably, the greatest moderniser of shinty of the post-war years, and an individual who brought his business acumen, administrative skills and huge personality to bear on his first love, camanachd.

Steeped in the history of the game in Cannich and Strathglass (a hugely important place in the history of the organised game although he received some early schooling in Rannoch), due to his father’s occupation with the Hydro, there was possibly only ever going to be one choice - the caman and ball, and he distinguished himself in the history of shinty both on and off the field.

His CV is unmatched in shinty terms, from success on the field of play in the 1970s Aberdeen University team which produced three Presidents of the Camanachd Association and was peerless at junior level, to his contribution to the Aviemore indoor sixes, shinty journalism and the Shinty Yearbook/Shinty World, the Referees’ Association (of which he was also President) and his beloved home club of Strathglass who benefitted from his generous sponsorship for over 30 years.

Ken peaked in shinty teams as President of the Camanachd Association from 1990-1994 when he faced a number of challenges as the game moved from its amateur status to one of professionally administration.  As he chronicled himself in the recently published history of the CA from 1993-2018, he was the first Finance Convenor and channelled most of his energies into commercial aspects of the game’s needs, forging a fruitful relation with Glenmorangie and the legendary Peter Cullen in particular.  Two key areas of the game were also allocated his time and energies – the appointment of the first full-time administrator for shinty and the Centenary celebrations of 1993. That particular year saw him accept a cheque for £100,000 from the then Convenor of Highland Council, through Objective One European Funding, for the improvement of shinty facilities.

The current CA President Keith Loades, who played in the Varsity side with Ken, said:  “We all have our own memories of Ken through his various activities and I look back on these student days as some of my most enjoyable in shinty.  He was a key member of a great playing squad, of whom he was just one of a few very strong personalities.  His contribution to shinty has been immense and long-lasting, sending the game on its way with a level of strategic thinking and business acumen  which the game absolutely required at the time. I know that his relationship with people like Donnie Grant and Donald Skinner created many opportunities and avoided considerable pitfalls, and these were heady days.  When you think of all the things he was involved in, he left some very big boots to fill. He was a big man in every way and surely never got the wider formal acclamation his contribution to shinty deserved. We will all miss him and his presence terribly.”

As with most Presidents, Ken faced more than his fair share of trials and tribulations, including legal threats, hostility to change and difficulties with the main funding agency Sportscotland.  It is to his eternal credit that Ken always maintained his sense of equilibrium and humour which sustained him through trying times, leaving the sport in a much better state than he found it.

He shared his shinty skills and experience with the fledgling Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club over the years, from their establishment 25 years ago, serving as a Director and in due course Vice-Chairman.  The Current Chair Graham Rae paid fulsome tribute to the huge contribution Ken made to the club during his two spells on the board of directors. He said: “Ken’s commercial and financial expertise were great assets during his long service with the club. His good humour and diplomacy were also hugely helpful in the boardroom where he brought many great ideas to the table.”

Ken died peacefully at home on Friday 14th June 2019, in the loving care of his family, wife Tan, and he was a proud and devoted dad to Aoom and Arm, a dear brother of David, brother-in-law to Chris Ann and a kind friend to many. He will, undoubtedly, be sorely missed.

The funeral service will be held on Tuesday 25th June at 12 noon in the Funeral Home of William T Fraser and Son, Culduthel Road, Inverness, thereafter to Kilvean Cemetery with family flowers only.

Donations may be made, if desired, for Macmillan Nurses, Marie Curie and the Camanachd Association at the service or forwarded to the Funeral Directors.


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