Skye shinty breaks the mould with the appointment of club’s first female chair

Skye’s senior team are aiming to bounce back to the premier league in 2019. Pic, Willie Urquhart

Skye Camanachd has created a slice of shinty history by appointing the club’s first ever female club chair.

Fiona Cruickshank takes over in the role from Douglas MacDougall, who has stepped down after a three-year stint at the helm.

After being confirmed as chairperson at a meeting of the club’s board last Thursday, Fiona told the Free Press that she had taken the job not to create history, but to look to the future.

“I’m the first woman to do the job, but that’s not why I took it on,” she said. “The appointment might have raised some eyebrows, and there may have been one or two comments made, but the focus will be on the future plans, and there is a lot of exciting challenges ahead.”

The appointment may be a first, but Fiona comes from a shinty family – her son Jamie Gillies has been part of successful Skye juvenile teams and broke through to the senior side last season.

Her late father Alistair also played for Skye in the 1970s, and Fiona has been involved in shinty administration, organisation and fundraising at primary and youth level for several years.

New Skye Camanachd chairperson, Fiona Cruickshank

She also brings to the job extensive experience of involvement in a variety of community organisations.

The move to appoint a female chair – thought to be a first among the game’s long-established senior clubs – has won praise from shinty’s governing body, the Camanachd Association, who have been keen to embrace inclusion and promote the sport as a game for all.

Wendy Chamberlain, the Camanachd Association’s first female director, said: “I’m delighted to see participation in shinty increase across the board and particularly pleased to see the number of women and girls playing, coaching and volunteering.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of an amateur sport like shinty and many congratulations to Fiona on her appointment.”

Although Skye’s senior team struggled last year and were relegated from the premier league, hopes are high that better times are ahead for the islanders.

Last year brought London Shield success for the club’s under-17 side, and a second consecutive national league title for the Skye women’s team.

Skye Camanachd Ladies are national league champions. Pic, Willie Urquhart

Off the field the club reflected on a good season financially – having generated a surplus of around £16,000 for the year.

After 20 years the club has now paid off all outstanding debt from the construction of their clubhouse facilities, while money brought in through the Co-operative’s community fund generated around £20,000 which has been earmarked to purchase a club minibus.

Thanks to an offer from Fearann Eilean Iarmain to donate the land, Skye Camanachd are also to take full control and ownership of their Pairc nan Laoch pitch in Portree.

Next season Skye plan to run eight teams at various levels – with a second under-14 side set to be added.

The islanders will continue to operate an under-17 side; firsts and seconds in the men’s and women’s game and a women’s development team.

As well as the appointment of a new club chair, Skye have moved to fill other vacant committee posts.

Marion Gillies is the new club secretary, replacing Chrisanne MacDonald. Thomas Wilson continues as vice chair, and Alasdair Bruce is staying on as treasurer.

At their recent annual general meeting shinty stalwarts Ross Cowie and Donnie Martin stepped down from the club committee after an era spanning more than 40 years.

MEANWHILE, Skye Camanachd’s pre-season plans are taking shape. The annual John MacKinnon six a side competition is set to take place in Portree on Saturday 29th December, while in February a trio of friendly matches are planned against premier league opposition.

Skye are set to host Lovat for the George Michie cup, while there are away friendlies scheduled with Lochaber and Kinlochshiel.

Article by Keith MacKenzie