Memories of Mossfield : an illustrated talk reflection on 40 of the 100 years of the BBC’s broadcasting of shinty

Dr Hugh Dan MacLennan

Rockfield Centre, Ionad Achadh na Creige, Oban, Friday June 16 at 1900

In 2023, the BBC is celebrating 100 years of public service broadcasting in Scotland; the Camanachd Association, shinty’s ruling body, will mark 100 years of Camanachd cup finals at the Bught Park in Inverness and Hugh Dan MacLennan has decided to hang up his microphone after 40 years as a broadcaster.

In this illustrated talk, marking his final season as a sports broadcaster/commentator, Hugh Dan (the National Library of Scotland’s first Sportswriter in Residence in 2017) will detail some of the key dates in the BBC’s 100 years in Scotland and weave a web of wayward strands connecting himself, his sporting career and his broadcasting work in radio and television. The talk will also reflect on the BBC’s long-standing commitment to shinty over the last 100 years.

Hugh Dan has been the BBC’s Voice of Shinty since 1990, having begun his broadcasting career and commentated on his first Camanachd Cup Final previous to that in 1983. The 2023 Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup Final Cup Final, to be played at the Bught Park, Inverness, on Saturday September 16, will be significant for a number of reasons. It marks 100 years since the first camanachd final played at the iconic venue and it coincides with the 40th.  anniversary of Hugh Dan’s first Camanachd final in 1983, alongside the legendary David Francey and George Slater. It will also be one if the last big matches to take place at the Bught, with multi-million pound work on the new shinty exhibition space and stand renovation to be started soon after the final.

“Hugh Dan’s Highland Fling”, to be held on Friday, September 15, the evening before the Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup Final in Inverness, will be hosted by BBC Scotland’s Gary Innes, who has worked as co-commentator with Hugh Dan for a number of years on the television coverage of shinty’s showpiece occasion, and who has collaborated with Hugh Dan on numerous notable stage performances such as Shinty’s Heroes and Lochaber Gold, celebrating various aspects of shinty’s place in Highland communities.

Hugh Dan said: “I have great memories of Oban and Mossfield Park in particular, as a player when I was at University and then in subsequent years as a commentator.  The talk at the Rockfield Centre will be very Oban-focussed and I’ll be highlighting the part Mossfield has played in the history of shinty broadcasting, detailing also some of the key individuals involved like Hugh MacPhee and understandably the one and only GY Slater and, obviously, the late great Donald Skinner with whom I worked closely before he died and who enabled me to make a contribution of his archive material to Rockfield.  I’ll draw on that quite a bit. Some of the best matches I have witnessed and had the privilege to commentate on have been at Mossfield and I have to say I enjoyed playing there on what is, without fear of contradiction one of the top three, if not two, playing surfaces in the country.  I’ll have to mention Iain Hay as well, of course.”

Hugh Dan will reflect on how he became involved in broadcasting originally and how the chance to work for the BBC in sport offered the opportunity to become involved eventually in football, shinty, curling and rugby commentaries with BBC ALBA and the SRU, World Championship orienteering events and attendance at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Hugh Dan added: “The happy coincidence of the various strands involved in the Camanachd Cup final and my retirement offer a fantastic opportunity to review the events of the past 40 years. The talk at Rockfied, which is now such a wonderful facility in Oban and helping promote the place of shinty in the community, is a very significant milestone in the run-up to my concluding broadcasts and I will be coming back later in the season for the Macaulay Cup Final in August which is, once again, a highlight of the shinty broadcasting calendar.”