A close friend, work and sporting colleague remembers.
The village of Newtonmore was deeply saddened this week in learning of the death of one of Newtonmore’s lifelong inhabitants and greatest sporting legends. Sandy Ralph, 81, was, quite simply, one of the greatest players to represent the village on the shinty field in a long and successful career. He was fully deserving of the accolade of “legend”, that often over-worked and mis-used measure of a player’s abilities, whilst playing with a clutch of other players of similar abilities.
Holder of nine Camanachd Cup winner medals, Sandy captained Newtonmore in the 1977 Cup Final win over Kyles Athletic at Old Anniesland in Glasgow and played his last final in 1979, again against Kyles.
In his youthful days Sandy was the all-round sportsman, excelling in football, golf, badminton, athletics, curling and of course, shinty always playing in his beloved Newtonmore blue and white hoops.
One of the games speediest, versatile, most fearless and skilful exponents, I had the great privilege of playing alongside him on most if not all of the game’s famous green fields and historic venues of the sport, and on some of its greatest occasions.
Over a glittering career spanning Newtonmore’s halcyon period between the mid 1960’s through to the early 1980s and being a multiple trophy and medal winner Sandy was the proud winner of the sport’s flagship trophy the Camanachd Cup – the “Scottish” as we know it locally -winning his 9th gold medal and ultimately the Captain’s Silver Mounted Caman in season 1976-77 when the final was played at Old Anniesland Glasgow.
An accomplished tradesman, Sandy served his apprenticeship and was employed with Fraser & Co Joiners, Carpenters & Undertakers, subsequently Kenneth MacRae & Co, King Street, Kingussie.
A dedicated professional, Sandy served the local business throughout his entire working life with distinction.
One of Sandy’s greatest lasting legacy, much appreciated by the wider community, can be seen in the dismantling, relocation and careful reconstruction of the former King Street, Kingussie, Joiners’ shop at the Highland Folk Museum, where Sandy lead a work team with the same distinction and excellence he brought to the shinty field.
In family life, we shared many an enjoyable holiday and social occasion together. He was a great family man and predeceased by his dear wife Catrina. He will be sorely missed by those who knew him closest and best. My profound condolences and the sympathy of the whole community are extended to Richard, Raymond, Edward, and their families, together with Sister Elizabeth (Teeny) at this very sad time for them all.
Contributed by John Mackenzie MBE