Pitmain and Glenbanchor Estate help Badenoch Shinty Memories Group mark major milestone

Two significant events have combined to enable Badenoch Shinty memories Group to mark a major milestone in the project’s challenging, but successful history.

The Pitmain and Glenbanchor Estate through their agents Savills and Factor Ewen Harris, have made a £1,000 donation to the running costs of the group and March 31 has marked the end of the initial phase of the project which was being led by Project officer Helen Pickles.

Badenoch Shinty Memories Group (BSMG), was formally launched in July 2019, as part of the  wider shinty community under the umbrella of the national organisation Shinty Memories Scotland (SMS), in a unique collaboration with the Highland Folk Museum (HFM).

Shinty Memory Groups have evolved from the Sports Heritage Scotland (SHS)  initiative, involving shinty’s governing body, the Camanachd Association, Alzheimer Scotland and five other sports. The sports’ archives and other resources – including links with sports such as curling and golf – are being used to help people with dementia and people living with other mental health issues such as depression, remoteness and loneliness.

BSMG secured support from the Life Changes Trust (LCT), funded by the National Lottery Community Fund,  and with further assistance from Museums & Galleries Scotland the project enabled the position of Project Officer to be extended from the original one-year duration to a 21-month project as COVID-19 circumstances presented new challenges. That funding collaboration ended formally on March 31, leaving the group with a new set of challenges.

The funding which Pitmain and Glenbanchor Estate has now offered BSMG is being seen as the start of a new phase in the project’s development and has been warmly welcomed by the Group Chair, John MacKenzie, MBE.  He said:  “From the outset, we have been conscious of the need to secure sustainable funding for out project and the first phase was undoubtedly a success due to the contributions made by the various organisations which enabled us to create the post we secured. COVID-19 changed everything for us, as well as everyone else in the community. The need to dramatically change the group’s early face to face activities with our friends across the length and breadth of the community brought new challenges which were only partly financial. However, thanks to everyone’s hard work and support in the community the targets set by the group some 2/3 years ago have now been comfortably achieved pretty much across the board.  The financial help being offered by Pitmain and Glenbanchor Estate enables us now to move forward into our next phase where we address the challenges in the unfolding landscape which COVID-19 leaves us.  We are all very grateful to the Pitmain and Glenbanchor Estate for their recognition of the importance of our work in the community going forward.”

The strength and success of BSMG has evolved through the strong friendship between two great shinty rivals, John MacKenzie MBE, Sports Heritage Scotland’s Shinty Ambassador, and Donnie Grant MBE, a Kingussie shinty-playing legend who has been living with dementia for some time. They were instrumental in appointing   Helen Pickles as Project Officer for the Shinty Memories and Cultural project based at the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore.

The collaborative funding effort, involving Museums & Galleries Scotland and the Life Changes Trust, which supported the post of Project Officer for Badenoch Shinty memories Group has now ended on March 31.

The post involved Helen in leading work to support BSMG in what is recognised as a compassionate community stretching from Kincraig to Laggan and Dalwhinnie. This involved tasks such as cataloguing and developing the Highland Folk Museum collection of shinty memorabilia and the supporting a programme of BSMG events which has had to be radically overhauled to meet the challenges of Covid-19.

Helen was recently presented with gifts from the Group to mark the end of her tenure, although it is hoped that she will continue to be involved with work at HFM and through BSMG.  John MacKenzie said: “The support of a project officer to lead our work was crucial in the last 18 months or so and we are hugely appreciative of everything Helen has done to contribute to our efforts in the community. There have been huge issues to deal with and lots of work done on cataloguing the shinty collection at HFM to make it more accessible.  Helen will hopefully continue to be involved as we go forward and the Group is now actively addressing the post Covid period and how our activities will be managed at the same high level that Helen established.”