Shinty – a Scottish Field Game as used in Dreiburgen
By Eadwynne of Runedun


History of Shinty

Shinty (Scottish Gaelic: camanachd, iomain) is a team game played with sticks and a ball, similar 

to the Irish game hurling and the Welsh game bando. Rules varied widely from place to place. Stick ball is a game probably as old as the man-made tools. The most notable period reference is in the Irish legend of Cú Chulainn, where a youth named Sétanta saves himself from an attack from a guard dog by using his stick to knock his hurly bhall into the dog’s mouth, suffocating it.

Shinty in Caid

I first encountered Shinty playing with a group of Ren Faire folk who called themselves the Gall óg laigh or Gallowglass at the old Renaissance Faire in Agoura. A few years later, in Dreiburgen, we were having trouble keeping our fighting practices up during Dreiburgen’s hot summers. I got permission of then-Baron Thurstan to create a Summer Game to use in leu of an armored practice to keep us in shape and give us something to do on regular practice days when it was just too hot to armor up. We first played it at our Baronial fighting practice in the then-Canton Desert March.The game is fast and fun. We did learn that it was not a good idea to allow people 16 years of age and under play with the adults. Kids are vicious, competitive and don’t tire.

Shinty (as modified and used in the Dreiburgen)

  • The Caman, or sticks are about 3 – 3 1/2 feet long, matched to the comfort of the player. As I made them more or less after the Gallowglass model, they rather resembled upside down rounded axes, rather than the field hockey style used in the modern world today. I made ours outShinty-Caman-CU.jpg of Ash. In a pinch, people did use SCA rattan axes as Caman.
  • The Bhall: We tried several different things for the bhall. Probably the best and least difficult was a softball dyed brownish. Tennis balls tended to shoot off too far, and regular field hockey balls were a bit small for what we were doing. We also tried stuffing wool into cloth or leather, but my skill made for a rather lumpy and difficult to control bhall.
  • Goal Post(s): Originally, we just had a single stick in the ground at both ends of the field, and if the bhall hit the stick a point was scored. Eventually we used a pair of sticks about 3-4 feet apart and we just needed the bhall to go between the posts.
  • The Achaidh or field could be any size available so long as there was room to move, and not too close to on-lookers. We played this at the first Great Western Warusing no boundari
  • es, and at one point we went right through the Royal encampment much to the displeasure of the King and his entourage.

Caman Construction

I was able to find planks of Ash wood at a place in Riverside, CA called Sawdust & Shavings. I was constrained a bit by the size of planks available and I would have liked to have made them thicker. If I recall, I maximized how many caman I could cut by laying them out as shown at the bottom of the image (I think I got six per plank). That little flare at the end of the handle helps immensely when using them. I cut the camans in the direction of the grain so that the haft would have the most strength. However the paddles of the first few I made snapped in half because of the force against the grain. If you look at the photo of the edge, you will see that I put a hardwood dowel through the paddle on the later versions, and this seemed to help immensely. We didn’t make any rules as to length, but about the size of a hand-and-a-half sword seemed to work for people. Once I roughed them out, I used a router to round off edges and finished them by rubbing in Linseed Oil. Some people liked to wrap their handles in tape, often using duct tape in their heraldic colors.

Our rules were pretty loose.

  • The bhall is placed in the middle of the achaidh and the teams started closer to their own goal. A forward, one from each team, stands ready a few feet from the bhall in the middle of the achaidh. When the “Lay-on” is called, both teams tr
  • y to gain control of the bhall, and whichever team is able to get the bhall through the goal wins a point.
  • Only the caman can be used to move the bhall.
  • No intentional striking of other players with the caman is allowed.
  • “Hip checking” is permitted, but grabbing or grappling is not.
  • For safety’s sake, the striking paddle of the caman is never to be raised higher than hip level. Even so, beware your shins. I recommend some kind of greaves. There’s a reason it’s called “Shinny” in some places
  • The game generally runs until one team wins five rounds… unless decided differently… or unless it is just too hot to keep going.

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