Yesterday – 11th July – marked the opening of the new temporary exhibition at Campbeltown Museum, by Argyll & Bute Provost Isobel Strong (above), wearing the Campbeltown Burgh Provost’s Chain for the first time since taking office in May.
In a county where shinty traditionally reigns, the exhibition, Kit and Caboodle tells the really quite remarkable story of how football made its way to Campbeltown through industrial links with Glasgow and, crucially, with whisky production.
The story goes back to 1879, which according to the football history specialists, is very much earlier than might have been expected for somewhere like Kintyre, when two players from Glasgow’s Queens Park FC were relocated to Campbeltown by their employers, HM Customs & Excise, to help assess the duty payable on the town’s then-considerable production of whisky.
Within a short while, they were involved in the first football game in Campbeltown played according to rules.
A lot of hard work has gone into the exhibition, from football enthusiast and historian, Alex MacKinven and Robin Patel, Assistant Curator at Campbeltown Museum.
The project started over a year ago when Alex, who is very heavily involved in local football, decided it would be a good idea to get a collection of Campbeltown trophies and medals together for the museum. With Robin’s help, that idea turned into a full-blown exhibition that will remain through into 2013.
On display are photos, shirts, trophies, medals, items of period kit from the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park – and, of particular note, for the next week only the exhibition has the oldest football in the world. This dates from around 1570 and is on short-term loan. It very rarely leaves its bullet-proof glass case at the Smith Art Gallery & Museum in Stirling.
From an outsider’s perspective, the importance of football to the local community was apparent in a number of ways.
This exhibition is about local identity, community ties and remembering great achievements and sportsmanship.
It shows more than one man’s passion for football: the talk during the opening was of past victories, whilst some of the items on show demonstrate the involvement of the same families over successive generations.
The exhibition opening was followed by a football match at Kintyre Park between Campbeltown Pupils AFC and Greenock Morton FC, returning to Campbeltown for the first time since 2003 for a pre-season friendly.
In spite of fears about the weather, it was a fantastic evening for a game: sunshine, blue skies and a light breeze. In front of a crowd of at least 350 people (quite an achievement on a weekday evening for a place as small as Campbeltown), the home team lost 2-10, with the ‘Pupils’ goals being scored by Gary Grumoli from a penalty kick, and by his brother Paul, who beat the Morton keeper with a shot that raised a resounding cheer from the crowd – including the visiting fans who had made the long drive down Kintyre to follow their team.
But, as was said at the after-match dinner by Douglas Rae, the Greenock Morton Chairman, the score was not important. What mattered was the sportsmanlike attitude of the players and supporters: the real winner of the evening, he said, was football.
Over 130 years on from that first game in 1879, football is still bringing people together in Campbeltown and Kintyre; and hopefully with events like this it will continue to thrive, building relationships both within the community and reaching out to others.
What’s more, Kit and Caboodle marks a turning point for Campbeltown Museum.
Temporary exhibitions are a thing of the past here, but not anymore.
Since the museum and its collections were damaged by flooding in 2010, work has been done not just to restore and improve the museum but to make it possible to borrow prized items from elsewhere.
Campbeltown Museum has been given a new lease of life: watch this space, and visit Kit and Caboodle.
Becky Noble and Helen Morozovska
Kit and Caboodle, the story of football in Campbeltown, is at Campbeltown Museum, Burnet Building, St John Street, Campbeltown, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, until 31st January 2013.
Note: The photograph at the top shows Provost of Argyll and Bute, Councillor Isobel Strong, flanked by Alex McKinven on the right and Bob Clark, Development Manager of Auchindrain, on the left.