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Ancient Scots ball game kept alive

An ancient Scots ball game has been brought back to life thanks to the University of St Andrews Museums Collections unit.

The team has been awarded a national prize in honour of its conservation and scientific analysis of a group of extremely rare caich balls. Caich (or cache) is the Scots name for a game once found over most of Europe. Similar to squash, records show it was played in St Andrews for centuries, ceasing to exist on the east coast of Scotland around 1850.

The Kintore Conservation Award, to be presented at the Scottish Museum Council’s Annual General Meeting in Verdant Works, Dundee tomorrow (25 October 2001), relates to the conservation and scientific analysis of a group of the balls. Half of the funding for the project was provided by the Scottish Museums Council’s grant-aid scheme.

The importance of the nine St Andrews balls lies in the rarity of their survival. The group includes complete, partially made and partially deteriorated balls made of a combination of leather, wool and cork. The exposure of the interiors provides unique insights into their construction. The find is therefore of extreme interest to sports and textile historians. Research suggests that the balls, the largest of which is 7cm in diameter, were made in the 18th or early 19th century: dye analysis indicates that they pre-date the synthetic revolution of the 1850s and 1860s.

The caich/cache balls will be displayed in an exhibition organised by the postgraduate Museum and Gallery Studies students of the University of St Andrews in Spring 2002.

The work on the balls is part of an ongoing conservation programme undertaken by Museum Collections which has recently included work on scientific instruments, sculpture and stained glass. The aim is to complete all major remedial conservation projects by the University’s 600th anniversary in 2010.

The Kintore Conservation Awards are presented annually by the Scottish Museums Council, on behalf of the Kintore Charitable Trust, for excellence and achievement in conservation work in Scottish museums.

Meanwhile, fifty of the University of St Andrews’ most treasured artefacts have gone on-line as part of a national project to digitise the nation’s past.

The SCRAN (Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network) Millennium project has allowed the records, which include text and images of the University’s unique medieval maces, the Great Astrolabe made by Humphrey Cole in 1575 and significant furniture, historic teaching equipment and items associated with student life in centuries past, to be viewed through the SCRAN website at http://www.scran.ac.uk.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS – Photographs of the caich/cache balls can be obtained from Claire Grainger – contact details below.

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email cg24@st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: caich/standrews/chg/24oct2001

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