One of the most significant sporting institutions in the Highlands, Macpherson’s Sporting Stores in Inverness, will be the focus of the re-arranged 2021 annual Dr Johnnie Cattanach Memorial talk.

Delivery of the talks has been interrupted by COVID-19 but next month (March) will see the event re-started with Shelagh Macpherson Noble delivering the annual talk which was launched originally to commemorate the centenary of the death of Dr Johnnie Cattanach of Newtonmore – the only shinty player in Scotland’s Sporting Hall of Fame, and a medical graduate of the University who was killed in the First World War at Gallipoli in 1915.

Circumstances have dictated that the annual talks were suspended and Newtonmore Camanachd are currently developing a new training and playing facility at the Eilean, which will be named after the outstanding Cattanach.
Shelagh Macpherson Noble, daughter of one of the eponymous John Macpherson’s sons Alan Macpherson will give the talk on Thursday March 3, after a short introduction about Dr Cattanach by shinty Historian Dr Hugh Dan MacLennan. Shelagh will tell the story and history of John Macpherson & Sons, Sporting Stores, Inverness, from how it evolved from a small sports concern into a well-known and respected business throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries, until it closed in September 1976.

She said: “The original business was founded in 1887 in Drummond Street, next to Alec Grant the “vibration” man. In 1900 a move was made to Church Street, opposite the Caledonian Hotel. Business increased and bigger premises were required and in 1920 my grandfather purchased the premises known as the White House in Inglis Street, at that time owned by Roderick Noble a well-known cabinet maker and furniture dealer, a four floored premises, adequately suitable for my grandfather’s increasing business. We remained there in 6-8 Inglis Street until retiral in 1976, my grandfather having passed away in 1948.”
The story is not just about shinty, as Macpherson Sporting Stores became known world-wide for a wide range of field sports and equipment, with new inventions, guns and all forms of sporting paraphernalia being traded in the shop on Inglis Street which was a wonderland for many people of all ages with stuffed wild animals and all sorts of other exotic artefacts adorning the walls.
The illustrated talk will take everyone on a guided tour of the Stores and relate some of the fascinating stories held behind what was a very distinctive façade. Shelagh’s great understanding of the Stores’ operation over many years and her intimate knowledge of the family itself and their activities will provide a unique insight into Highland sporting history.

John MacKenzie MBE, Chair of Badenoch Shinty Memories Group, which is helping host the talk, said: “Macpherson Sporting Stores is an iconic institution in the history of Highland sports and this talk will hold an appeal for many people well beyond the world of shinty, although that is where the various Macphersons made their greatest mark – through trophies, silver-mounted camans and the supply of camans and balls for the best part of the 20th century. We are delighted to be in a position where we can re-start our in-person face-to-face activities and there could be no better way to get us back on track by hosting such a fascinating event.”

Tickets for the event, which is being held on Thursday March 3 in the Balavil Hotel, Newtonmore, (7pm for 7.30pm start) are £5 in aid of Badenoch Shinty memories Group and teas/coffees are included in the ticket price. Payment will be at the door and no tickets are required in advance. A display of Macpherson family-related trophies and artefacts will also be in the Hall, thanks to co-operation with Highland Folk Museum and the Clan Macpherson Museum.

For further information please contact John MacKenzie, Chair BSMG 07795 544189 or Hugh Dan MacLennan on 07515287040.

Dr Johnnie Cattanach background:

Lieut. Dr John Cattanach, (1885-1915) doctor, soldier, shinty player of the highest order, and an outstanding all-round athlete, was born on 2 February 1885. The youngest of four children of William Cattanach, merchant, Newtonmore, and Ann Cattanach he was educated at Newtonmore and Kingussie Public Schools, George Watson’s College and Edinburgh University, where he graduated in Arts (MA 1907) and Medicine (MBChB 1912). His first medical appointment was in the Bangour Hospital and he also worked in England. Cattanach served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, Warwickshire Regiment, enlisting shortly after the outbreak of war. He was made Lieutenant in 1914. He died in July 1915 from wounds sustained in the Dardannelles.
Dr Cattanach was best known in his native Highlands as a shinty player, although his peerless ability won him fame throughout the shinty-playing area. He is still held by many to have been the finest exponent of shinty ever, a tower of strength to the Newtonmore team, which he captained in a victorious season during a vintage period.

Natural ability, superb physique and a scientific approach to the playing of the ancient game left Cattanach head and shoulders above many outstanding contemporaries. He trained hour after hour, with the ball on his club, darting round larch trees, catching the ball on his caman (club) before it touched the ground. On his way to play on the local field, the Eilan, he was said to run nearly a mile without letting the ball fall off his club. His most spectacular individual performance was when playing for Newtonmore against Furnace in shinty’s premier event, the Camanachd Cup Final, at Glasgow in 1909. Newtonmore won 11-3. Dr Cattanach scored eight goals, a Cup Final record, which still stands, hence his reputation as “the Prince of shinty players”.

Cattanach was an accomplished all-round athlete, excelling at the long jump and on the track, and he was capped for his country at both hockey (while a member of the Carlton Club) and sprinting. In 1909 and 1910 he won the long jump at Edinburgh University sports, and represented the University in the Scottish international University contests 1909-1911 and less than a year before his death he won the Rangers Football Club 100 yards’ handicap (off 10 yards) in the fast time of 9.45 seconds.
Cattanach’s death from wounds sustained at Gallipoli and his consequent final distancing from his native heath may have cast a deep gloom over the village but his memory lives on in the minds of many as the greatest shinty player ever.