Monumental undertaking celebrates inter-county

United Through Sport, Orkney v Shetland – The story of the Junior Inter-County, by Jockie Wood. Published by The Orcadian Ltd at £23.99 and available from The Shetland Times Bookshop.

Although this book is predominantly aimed at an Orcadian market much of the content, many of the images and almost all of the actual sports reports will certainly bring back fond memories for very many Shetland folk who have either taken part in or have been avid spectators at the junior inter-county sports over the past 62 meetings.

From the first page what struck me was the sheer amount of time the research – gathering of pictures, reports, scores and scorers – must have taken. A monumental under­taking and remarkable achievement indeed by the author.

If there is one very minor gripe, and the author actually apologises to all us of a blue persuasion in the introduction, it is that all the Shetland participants are noted without a first name, only by initial. Perhaps a reprint could see that put to rights.

The Stuart Cup has brought together generations of Shetlanders and Orcadians for what is a unique sporting competition. Very many friendships have been born and remain strong because of these youthful sporting encounters. The author has captured well, from the early years to the present day, the intense sporting rivalry but also the keen sense of sportsmanship that these encounters bring.

Of course because of the very nature of winning and losing individual races and events there also comes the odd moment of controversy and these are covered within the pages in an open and very evenly balanced way.

Actually one such report brought back a vivid early memory for me of inter-county football. It was 1978, I would have been 13 at the time and was sitting right beside the Orkney goal at the football. After all, that’s where all the action would be! The author’s report on the sequence of events thereafter differs from my own recollection. He states: “During one of the raids a shot rebounded from a stanchion and bounced back into play. The Orkney players insisted it had gone past the outside of the post before hitting the metal frame but the referee saw it differently. Decision….goal!” I may be wrong of course, it was a while ago now, but I don’t think the ball hit a stanchion at all, either side of the post. I guess if another book is written for say the 75th anniversary I could maybe let you all know what I think I saw that night!

There are very many, often humorous, anecdotes of issues away from the court, track or pool. My favourite is probably the story of a young lad who was given a box of chocolates to give to the host family who would be putting him up for the duration. His pals apparently ate the contents, replaced them with stones, re-sealed the box and returned it. The boy duly handed over his gift none the wiser. Maybe the host family thought it was a tradition to present a selection of rocks from your home island!

To finish, perhaps the second last word should go to the author and the last to the latest group of young Shetland people to take part in the Stuart Cup. The author rightly says: “Somebody reminded me that this is the 62nd meeting this year and at the moment the score reads as follows: Orkney 31 wins, Shetland 30. That’s right! You’ve got it! If Shetland win this year they will have caught up. This’ll niver dae! Come on, Orkney, let’s get stuck in tae them and sha’ them wha’s best!”

The 2009 Shetland team answered that call and the score is now 31 wins apiece, itself testimony to an endearing part of the junior sporting calendar and I for one hope it continues to go from strength to strength.

An interesting, well researched and presented book. If you took part at all in either the red of Orkney or the blue of Shetland in the “junior coonty” then you should probably get one.

Brian Johnston


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