Lochaber sports review of 2021 – January to June

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JANUARY

Fort William Football Club became one of the smallest football clubs in the world to have their own specially designed and officially registered tartan. Aptly named ‘Mon the Fort’ and woven by the firm of Ingles Buchan, it features an expert blending of the black and yellow club colours throughout the pattern, combined with the green of Claggan Park and the white snow of Ben Nevis. Football mad former ‘Caol boy’ James Burns, who now lives in Italy, was the man with the tartan dream and after working hard alongside Fort FC management it became a reality. Our picture shows Fort FC first team captain John Treasurer with junior team members Lewis Luxton, left, and Jack Stephen modelling the new tartan. Photograph: Johnpaul Peebles, Abrightside Photography.(NO F04 Mon the Fort Tartan LT).

A fundraising page set up by an Inverness man raised more than £2,000 towards the cost of surveillance equipment to deter vandals at Fort William Football Club. Clachnacuddin FC fan William Corbett set up the GoFundMe page after hearing about the latest vandalism at the club’s Claggan Park ground which resulted in damaged seats, broken bottles, forced entry to the clubhouse and the lifting of recently laid turf covering new drainage areas on the park. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba,photos. (NO-F04-Claggan-Park-vandalism.jpg).

FEBRUARY

A young man from Caol turned his passion for football into a full time job which has taken him round the world as an international and domestic coach for Celtic Football Club. Ruaridh Macinnes, 23, left Lochaber High School to study sports at college in Glasgow but was also accepted for a place on the Celtic’s Pathway to Coaching course. On completion he was one of only two members of the class to be offered a position with the club. Since then Ruaridh has travelled the world coaching youngsters in locations including Chicago, Montreal, across Australia and in Scotland and Ireland. In his ‘own time’ he is also Head Coach of Clyde FC Under 19s and coaches Glasgow Gladiators disabled footballers in their leagues. (NO-F07-Ruaridh-footie.jpg).

Fort William’s Mikayla Parton became the sixth recipient of the Fort William Mountain Festival’s Scottish Youth Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture. The young winner needs to have shown resilience and determination to succeed within their chosen area of expertise, shown results through their own efforts and ideas, given back to their community, whilst being thought of as an example of excellence by others. Mikayla, a 23-year-old Scottish elite downhill racer, epitomised these winning principles. Her meteoric rise to the top of the international downhill mountain bike race scene, from riding her first trail bike in 2015 to placing fifth at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships 2020, can be attributed to an obvious raw talent, constant hard work, dedicated training, motivation, focus and a dogged determination for success. Photograph: Dave MacLeod. (NO_F09_Mikayla-Parton-Photo-by-Dave-MacLeod-scaled.jpg)

MARCH

Glencoe rugby supremo Helen Nelson was included in a 19-strong training squad ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics Rugby 7s tournament due to take place in July and August. No stranger to the abbreviated game, the former Lochaber Rugby Football Club player led the Scottish squad in their HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series debut in Biarritz in 2019 and has played a key role in the national set-up. In Mach this year she joined the Team GB camp at Loughborough University ahead of their pre-Olympic tournaments and the 2021 HSBC World Sevens Series. Photograph: Bill Murray/SNS Group. (NO_F11_HelenNelson-scaled.jpg).
In a ground-breaking move, Fort William Shinty Club appointed the former Scotland international and current Camanachd Association youth director Willie MacDonald as its paid club development officer. The three-year appointment, the first of its kind, was made possible through support from sportscotland Direct Club Investment funding which would be matched by the club and its sponsors to put the post in place. The aim of the post was to boost the youth and family membership, increase the club’s support for the Lochaber Memories project group and create an opportunity for young people with a disability in Lochaber to take up shinty. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba,photos. (NO F14 Willie MacDonald Fort Shinty 03).

APRIL

Shinty clubs across Lochaber stood ready as the Camanachd Association continued to work towards a return to action in June. Several cup draws were made in April including the Alvance Aluminium Balliemore Cup which took place in Fort William. Tom Uppington, Managing Director of Alvance, said: ‘With several employees representing Ballachulish and Lochaber teams in the cup, we understand the importance of shinty and the tournament in promoting traditional sport and outdoor activity in the community.’ Photograph: Iain Ferguson, The Write Image.(NO_F17_Balliemore-Cup-Draw-01-scaled.jpg).

A primary school pupil from Caol raised more than £900 for Oxfam by walking an astonishing 20,000 steps a day over the Easter holidays. Donnie Monk, 8, told his mum and dad at the beginning of the holidays he wanted to do something to help starving children. Specifically, he wanted to help them get access to clean water. The family chose Oxfam because they knew the charity worked to overcome poverty and suffering and funded the building of wells in communities. During the challenge, Donnie ran 5km four times, climbed the Pap of Glencoe and the Half Ben, did walks and races around Nevis Range, walked round Arisaig and Glenfinnan and all the way to Peanmeanach Bothy. (NO_F18_DonnieMonk_BenNevis).

MAY

Alex Stewart was crowned Fort William Golf Club’s KMF Cars Open Champion, following a nervous wait in the clubhouse. Club Captain Dougie Duncan was delighted with the number of entries for this popular event, with a good turn out of members and a few visiting golfers taking part on a relatively dry and sunny day. The first golfers teed off at 7.10am for what was to become a well-contested competition.  Fort William Golf Club was delighted to see visitors from other Highland clubs at the competition and gave special mention to David Holmes, from Nottinghamshire, who was on the first day of his holiday in the Highlands and decided to take part having originally planned to play a round on his own. (NO_F22_FortWilliamGolClub_Alex Stewart).

A visit by three boxing champions over three days to Lochaber Phoenix Boxing Club saw excited enthusiasts watching, listening and picking up tips on all aspects of the sport. Former International Boxing Federation (IBF) Featherweight Champion, Welsh, British and Commonwealth champion Lee Selby asked to re-visit the club after dropping by in 2017, when he was touring Scottish clubs. On hearing about his trip, fellow boxers – Commonwealth Games gold medal winner, European champion and world championship contender Jamie Cox and Commonwealth champion Gavin Gwynne – asked if they could also come along, which they did.  The three fighters spent time in and out of the ring, allowing club members of all ages and skill levels to go one to one with athletes at the top of their sport. Photograph: Johnpaul Peebles, Abrightside Photography. (NO F23 LEE SELBY BOXING VISIT 01)

JUNE

Lochaber Yacht Club held its annual Regatta with six boats taking part in a maritime Tortoise versus Hare event on Loch Linnhe. The annual event usually takes place over two days in the summer but, like everything, this year was a little different as it was reduced to one day and also became the opening race of the season due to Covid. The race took the form of a Pursuit race where the slowest boat is started first and the faster boats start at a timed distance behind. The faster boats then try to overtake the ‘Tortoise’ before the time limit expires. As the time limit approached it was the Soling Solaris, with LYC Commodore Hamish Loudon at the helm (pictured), which just managed to overtake the Tortoise, a Solo boat named Cool Dude helmed by Keith Falconer, with Andy McKenna’s Fireball racing machine in hot pursuit. (NO_F26_LYC_Regatta3).

Players and supporters of Fort William Football Club played a starring role in a new five-part mini series which encapsulated the legacy impact of Scotland’s qualification for UEFA EURO 2020 in communities across the country. The Land of Football was aired by the Scottish FA and focused on the fans that had been inspired by Scotland men’s return to the big stage for the first time in 23 years. Presenter Chris McQueer chated to fans at one of the most picturesque football pitches in the world – Claggan Park. (NO_F27_Land of Football (Fort William)4)