David Mitchell

David Mitchell started his shinty career in 1974, by strolling down to the Freshers Fair at The Pleasance gym from his family home on the south side of Edinburgh. There he joined the University Shinty club, no doubt attracted by the offer of free whisky and the prospect of ceilidhs in The Zetland Halls, The Highland Annual dance in Portobello Town Hall and ‘lockins’ in TheWest End Hotel.

We offered a dram to anyone who signed up and David was a keen and knowledgable whisky man, as his wife Steph reminded us in her tribute, with the story of them becoming finalists in The Times whisky tasting competition, but then being unable to participate in the Finals weekend, because Steph was pregnant!

Davy would never claim to be the most skilful of shinty players, but being a keen runner he was seriously fit, which is why he played most of career at wing centre, covering the pitch tirelessly from end to end.

After he graduated, along with many of us, he joined Tayforth, which had only been formed the year before Davy started playing. I doubt if he ever dreamed when he took up shinty that it would lead to playing at The Eilian in a Camanachd Cup semi final, or being part of the team which ended Kyles Athletic’s eight year unbeaten run at Tighnabruaich. Kyles were already Southern League champions, and Tayforth’s win preserved First Division shinty in Perth for yet another season.

Other regular opponents included Glenorchy, which included Magnus Macfarlane-Barrow, later to become founder of Mary’s Meals, a charity very dear to David and supported by his church in Edinburgh. Donations through marysmeals.org in memory of Davy would be very welcome.

Tayforth’s many trips to Ireland, usually to Kilkenny, for shinty / hurling encounters, included an invitation from Kircubbin on the Newtownards peninsula to join the GAA centenary celebrations in 1984. After playing in the shinty / hurling exhibition match, Davy demonstrated his fitness and athletic prowess by entering and winning the annual 3000 metres race in a new record time!

After retiring from the playing side, Davy committed the rest of his life to refereeing (his final match was between Glasgow Mid Argyll and Lovat on 28th October), using his fitness to great effect – not one of those ‘centre circle’ referees you used to have to run round if you played in midfield!

A life long Hibs supporter, Davy was well aquainted with The Proclaimers song ‘500 Miles’ – how many Saturdays he must have spent driving prodigous distances to cover matches; evidence of his commitment to give back to shinty some of what he gained from his playing days.

He was particularly supportive of University shinty and the development of the girls and ladies games.

As was mentioned at his funeral, David was described by many who knew him as a gentleman, in the old sense, a gentle man.

He brought all of that character to his shinty refereeing; never getting flustered, never over reacting, always polite, just a glance over his glasses and a quiet word with the miscreant. His ability and contribution to shinty refereeing was recognised when he was awarded the 2014 Camanachd Cup final between Kingussie and Glenurquhart at The Bught Park in Inverness.

The year after his Camanched Cup final, he wrote an article for the BBC, in which he described life as a shinty referee, offered some constructive suggesions for change and improvement, but finished with the reflection that his game the previous weekend had been postponed due to the untimely death of a player ‘taken far too early’. Davy finished the article with: ‘My thoughts and that of the shinty community go out to his family, friends and team mates at this sad time’.

Sadly, exactly our sentiments almost a decade later.

David Mitchell was interred in Craigmillar Castle Park Cemetery, overlooking both his ‘training track’ (Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat) and the Edinburgh University shinty pitch at Peffermill.