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Academic, author, sports commentator and shinty zealot Hugh Dan MacLennan to reflect on his life and work in BBC ALBA documentary on Boxing Day

By Alasdair Fraser

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Hugh Dan MacLennan
Hugh Dan MacLennan

Legendary shinty aficionado and sports broadcaster Hugh Dan MacLennan is to reflect on his life and 40-year career in a candid new BBC ALBA documentary.

The programme, airing on Boxing Day at 9pm, shines a light on the life and times of one of Scotland’s most recognisable voices in sport.

Hugh Dan reveals all after hanging up his microphone earlier this year after four decades covering football, rugby and shinty.

His career has taken him to many gantries, but pursuits beyond the sporting action he commentates on have also brought him fame and recognition.

His work has ranged from completing a PhD focusing on the history and development of shinty overseas and chairing the project to launching Faclair na Pàrlamaid, the Scottish Gaelic dictionary.

And it has embraced work done for shinty outside broadcasting, highly regarded throughout Scotland and beyond.

Hugh Dan MacLennan
Hugh Dan MacLennan

Reflecting on his childhood and how it shaped a long and colourful career, he said: “My time at Caol Primary School was wonderful. We received an education that money can’t buy, and it laid the foundations for the rest of my life.

“Away from school, we were outside from dawn to dusk. We’d be playing football and shinty, and when Wimbledon was on we’d be hitting a tennis ball against the school wall, making a racket.

“It was just special.”

An academic, an author, an authority on sports history and a former shinty player, he says he couldn’t have achieved half of what he has done had it not been for wife Kathleen.

Hugh Dan decided to retire following the couple’s health concerns in 2022 when both were diagnosed with cancer.

However, they both have big plans for the future, especially with more free time on their hands now and a focus on travelling and improving their golf handicaps.

Hugh reflected: “It was a pretty rough year, with both of us having to deal with cancer, but it was a comfort in a way, that we were both in the same situation.

Hugh Dan MacLennan
Hugh Dan MacLennan

Hugh’s wife Kathleen added: “We know only too well how lucky we have been not to need any more treatment and we will take advantage of all of the good health while we have it.”

The 2023 Camanachd Cup final marked 40 years since Hugh Dan’s first broadcast – and his last covering the premier shinty competition as a commentator.

He said: “Every shinty player would wish to be on the park playing, and then lifting the trophy. I never got that opportunity but I got the opportunity to do the next best thing, and that’s sitting over there describing the action to everybody.”

• Hugh Dan premières on BBC ALBA and BBC iPlayer on Boxing Day, Tuesday, December 26 at 9pm (in Gaelic with English subtitles). Watch live or on demand: www.bbc.co.uk/tv/bbcalba

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