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Historic shinty exhibits at Hampden’s football museum on the 157th anniversary of the first clash between shinty and football clubs

As the founding document of the Aberdeen University Shinty Club (the world’s oldest constituted shinty club) goes on display at the Scottish Football Museum, a fascinating story of an unprecedented and historic sporting contest between shinty and football clubs has been unearthed.

Aberdeen University Shinty Club was founded in 1861, just one year after the merger of the city’s two great educational institutions – King’s College, founded in 1495, and Marischal College, founded in 1593.

On 15th January 1859, just one year prior to the merger, the rivalry between both independent institutions was transferred into the sporting arena when shinty and football clubs representing each college took part in an unprecedented challenge match.

An account of the contest appeared in the Aberdeen Herald and General Advertiser on 22nd January 1859. It stated: “The Shinty Club of King’s College having accepted a challenge from the Foot-ball Club of Marischal College, to play three games at shinty and three at foot-ball, the match came off on the links on Saturday. Owing to the games being keenly contested, three games at shinty and only one at foot-ball were concluded, all in favour of the King’s Club.”

Following the merger of 1860 the shinty players were quick to act, constituting a new unified team in 1861 under the title of the Aberdeen University Shinty Club. Perhaps deflated by defeat, the footballers were much slower in getting organised and it is 1869 before a football club is first recorded at the university.

The historic 1861 document relating to the shinty club is being loaned for display by Aberdeen University Special Collections along with the magnificent Littlejohn Trophy and Album.

Commentating on the loan of the valuable items, broadcaster and shinty historian Hugh Dan MacLennan of Edinburgh University said: “The Littlejohn Trophy and Album are two of shinty’s greatest historical and most spectacular artefacts and we are indebted to the University of Aberdeen for allowing us to include such an important part of the sport’s history in the Hampden exhibition.  The University club’s foundation document is hugely significant also, and for us to be able to show the three items together in the national stadium is a great privilege and I hope the shinty community will come and see them in this unique setting.  And once again our researches have unearthed some remarkable historical information which adds to the rich tapestry of the game.”

Siobhan Convery, Head of Special Collections at Aberdeen University, commented: “The University has a long and proud history of sporting achievements and we are delighted that these treasures relating to shinty’s early history can be enjoyed by a wider audience.”

Richard McBrearty, Curator of the Scottish Football Museum said: “We are delighted to host the exhibition on shinty within the museum at Hampden Park and are very grateful to Aberdeen University Special Collections and Museums for kindly agreeing to loan these truly historic sporting items. The details surrounding the historic contest of 1859 have only recently been discovered and it is a complete coincidence that the display of the Aberdeen University shinty items falls on the anniversary of the historic contest of 1859. It serves to remind us of the significant connections between shinty and football in Scotland and of the rich sporting traditions of Aberdeen University.”

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