Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Grand Match at Linlithgow 1848

by Bob Cowan

This week has seen Charles Lees's painting of the Grand Match at Linlithgow Loch, beautifully restored, go on display in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh as part of the 'Playing for Scotland: The Making of Modern Sport' exhibit. It is on loan to the Gallery from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

To celebrate this, here is the story of the actual Grand Match depicted in the painting!

The first Grand Match of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club had been successfully held in January 1847 at Penicuik Pond, after three mild winters. A second such contest was eagerly anticipated, and arrangements were put in place when the Grand Match committee met in Edinburgh, on Thursday, December 30, 1847. The meeting resolved that the Grand Match should be played again between curlers from the North and the South sides of the River Forth, as it had been earlier that year at Penicuik.

It was decided that the second Grand Match should take place at Linlithgow on Friday, January 28, 1848, but should the state of the weather afford ice at an earlier date, then it should go ahead then.

On January 19, the Grand Match committee met again, and forty-three rinks from the North were ballotted to play against the same number from the south, although no fewer than 171 rinks had applied from South of the Forth. The extra 128 rinks were ballotted to compete against each other to take part in a President v President-Elect match. Not all the ballotted rinks mustered on the day though, as will be noted below.

The match took place on Tuesday, January 25, 1848. It was a beautiful day, a blue sky, and cold. The ice had a slight covering of dry snow. The conditions could not have been better.

The Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club for 1848-49 contains the results of all the matches and also the following 'Report of the Grand Match'. In the days before cameras and smart phones, it fell to the anonymous writer of this report to paint a picture with words of the happenings of the day!

"The 25th of January 1848—a day which will long be pre-eminently memorable in the Curling Annals of Scotland—having been fixed upon by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club as that on which the Grand Match was to 'come off' between the Curlers of the North and those of the South side of the Forth; and Queen Mary's loch, a beautiful expanse of water in the immediate vicinity of the ancient burgh of Linlithgow, having been selected as the spot on which this great contest for the palm of superiority was to take place, a vast national gathering of the heroes of the Broom—certainly by far the most numerous that ever congregated—assembled at this place. As regards its geographical and central position, its easiness of access from all parts of the country, by means of railway connection; its ample and extensive capability to accommodate the large assemblage of Curlers and spectators who might be expected to turn out on the occasion, a spot more appropriate or better calculated for the purpose, could scarcely have been chosen.

At an early hour, and during the whole course of the forenoon, the Members of the Royal Club, which now numbers in its ranks upwards of 8000, might be observed pouring from all parts of the country, far and near, into the quiet town of Linlithgow; every train, both from east and west, as it arrived at the station, disgorging some hundred combatants, fully accoutred with stones and besoms. Numerous vehicles, besides, of all descriptions, loaded with passengers, came rattling in through every inlet to the town. From the position which we occupied, we had a very good opportunity of surveying the different groups as they arrived. First comes a band of strapping lads from the hills, with their plaids and broad blue bonnets, the very beau ideal of Scottish peasantry. Next comes a party who, from the ruddy glow of their cheeks, and their big top coats, are evidently south country farmers, come up to fight for the honour of the Loudons. Here again is a lot of spruce-looking brethren of the rink, evidently from Edinburgh; they are the Merchiston Club, who have the honour to claim Prince Albert as a Member. Another train arrives with a fresh batch of Curlers, among whom we distinguish the Noble President-Elect of the Royal Club, the Duke of Athole, at the head of his four Rinks of Highlanders; and never did one of his illustrious ancestors fight more stoutly for name and for fame than did His Grace that day for the honour of the North.

The muster being now completed, the Skip of each Rink, after receiving his note of instructions, marched off with his troops to the scene of action, while every eye beamed with joyous anticipation of a 'roaring game'. Thirty-five Rinks from the North, and the like number from the South, constituted the Grand Match between the North and South sides of the Forth. The South side having mustered in greater numbers than the North, were formed into another great Match, consisting of fifty Rinks a side, and designated, respectively, the President's and President-Elect's party. Numerous other rinks were made up by amateurs not belonging to the Royal Club. The whole field amounted in all to about 130 rinks (consisting of 8 players each) so that altogether, including the immense concourse of spectators who had assembled, some from great distances, to witness this interesting trial of skill in our favourite national game, there could not be fewer, at one time, than 6000 persons scattered over the surface of this magnificent sheet of ice.

His capricious Majesty, John Frost, by putting his veto for some years past upon public meetings on the slippery board, though convened for the most legitimate and constitutional purposes, and by having treated the prayers, petitions, and complaints of his liege subjects, with the most sovereign contempt, seems to have been meditating an abridgement of the liberties and privileges of his devoted people. Such an attempt was not to be tolerated; discontent, insubordination, and desertion, were beginning to manifest themselves among his troops; and having received from certain quarters a premonitory hint of what was likely to be (and has eventually been) the result of similar proceedings elsewhere, the sulky Arch Monarch prudently altered his intention in time, came down from his high throne, and at last abandoned his project altogether. Accordingly to make amends for previous neglect, His Majesty on this occasion came out in great strength, appeared in person 'with all his frozen honours thick upon him', and took up a position on the bartizans of the old Palace of Linlithgow from which he might enjoy a full and uninterrupted view of the 'doughty deeds of arms' performed by his valorous combatants on the glassy plain below.

In the whole annals of curling, there never was a more propitious day, keener ice, or a more interesting locality for the exercise of this truly national game. The mist which hung over the loch in the morning had given way to the glowing effects of a glorious sun who was shining now in all his splendour, and whose golden rays refracted prismatically in the glittering and pearly fringework with which every tree, and every shrub, and every plant was luxuriantly adorned, in honour, no doubt, of the presence of the hoary monarch, shed a lustre and a brilliancy all around that was truly enchanting. The loch, which was covered slightly with a sprinkling of dry powdery snow, to the depth of an inch or so, and just sufficient to enable the players to keep their feet with safety, and to give occasional employment to the 'sooping department', had been laid out and prepared for upwards of 150 rinks, and every precaution had been taken to provide against the possibility of accident from the ice giving way, by the distribution of life buoys, ropes, and ladders, in every direction, under the charge of a detachment of police, specially engaged for the occasion.

The report of a gun, the appointed signal for preparation, was now heard. All was bustle and motion; the individuals composing the collected multitude, hurrying to and fro, over the broad expanse, to occupy the various positions allotted to them. Order, however, soon took place, and the immense mass gradually resolved itself into separate distinct groups formed of the different rinks, who, with their Skips at their head, awaited with intense anxiety the word of command to 'set to'. At this moment, the scene, to a spectator, was animating and exciting beyond description. Presently another discharge from the ruined battlements of the ancient palace gave the expected signal, and in the same instant, the deep roll of a hundred ponderous stones sent booming up the Rinks, mingling and dying away in the distance, with the receding echoes of the discharged artillery, produced an effect truly grand. Then on every side might be heard:

That music dear to a Curler's ear,
And enjoyed by him alone,
The merry clink of the Curling rink
And the boom of the roaring stone.

Taking a survey through the different Rinks you might here and there observe the titled peer and the hardy peasant,—the belted knight and the honest ploughman,—the Reverend Doctor and the Minister's Man, all promiscuously engaged in the friendly contest; title and station giving no other distinction than that derived from superiority of skill in the game, —for it is a marked and peculiar characteristic of this manly sport, that its votaries meet on the Ice upon a footing of the most perfect equality and fraternity that the reddest and most ardent republican could desire. Passing along you might hear some honest broad-bonnetted Skip bawling out ' Canny noo, Sir John, play canny and drap a gaird on this stane; the sorro's in the man! he's raging like a lion."

Another sharp-eyed carle cries out, "Come up here, my Lord, between Tam Gladstane and the Cornel, there's plenty of room to draw a shot ;—I like you man, I like ye, she's bonny, bonny—weel dune, my Lord, ye're the shot—ye 're a perfect pat-lid man." " Be up amang them here, Doctor," shouts a decent looking elder to his worthy pastor, "and outwick Jamie Tamson,—tut, tut, ye want heels, whar's your pith the day, Doctor; I see ye're keepin' your pouther for the poopit on Sunday." And thus the joke and the play went on, all, however, in the most perfect good humour, the banners under which they fought being inscribed "Rivalry and Good Fellowship."

Around every Rink were gathered a group of interested spectators who had assembled from various quarters, and who certainly were not without their enjoyment in the sport, from watching the various turns of the game, and the unconstrained excitement of the players. The Rink which had the greatest number of bystanders was that which included the Duke of Athole, the President-Elect; and such is the genial influence of this manly game on the feelings of all engaged in it, that it would have been impossible, from his Grace's manner, to have known that he stood 'a peer of the proudest title' amongst the honest and independent but humble sons of industry and toil with whom he was mated.

The contest raged with 'various success' over every portion of the ample loch from 12 till half past 3 o'clock, when another discharge of musketry announced the close of the game. The different Skips, according to previous orders, immediately repaired to head quarters to report the result of the game in their respective Rinks, and after a little time spent in summing up, the Secretary reported, amid the shouts and huzzas of the victorious party, that the Curlers of the South had beaten their opponents, in the aggregate, by a majority of 106. We beg to refer, for the particular result of each Rink, in both Matches, to the tables given in pages 18, and 19 of the present Annual. *

In concluding these remarks, we must not omit to mention, that the arrangements made by the Secretary and the Local Committee, were most judicious. Nor must we forget the kindness of Provost Dawson, in allowing the free use'of his fields bordering upon the Loch, and of Mr Scott in giving up for several days the use of the water of the Loch for his mills,—nor the attention shown by the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Company, in placing Special Trains at the disposal of the Dinner party in the Evening.

Finally, the kind and courteous manner of the noble President-Elect throughout the whole day, were such as to endear him to every keen Curler."

The Grand Match results are below. Was your club involved? In 1848, some 170 clubs were member of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

In each case the team from the North is written first. The name is that of the skip, with the club name in brackets. In some cases only the surname is listed. In one case, that of Largo, the name of the skip is not recorded.

1. John Drysdale (Dollar and Devonvale) 14, John Piper (Penicuik) 20
2. James Sharp (Dunblane)15, Allan Pollok junior (Mearns) 20
3. Daniel Macrobie (Bridge of Allan) 18, - Cowan (Corstorphine) 22
4. - McLaren (Ardoch) 11, Wm Dalgleish (Avondale) 22
5. J W Williamson (Kinross) 7, - Wilson (Buchan) 29
6. John Milne (Dunkeld) 21, Jas Guild (Cumbernauld) 26
7. Matthew Barr (Bridge of Allan) 26, D Hoggan (Banknock) 22
8. Alex Cowie (Torry) 22, Henry Shanks (Bathgate) 19
9. Robert Paterson (Doune) 16, Wm Spence (Northwoodside) 15
10. Rev J Gilchrist (Abdie) 19, M Hay (Banknock) 28
11. David Anderson (Balyarrow) 28, Andrew Wright (Corstorphine) 15
12. John Braynion (Ardoch) 25, Robert R Glen (Linlithgow) 9
13. Thomas Saunders (Alloa Prince of Wales) 13, J W Gray (Merchiston) 24
14. Hugh McLaren (Alloa) 16, A Prentice (Cambusnethan) 30
15. Andrew Walker (Cupar) 29, Archd Thomson (Buchan) 13
16. Wm Thomson (Coldoch) 11, Wm Morrison (Grahamston) 17
17. D C Macdonald (Dunkeld) 8. T Stodart (Newlands Water) 25
18. The Duke of Athole (Dunkeld) 17, John Coubrough (Airth and Bruce Castle) 17
19. -- -- (Largo) 10,  P Gemmil (Rowallan) 28
20. Robert Douglas (Dunblane) 30, John Ferguson (Hamilton) 13
21. Alex Monteath (Ardoch) 19, Dr Wilson (Whitehill) 12
22. James Forbes (Doune) 27, James Smith (Avondale) 13
23. Thomas Law (Inverkeithing St Margts) 19, H Caldwell (Paisley Union) 19
24. John Reid (Dunblane) 29, Jas Mossman (Uphall) 17
25. George Todd (Kinross) 19, R Drennan (Linlithgow) 21
26. John Robertson (Dollar and Devon Vale) 5, G Glendinning (Buchan) 30
27. A Mitchell (Alloa) 12, John Fleming (Bathgate) 26
28. D Monro (Bridge of Allan), 16, Thos Cuningham (Currie) 23
29. Wm Stirling (Dunblane) 24, John Gibb (Linlithgow Junior) 21
30. J Wright (Bridge of Allan) 17,  Bailie Landels (Linlithgow) 20
31. John Dewar (Doune) 19,  Archd Hunter (Buchan) 19
32. John Balfour (Doune) 18, Wm. Boak (Merchiston) 17
33. J Duncan (Tullibody) 10, Dr Simpson (Kirknewton) 25
34. Wm Robertson (Dunkeld) 15, Thos Lawson (Newlands Water) 27
35. A Seton Stewart (Alloa) 21, B Scott (Linlithgow Junior) 28.

Total for the North 626, for the South, 732. Majority for the South, 106.

The club with the highest score on the winning side was Buchan, and that on the losing side was Dunblane.

The results of the further fifty games in the President v President-Elect match can be found in the Annual for 1848-49.

Top photo © Bob Cowan

Friday, May 23, 2014

The 'Manly Game of Balls': A Substitute for Curling in 1846

David Smith writes:

Until the arrival in Scotland of indoor ice rinks, the ice of which was made by machine and did not depend on the climate, there was a continuous search for ways to provide more curling. Perhaps the most successful was John Cairnie's 'artificial rink', in which a thin skin of ice was sprayed onto an impermeable surface. Since a thin skin of ice could be created almost whenever there was a bit of frost this invention proved very popular. It has been calculated that a well-situated Cairnie rink could quadruple the number of curling days. Cairnie, the first President of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, had sought to popularise his invention by the publication in Glasgow in 1833 of his book, An Essay on Curling and Artificial Pond Making.

The laird of Morrishill beside Beith, Alexander Shedden, who was a keen sportsman, created a Cairnie-type rink which was used for curling in the winter. That did not give him as much curling as he wished and so he devised a game which was to be played on this rink outdoors but did not need even a degree of frost. The rink he used was composed of a bottoming of large stones, which were covered with a stratum of rotten-rock, covered by a layer of engine ashes and freestone sand well mixed. This was meticulously levelled.

The location of this artificial curling rink can just be seen in this screenshot from the Ordnance Survey, 25 inch to the mile map, first edition, published in 1858, as found on the National Library of Scotland maps website here.

The rink was situated between the walled garden and the boundary wall of the estate, as identified in this article.

The 'stones' which Shedden designed for outdoor use on this rink were spherical in form, the body of wood covered all over with a skin of copper, or tin. It was necessary to balance each ball and this was done by floating them in water. Balls which had a core made from lignum vitae had to be balanced by floating them on mercury for that wood is heavier than water. After various attempts at throwing these balls it was found that a spring handle answered the purpose admirably.

We are fortunate that Chance has preserved for us an example of one of these balls in the Dick Institute at Kilmarnock. Click here to see a photo.

Also preserved are one or two copies of a publication, entitled Report of Dinner and Presentation to Alexander Shedden, Esq. of Morrishill, 17th February 1846. This was printed by John Smith and Son, Beith.

The dedication of the Report is to Mrs Shedden. The spring-loaded handle is shown in an illustration of one of the 'balls'. What the precise purpose of the brush was is not mentioned.

The Report narrates in considerable detail the names of persons attending the dinner, and the reasons for holding the dinner and making the presentation. It began: “A number of Curlers, and others in the parish of Beith, anxious to convey some expression of their esteem and regard towards Alexander Shedden, Esq, of Morrishill, for the uniform kindness he has ever displayed in inviting them to join with him in the various games he has so liberally promoted within his grounds, foremost among which is 'Scotland's Ain Game'; and also for the talent and ingenuity he has exhibited, not only in inventing, but bringing to perfection an entirely new game, which being played on an artificial rink prepared for the purpose, can at all times be practised, and is an excellent substitute for curling."

Alexander Shedden was entertained at a public dinner, on Tuesday, February 17, 1846, on which occasion he was presented with an elegant silver jug.

“The party was purposely of a select nature, but upwards of 60 gentlemen, comprising the most influential and keenest curlers of the district, sat down to an excellent dinner provided by Mr Kennedy of the Saracen's Head Inn, Beith. Hugh Brown, Esq, of Broadstone in the chair...”

The Report's description of the new game meant that, “The announcement of its success, a success practically proved, and warmly acknowledged by the keenest and most experienced curlers of the district, would not be unacceptable to their curling and sporting friends at a distance, who had neither the opportunity of seeing the rink, or hearing its construction and double use fully explained.”

At the dinner and after the presentation to him of a silver jug, appropriately engraved, and bearing on its lid a statuette of a man – presumably the laird himself – preparing to throw one of his new 'stones', Alexander Shedden, in the course of replying to the toast in his honour, displayed one of his balls, 10 inches in diameter and weighing 23 lbs and explained, “My idea always was, that a substitute game might be got up, and my argument in favour of this was, that if one could produce a thoroughly level surface, a perfectly round Ball, and equally balanced, it would be as unnatural for a ball so adjusted to depart from a direct line, when once set in motion on a perfect level, as for a stone to move out of a perpendicular dropped from a height...”

An illustrated page from the publication, a celebration of the Roaring Game and its conviviality. At the bottom is depicted the natural pond at Morrishill.

After many toasts, as was the custom at that period, the proceedings were concluded by a speech from Mr William Paton, the oldest curler present. He said, “With regard to our worthy Guest's improvement; he has brought forward a set of balls, majestic in their appearance, and if a stranger was standing fifteen yards distant he would wonder how the balls were to be propelled. (Great cheering.) But, by the ingenuity displayed by our worthy Guest, there's a handle springs up from the bowels of the ball as if by magic, and when the ball is delivered, it recedes back into the ball by the same magic, just as it had come forth; (cheers) and, gentlemen, at the word of command, 'Hocus pocus, fly, Jack, and begone!', it rolls away majestically to its destination. (Great cheering.)

That manly game of Balls is a substitute for curling, and has been brought forward by Alexander Shedden, Esq, and in my opinion, as a curler for the last fifty years, it comes as nigh curling as anything that has been produced...”

By David B Smith

Illustrations are courtesy of the author 

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Theft of Olympic Curling Medals

The Curling Connections exhibition in Dumfries Museum has been a great success. But last night the museum was broken into, and a number of items stolen. These include the two Olympic Gold Medals that were the star attractions of the exhibition, from the 1924 and 2002 curling competitions.

The former was on loan from the Scottish Curling Trust, and the latter from Rhona Martin. The local police are keen to trace three individuals seen running away from the museum around 10pm last night. They were last seen on Rotchell Road heading in the direction of Park Farm. If you were in the area around this time or saw any suspicious activity, please call the police on 101 or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Needless to say here, the loss of Rhona's medal is heartbreaking. Click here to see what it looks like.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Curling Connections

The Dumfries Museum was founded in 1835 as an astronomical observatory and museum in a stone windmill built about 1790 on Corberry Hill. A Camera Obscura in the tower is still a popular attraction. The main hall of the museum was built in 1862 and houses collections from all over Dumfries and Galloway.

The museum is worth a visit at any time, but from today until June 15, there is a special exhibition, 'Curling Connections', celebrating that Dumfries Ice Bowl is the venue for the World Seniors and the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships. The exhibition examines the social importance of curling and reveals the contribution to the development of the sport made by the people of Dumfries and Galloway.

As well as local items, some of the rarest artifacts from the history of the sport have been brought together for this exhibition. Display boards and descriptive labels tell the story.

More modern memorabilia, on loan from some of the region's 'local heroes', is also on show.

My pick as the star attraction? Seeing the first Olympic Winter Games gold medal awarded for curling in 1924, alongside the gold medal won by Rhona Martin in 2002!

There's spectacular video footage to watch. And any children will find there are lots of activities for them to do too.

Almost the whole team was in action yesterday to set out the final display showing the 'evolution' of the curling stone, with a variety of examples to ponder over. The workers were: (Back L-R) Kayleigh (museum intern), J-P (museum attendant). Front: Siobhan (museum curator), Joanne (museums officer) and Catherine (museums officer).

And here's how this area of the exhibition looked with just hours to go to the (soft) opening today. World Curling Federation President Kate Caithness will be the guest of honour at the official opening on April 22. The exhibition will run until June 15.

Photos and text by Bob Cowan

Friday, April 04, 2014

Olympic gold medal to star at Curling Connections

by Bob Cowan

Arrangements are well in hand for the Curling Connections exhibition in Dumfries Museum, set to open on April 18. The exhibition, featuring many aspects of curling's history, runs in parallel with the World Seniors and World Mixed Doubles championships with their slogan of 'Bringing Curling Home'.

The exhibition will emphasise local Dumfries and Galloway associations with curling over the centuries. A huge variety of items has been brought together for the exhibition which is being co-ordinated by Siobhan Ratchford and her curatorial team at the Dumfries Museum, with much input from local curler and former Scottish Champion Graeme Adam.

Many items to go on show have worldwide significance. For example, the Scottish Curling Trust has loaned an Olympic Gold Medal, one of two owned by the Trust which were awarded to Willie and Laurence Jackson, the skip and lead of the team which represented Great Britain in the first Olympic curling competition in Chamonix in 1924. This will be the first time in recent years that such a medal has been on public display!

The evolution of the curling stone will be well illustrated, and on display will be the Stirling Stone, the best known example of a loofie, the earliest type of curling stone, on loan from the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum.

These are just two examples. I won't spoil the surprise by describing any other exhibits. Suffice to say that you won't be disappointed!
Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum
Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum

My own interest in the history of curling was ignited when I visited a display in the Perth Museum during the 1975 Silver Broom. Hopefully, Curling Connections will similarly enthuse visitors. The exhibition will run for a while after the events at the Ice Bowl are over - until June 15. Don't miss it!

Aside from my memories, I only have two images from that 1975 exhibition. This one has been rescued from a 35mm slide of the advert outside the Perth Museum.

And this is the only 35mm slide I have of the exhibition itself. I wonder if any more images from 1975 have survived anywhere?

The catalogue of the 1975 exhibition survives in this A4 booklet which has a ten page 'Introduction', written by David B Smith, an elegant summary of the sport's history.

Photos from the Bob Cowan archive

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bill Charmatz and the Megeve Silver Broom

By Bob Cowan

Bill Charmatz is a well known American illustrator, who died in 2005. There is a website dedicated to his work and maintained by his daughter, see here. Reading this you will learn that Bill Charmatz was born in New York in 1925. He attended the School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan and served in the US Navy in WW2. During his freelance illustration career he drew for The New York Times, Washington Post, Esquire Magazine, Playboy, Fortune, Life, Time, and Sports Illustrated. He illustrated a weekly column for the last mentioned for over twenty years.

Last year, several Charmatz cartoons came to light during renovations at a Canadian curling club. These drawings appeared to be authentic. But there's nothing that records his involvement with the sport of curling. There's no record that they were ever published, and that's the reason for this post on the Curling History blog today. Can we find out more about them?

'Not hurling you idiot! Curling, curling!' is shown above. 

This is my favourite. An 'Andy Capp' character curling on skis! And it gives a clue to when the illustrator encountered our sport - at the Air Canada Silver Broom World Curling Championship in Megeve, France, in 1971. It is known that Charmatz had an assignment to cover skiing in France. His daughter has confirmed that he was in that country in 1971. Some of the illustrations have an Air Canada Silver Broom sticker attached. Were the cartoons drawn officially for Air Canada, or for the local organising committee? An approach to the airline's archives has not produced any explanation.

Air Canada sponsored the World Men's Curling Championship from 1968 through to 1985 - the 'Silver Broom', as it was always known. The airline contracted out the organisation of the event to an 'executive director' called Doug Maxwell. Doug and his own team worked with local organising committees each year to make sure the competition went ahead successfully, in whichever country it was to be held. 1971 was early in the sponsorship, and what was to become a successful format, involving players, fans and media, was just beginning to take shape. Prior to 1971, the competition had visited Pointe Claire (Quebec, Canada), Perth (Scotland) and Utica (USA). The event continued to grow over the years that followed. At Megeve, the following countries participated: Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland and USA. Canada beat Scotland 9-5 in the final, see here.

Doug Maxwell would probably have been able to solve the mystery of the Charmatz drawings, but he died a few years back. There may be others who can remember what linked Bill Charmatz to the Megeve Silver Broom. Can you help? 

Do you have memories of the 1971 Silver Broom? Did one of the Air Canada flight attendants who worked the event have an accident at Megeve, prompting the cartoon above? Are there still competitors from the 1971 competition reading this, or their families who travelled to support them? Perhaps members of the local organising committee, or national curling organisations, or the media, may be able to help?

Please do get in touch.

There's an interesting video about Bill Charmatz's life and work, in two parts, here and here.

Sonja Laurin has kindly allowed me to put up these Bill Charmatz images.

POSTSCRIPT added April 8, 2014.
The mystery has been solved. Information has come from Margaret Hare, the sister-in-law of the late Pat Hare, a member of the Morrisburg Curling Club where the cartoons were found.  

“Patricia Hare worked in the Public Affairs Department of Air Canada for 38 years. She joined Air Canada in 1947 when it was called Trans Canada Airlines. During her career, Pat became the Coordinator for Special Projects. She enjoyed curling and was thrilled when Air Canada became the sponsor of the Silver Broom from 1968 to 1985. Her position with Air Canada allowed her to travel and attend many of the Silver Broom Tournaments. As a result, she was able to acquire the drawings by Bill Charmatz. When Pat retired she moved from Montreal, where she belonged to the Wentworth Curling Club, to Iroquois and spent many happy times at the Morrisburg Curling Club. She participated in many bonspiels and volunteered for many activities within her community such as the Club's coordinator for the Scott Tournament of Hearts in 1990”.

So it was Pat Hare, in her role with Air Canada, who is the link between the Charmatz drawings and Morrisburg Curling Club.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Inspector of the Ice

On the wall of Tibbermore Church near Perth is a monument to James Ritchie, who died in 1840. 

This monument is built into the west wall of the north wing of Tibbermore Church, a few miles to the west of Perth. On top of a sarcophagus are two curling stones, tramps, and a broom. John Ritchie, a local farmer, was a keen curler! His ornate headstone seems to be unique in depicting the sport of curling.

The monument also has a carving of Ritchie's prize winning bull.

Tibbermore Kirk is no longer is use, and has been in the care of the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust since 2001, see here.

See this video for views of the church and graveyard.

These are single-soled stones, with scalloped decoration above the striking band. There's a broom kowe behind. And on the right are a pair of tramps, also known as crampits, which were attached to the feet in the manner of crampons, to give secure footing, but which did much damage to the ice. David Smith discussed these in this post.

I photographed James Ritchie's memorial back in 2007, see here. Being on an outside wall, it is open to the weather. A large yew tree does give the carvings some protection, and someone is paying attention to the condition of the monument. In 2007, there was signs of damage to the rearmost of the two stones, and a crack could be seen in the scalloped decoration. This had undergone some restoration in the intervening years.

Who was James Ritchie? We know he farmed at Cairney (also spelled Cairnie on old maps), which is well to the south west of Tibbermore on the other side of the main road from Auchterarder to Perth.

The Annuals of the Grand Caledonian Curling Club (as the Royal Club was called in its early years) provide some more information. Ritchie belonged to the Cairney Curling Club which was one of twenty-eight clubs which provided returns to be printed in the first Annual, that for 1839. Here it is listed as the 'Carnie Club', with only five members' names, and no indication of who the office bearers were. The entry was more comprehensive the following year, and the spelling of the club name had changed!


This is the club's entry in the Annual of the Grand Caledonian Curling Club for 1840. Twenty-three members are named. Rather than listing the office bearers as 'President' and 'Vice President', the Cairney Club has a 'Captain', 'Skipper, and 'Lieutenant'. I rather like the fact that the club had its own chaplain and its own doctor! I wonder what was involved in the position of 'Regulator of the Rink'.
James Ritchie was the 'Inspector of the Ice'.

The practice of designating the duties of office-bearers and members in this way was considered to be 'unnecessary' by the Annual editors, and this was pointed out in a 'Notice to Local Clubs' printed in the 1840 Annual on page 22. 

As the 'Inspector of the Ice' it is likely that Ritchie's job was to monitor the ice of the local pond, and indicate when conditions were suitable for curling to take place. And that raises the question of where the members of the Cairney club did play. It is relevant to point out here that the earliest Constitution of the Grand Caledonian Curling Club, in the General Regulations section, says (3d), 'That Local Clubs to be admissible shall consist of at least eight members, have a designation, and stated sheet of ice for their operations, and be governed by office-bearers under a code of regulations'. (My emphasis) The requirement for affiliated clubs to have their own curling ice to play on remained in the Royal Club regulations until 1936, by which time most clubs were playing indoors. The Historical Curling Places website shows clubs' local ponds, as well as other venues where there is evidence that the sport was played.

The farms of Cairnie and Upper Cairnie are in Forteviot Parish. The curlers of the area, including James Ritchie, must have been well organised in the early years of the nineteenth century. According to the list of clubs in old Annuals, the Cairney Club itself was formed in 1832. Where did they play? Did they have a pond on Cairnie farmland which they called their own in 1838 when they decided to join the Grand Caledonian Club? The OS 6 inch map, Perthshire, Sheet CIX, 1st edition, surveyed in 1859 and published in 1866, shows a possible place, what seems to be a mill pond, just to the south west of Cairney Cottage. But there is no hard evidence to indicate that curling was ever played there. Present day 'curling pond hunters' have work to do!

James Richie did not live long enough to see how the Cairney Club would fare as a member of the Grand/Royal Caledonian Curling Club. It prospered, and its members are listed in the Annuals of the Royal Club until 1884-85 when the Cairney Club became the Cairney and Dupplin Curling Club. The Cairney and Dupplin CC remained a member of the Royal Club until 1934, its resignation being announced at the Annual Meeting that year.

Bob Cowan

Images © Bob Cowan, excepting that of the Cairney membership in 1840 which is from the Annual of the Grand Caledonian Curling Club of that year.