Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The 'fung in the mouth' and other stories

Curling is generally associated with good behaviour, on and off the ice. There are few incidences recorded when this was not the case. John Orr, playing for Lochwinnoch in the year 1798, is an early example of a bad loser!

In that year, two rinks travelled from Dalry to play against two from Lochwinnoch. The winner would be the first side to reach 51 shots scored. It was the tightest of matches, the score across the two rinks was 50-50. Dalry was the first to make the extra shot needed for the win.

Such matches attracted a considerable number of spectators. One of these, described in John Cairnie's 1833 book 'Essay in Curling, and Artificial Pond Making' as 'a son of old Gomery Skeoch', had travelled from nearby Kilbirnie to watch the match. When the Dalry curlers were declared the victors by the one shot, 'he took off his bonnet and huzzaed in favour of Dalry'.

At that, John Orr came up to him and gave him a 'fung in the mouth', which knocked him down. The Dictionary of the Scots Language describes a 'fung' as 'a blow from the hand or the foot' (see here), as we can tell from the context!

Cairnie describes what happened next. Skeoch got up much surprised, saying, "What's that for?" Orr said, "Just hurra again, an' if tu dis, I'll let thee ken what it's for, if I sud hunt thee to Kilbirnie!"

I wonder if there are any present day examples of curlers at major championships becoming violent with the fans in the stands?

Writing in 1911 about the history of the Morton Curling Club, Dr RB Thomson of Thornhill records that the parish bonspiels between Morton and Sanquhar were 'in the olden days' noted for the extreme rivalry between the parishes. Thomson writes, "It is recorded on one occasion, when Morton was successful at Sanquhar, the carriage windows of the Thornhill conveyances were smashed in, and the curlers just managed to get out of the town without serious injury."

Who would have believed it!

The Sanquhar home support made its presence felt during games. Thomson writes, "The old wives who used to attend the matches threw snowballs in front of the Morton stones." Not surprisingly, one of the Morton players was somewhat annoyed with this, and approached the women. But perhaps he did not chose his words very carefully when he said to them that 'they might be better employed at home darning socks'. Apparently this Morton player 'received a rather rough handling'!

Reading through old curling club minute books it seems that occasionally an individual club member could cause trouble. The records of the Coupar Angus and Kettins Curling Club (or the 'Society of Curlers in the United Parishes of Coupar and Kettins' when it was formed in 1749) had problems with one of their members, as described in a minute dated December 30, 1783. It was one of the rules of the club that swearing was not countenanced on the ice. Some of the members reported that John Crockatt, a new member of the club, had been guilty of swearing several times. He had also apparently 'lost one sixpence at play' (whatever this means, presumably a wager). He was asked several times to appear before the Society to pay the fine for his misdemeanours, and when he failed to do so, four members of the club were sent to his house. He pointed a gun at them and threatened to shoot the first person that attempted to lay hands on him. He then struck one of the party, Charles Ducatt, on the chest!

It is not surprising to read that Crockatt was dismissed from the club and the other members were debarred from curling on the ice with him 'until he shall in a full meeting hereafter acknowledge his faults and make such compensation to the Society as they shall think the nature of the crimes above requires'.

Two years later Crockatt must have provided satisfaction, as he was readmitted to the Society. However, he was immediately fined two shillings for not having his curling stones ready on the ice, as required to do so by one of the other Society regulations.

No-one ever swears on the ice these days, do they!

John Crockatt's story is told in an article in the September 1963 Scottish Curler, and the details confirmed in a copy of the Coupar Angus and Kettins CC minute book, in David Smith's research collection of papers now in the care of the Scottish Curling Trust. The RB Thomson's 'History of the Morton Curling Club' appeared in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard in 1911. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Curling Image Project (Week 6)

CIP-36. Outdoor curling on Lindores Loch. Don't know the date, but likely 1960s. (5x3in print, photographer unknown)

CIP-37. Here's a photo which reminds me of one of the most interesting and unusual curling events I've ever attended. It's of round robin play in the World Junior Championships in 1994 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Scottish men's squad was Craig Wilson, Neil Murdoch, Ricky Burnett, Craig Strawhorn, and Euan Byers. The women were Gillian Howard, Kirsty Hynd, Alison Kinghorn, Sandra Hynd, and Fiona Brown. That's Craig and Ricky in the foreground. Gillian can be seen on the sheet behind. (6x4in colour print, Bob Cowan)

CIP-38. Robin Brechin watches nervously as Glasgow's Lord Provost, Robert Gray, prepares to throw the ceremonial 'opening stone' at the Summit Centre, Glasgow, on February 13, 1986. (8x6in print, by Dick Brothers of Clarkston)

CIP-39. The Attinger team from Switzerland, in action in 1984. But where? Kurt, Werner, Bernhard and Peter Attinger were Swiss Champions in 1984 and were runners-up to Eigil Ramsfjell's Norwegian team at the Silver Broom in Duluth. (6x4in print, by Erwin Sautter)

CIP-40. I think this is a wonderful photo. It shows the Ernie Richardson team in action, but where? Great to have all four of the Richardson team in the one shot. I suspected this must be a Brier Championship and think it is 1962 at Kitchener-Waterloo. Wes Richardson is on the far left, encouraging Arnie Richardson who is sweeping the stone in the house. Ernie (third left) has turned away to walk back to the other end. Sam Richardson is on the right. But who are the other two players in the picture, with the big 'As' on their jumpers? I am convinced they are two members of Hec Gervais' Alberta team - Ron Anton in the centre, and 2nd player, Ray Werner, second left. Can anyone confirm all this? Wally Ursuliak was the Alberta lead. The film of the 1962 Brier can be watched here. (8x6in print, Michael Burns Photography)

CIP-41. The crowning of the 'Queen of Curlers' (Miss Estelle Cote) at Quebec City in 1955. The occasion was the Quebec Winter Carnival, which had an international bonspiel at its centre. Here's part of an article in the February 1955 Scottish Curler. "The crowning of the Queen of Curlers took place at the Quebec Winter Club. Led by a Scottish piper, Mr J Innes, the procession entered in this order: two pages, the ladies in waiting, the Queen, Mr Weyman, Mr G MacWilliam (the Chamberlain) and Mr C Scribner (the Prime Minister). The escorts consisted of the presidents of five curling clubs. A TV camera, ten photographers and several hundred spectators watched page MacWilliam present the crown to Mr Weyman, know as Canada's Mr Curler, who crowned the Queen and gave her a sceptre in the shape of a curling broom. Page Chaput presented the Queen with a bouquet, then Mr A F Sissons, President of the Quebec International Bonspiel, pinned the international jewel on the Queen's dress. He also presented her with a pearl necklace and ear-rings - a gift from the curling fraternity." Estelle Cote was a curler, a member of the Ladies Section of the Club de Curling Jacques-Cartier of Quebec City. (8x10in print, photography by Canadian Pacific Railway)

CIP-42. I have lots of photos of this team, one of the most successful rinks of women curlers in Scotland. (Or THE most successful over the years!) Here is Judy Mackenzie, Anne McDougall, Kirsty Letton (skip) and Pat Orr, with Gayle Lyburn after winning the Low Road of the Lyburn Trophy competition at Stranraer. But what year? (10x8in print, by F H McCarlie, Stranraer)

Image credits are as indicated, where the photographer is known. Check the archive (on the right) for previous Curling Image Project posts.

Friday, October 05, 2018

The Curling Image Project (Week 5)

CIP-29. Graeme Adam is in the hack with Bob Cowan and Robin Copland ready to sweep. Brian Alderman would have been holding the broom at the far end. No, don't ask about the trousers. Just be grateful the pic is in black and white. That's Liz Smith behind, on the right. Probably 1978. (7x5in black and white print, photographer unknown, but likely to have been Sandy Smith.)

CIP-30. In 1983, the community of Creelman, Saskatchewan, was the host of Scottish visitors and the team for the Air Canada Silver Broom in Regina. A lot of friendships were made over the week. This is the Creelman float for a parade, in association with the curling event. All ten competing countries were 'adopted' by local communities. (6x4in colour print, photographer unknown.)

CIP-31. Scottish Junior Champions in 2001. L-R: Graham Sloan (lead), Kenny Edwards (2nd), Callum Allison (3rd), David Edwards (skip), Kelly Wood (skip), Lorna Vevers (3rd), Jacqui Reid (2nd), Lyndsay Wood (lead). (7x5 in colour print, photographer unknown, probably Louis Flood, Perth)

CIP-32. This is a photo of the first Japanese team to compete in a World Curling Championship - at Vasteras in Sweden, in 1990. According to the WCF historical results (here) the team members were Midori Kudoh, Kaori Tatezaki, Etsuko Ito, Mayumi Abe, and Mayumi Seguchi. Can anyone confirm who is on the ice? (6x4in colour print, by Erwin Sautter).

CIP-33. The caption on the back of this photo just says 'Edinburgh University v Glasgow University'. I believe it was taken at the Aviemore Rink, but when? And who can you identify? Hint - David Smith (without his beard) and Hazel Smith are in the pic. (8.5x6.5in print, Strathspey Photography.)

CIP-34. Here is a pic of the winners of the World Junior Championships at Portage La Prairie in 1990. (Switzerland) L-R: Roland Müggler, Markus Widmer, Andreas Östreich, Stefan Traub (skip); (Scotland) L-R: Kirsty Addison (skip), Karen Addison, Joanna Pegg, and Laura Scott. Kirsty's team were the first winners from Scotland of the women's event, in the third time that there had been a world junior women's title on offer. But this was the last year that the World Juniors were sponsored by Uniroyal and Goodrich. (8x5in print, photographer not stated, but probably Michael Burns.)

CIP-35. We haven't had an eight-ender photo yet, so here's one which was scored at the Moray Leisure Centre Ice Rink, Elgin, in the 1998-99 season. It was the first ever eight-ender to be recorded at the Elgin Rink, which had opened in 1993. (L-R) Morag Cumming, Marlyn McKenzie, Douglas Howie (skip) and Helen Downie. It was scored in the last end of the Elgin Curling Club League. Down 4-12, Howie made a double takeout with his last stone, and lay for the eight, to tie the game! The story is recorded in the February 1999 Scottish Curler magazine. (10x7in print, Hester Photography, Forres.)

Photos are as credited where the photographer is known. Check the archive (on the right) for previous Curling Image Project posts.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Curling in Africa

Did you notice that the World Curling Federation, at its recent Annual General Assembly, voted to accept Nigeria as a provisional member? The country was described as 'the first African Member Association'. Nigeria became the sixty-first member of the World Curling family.

However, I think it is necessary to point out that, when the International Curling Federation (as the World Curling Federation used to be called) was just a youngster in the 1970s, curling was already firmly established in Africa, at Abidjan in the Ivory Coast.

First, the geography lesson. Cote d'Ivoire (the 'Ivory Coast' in English) is in green on this map of Africa. Abidjan is on the coast of the country. Cote d'Ivoire obtained independence from France in 1960, and for a good number of years thereafter enjoyed economic and political stability. You can read all about the country here.

The Hotel Ivoire was built in 1963. According to this article, it was the first President of Cote d'Ivoire, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who had the idea for an ice rink, for skating, in 1970.

Curling was played at the hotel ice rink from its early days. In 1973 the Abidjan curling club was accepted into the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

Abidjan curlers travelled abroad to compete. Here is a photo showing the rink which played in a bonspiel in Paris in May, 1973. (L-R) A Emery, Samuel Kouame, M Duchastel (Canadian Ambassador), Dominique Mascolo, Guy Chiasson (Air Canada), Sodogodo Tidiani, and JP Voutat.

The 'First Bonspiel in Africa' was held in the rink in Abidjan in the 1972-73 season. The January 1973 issue of the Scottish Curler magazine has the following report, "An International Curling Tournament was held for the first time on the new indoor rink of the 'Ivoire Inter-Continental Hotel', Abidjan, on the Ivory Coast. Two teams from St Moritz, one from Paris, and two from Abidjan (which included several Canadians) took part in this first tournament on African soil. There were a great number of spectators, who, as a result of good publicity, were astonishingly well versed.

The interest shown in curling is so considerable that through the success of this tournament, the foundation stone for curling has been laid in Abidjan. The chief initiators were Edwin Kilcher, a member of the Curling Club Engiadina, St Moritz, an exporter who has owned a plantation on the Ivory Coast for more than thirty-five years; D Pasquier, Director of Swissair, Abidjan; Mr and Mrs Moshe Meier, and Mr Carpentier, the General Manager of the Hotel Ivoire.

This very attractive sports event was perfected by the official appearance of members of the Ministry of Culture, the Minister for Tourism, and by representatives from television and radio. The following were present at the prizegiving: the Minister for Tourism and his wife, the Swiss Ambassador
and the big new Curling Family of Abidjan."

The event was won by this St Moritz team (L-R) Roby Kohler, Rita Kilcher, Bobby zen Ruffinen (skip), and Erwin Degiacomi.

Although the first international tournament only involved five teams (mostly ex-pats and visitors), the second bonspiel in November 1973 was well supported with sixteen teams involved. Edinburgh travel agent Robert Sibbald had tried to get a Scottish team to travel to Africa, but without success. We can learn a lot about the event from an article written by Robert O Young, and American curler living in Monrovia, Liberia, at the time, as he sent the following to Robin Welsh, the Editor of the Scottish Curler. "I have never seen anything carried off so well and smoothly. There are only 26 members of the Abidjan Curling Club and they have been organised less than two years. It seems that when their large Ice Rink was installed, curling stones and brooms were also supplied. A banana planter, Ed Kilcher, a Swiss, got people interested and now they curl every Thursday evening and Saturday morning.

They have some excellent teams and have sent curlers to Canada and Europe. They will be at the big men's week-long tournament at Quebec next winter and will have some members at the 'Silver Broom' in Berne in March. Who ever goes to Quebec should look up the Abidjan team, especially Dominique Moscolo, a Canadian located here, who was Chairman of the Tournament.

Last year, they had their first bonspiel and had five entries, from Switzerland and Abidjan. This year there were 16 - ten rinks from Switzerland, one from France, four from Abidjan, and one from the USA (us). A Swiss jeweller gave the Piaget Trophy, the second prize was a large ivory tusk, and carved art was given to other prize winners. Over 60 people came from Switzerland on an 8-day excursion.

Abidjan is a beautiful city with a wonderful hotel with swimming pools. It was interesting to see curlers leaving the ice, eating bananas, and diving into a pool or lagoon.

We made many friends. I am full of enthusiasm but it is warranted. The Club is off to a good start. It seems strange to think that you are facing cold weather while we are having to stand a very hot sun!"

The winners were a team from Thun, Switzerland: Frannz Marti (skip), with Waldemar Kilcheer, Fritz Buttner and Hansrudolph Immer. Abidjan CC teams took second and fourth places in the competition.

By 1974 Curling Club Abidjan had 40 members according to the entry in the 1974-75 Annual. Unfortunately, the members are not named in this Annual, nor in any thereafter. It would be interesting to know how many of the members were ex-pats, and how many were Ivorians. The last entry for the Abidjan CC was in the 1984-85 Annual. Roger Pasquier was the club's secretary for the twelve years that the club was affiliated to the RCCC.

As well as travelling to the competitions mentioned in Robert Young's article (above), teams from Abidjan competed in the Johnnie Walker Highland Week of International Curling, at Aviemore, in 1974 and again in 1976. The Scotsman reported that, "Skip Jean Gobeil agreed that the steamy heat of equatorial Africa was a far cry from the snow and wind of the Highlands."

I have looked everywhere for a photo of curling at the Abidjan rink. The only one I've found so far is this from c1982. You can find the story behind it in this article.

The only Scot that I know of who curled in Abidjan was Bob Martin, from Edinburgh. There may be others! Hopefully this blog post will reach Bob and he might be able to tell us more of the Abidjan story.

ADDED LATER. John Brown has sent this image of an Abidjan CC pin badge! Thanks John.

So does that cover curling in Africa? It does not. The Annual for 1982-83 has a record of a curling club in Johannesburg, South Africa, above, and this club was included in the RCCC Annual every year thereafter, until the 1995-96 issue. So, there's more African research to be done!

And in case anyone thinks I've forgotten, there is of course the 'Sub-Zero Sweepers', a spoof African curling team sponsored by Nando's. Possibly the most unusual ad campaign ever! YouTube still has this introduction, and also the clip of the cheerleaders, here. Unforgettable.

The pic of the Abidjan team in Paris was taken by Roger de Backer and appeared in the September 1973 Scottish Curler. The photo of the winners of the first African Bonspiel is from the January 1973 Scottish Curler. The photo of a player on the Abidjan rink is from here.

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Curling Image Project (Week 4)

CIP-22. National coach Jane Sanderson at work in the 1980s. She was an inspiration to many of us, and, I feel, has never received the recognition she deserves for her contribution to the sport in Scotland over the years. (35mm transparency, photographer not known.)

CIP-23. Attending the Macdonald Brier Championship in London, Ontario, 1974, was one of the greatest curling experiences of my life. That's the BC team nearest the lens, with Bernie Sparkes (on the right) getting ready to sweep. The team was Jim Armstrong (skip), Bernie (3rd), Gerry Peckham (2nd) and Clark Winterton (lead). What dates this pic is Bernie's flares! (From a 35mm transparency, Bob Cowan)

CIP-24. This is Larry McGrath, the skip of the Saskatchewan team which finished as runners-up at the 1974 Macdonald Brier. Note that he's sliding with a synthetic broom known as a Rink Rat. In 1974 the eleven competing teams just played a round robin, no semis or page playoffs. 1974 was significant too, in that it was the last year that you had to stop any part of your body going over the hog during delivery, see here. (From a 35mm transparency, Bob Cowan)

CIP-25. Three St John brothers (Ron, Wayne and Rod) made up the rest of Larry McGrath's Saskatchewan team at the 1974 Brier in London. They were the loudest team on the ice when they got to work with their rink rats! The promotional film of the 1974 is online and available to watch thanks to Curling Canada, here. You can see the players in delivery trying to stop going over the hog! And can you spot me in the stands? (From a 35mm transparency, Bob Cowan)

CIP-26. It's a bit blurry, but so are my memories of an amazing week. Here is Ron Anton (in the head) encouraging the Alberta front end on their skip Hec Gervais' stone. Warren Hansen was 2nd and Darrel Sutton lead, and the team won the event. (Hansen is on the right. From a 35mm transparency, Bob Cowan)

CIP-27. I enjoyed watching the Prince Edward Island team, and not just because their skip had a distinctive name on his back. Bob Dillon skipped John Fortier, Jerry Muzinka and Merrill Wiggington. They finished with a 3-7 win-loss record. (From a 35mm transparency, Bob Cowan) (And if you need reminded about the other Bob Dillon's curling song, go here.)

CIP-28. Part of the curling history exhibition 'Scottish Curling Through The Ages' which ran in the Perth Museum, in conjunction with the 1975 Air Canada Silver Broom World Curling Championship. The large dividers were a measuring implement, NOT for scoring the rings, as some have postulated. These are now at the Fife Folk Museum in Ceres. (From a 35mm transparency, Bob Cowan)

Origin of the photos are as indicated. Previous Curling Image Project posts can be found in the archive, on the right. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Curling Image Project (Week 3)

CIP-15. Does anyone have memories of drinking in The Silver Broom pub in Perth? (35mm transparency, Bob Cowan)

CIP-16. Another 'When We Were Young' pic. This is a very young Mike Hay, for a series of coaching slides used in the 1980s, before the no-backswing delivery began to be taught. Mike was the British Olympic Association's chef de mission for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. (35mm transparency, photographer not known.)

CIP-17. Outside play in a photo dated January 7, 1891. This is one of a series of photos from January 1891, rescued from an old family album. It's amongst the oldest I have in my collection. The original (15x10.4 cm) is rather faded, and has been enhanced to produce the above. The provenance is unknown, but the location could be the pond in the grounds of Cambo House, Kingsbarns, Fife (see here). Can anyone confirm this?

CIP-18. Play on an outside 'Cairnie-style' artificial rink. Rescued from an old album with five others. Sadly no provenance, nor date, nor place. Ideas, anyone? The original is a 12x9 cm print, photographer unknown.

CIP-19. "It's a haggis!" Scotland's Willie Young tempts Canada's Wes Richardson with a recently shot haggis at the 1962 Scotch Cup. (From a 6x6 cm contact print, by Michael Burns Photography.)

CIP-20. The Swedish team (Rolf Arfwidsson, Knut Bartels, Per Ivar Rydgren, and Arne Stern) contemplates its next play at the 1962 Scotch Cup at the Haymarket Ice Rink, Edinburgh. Scotland's Willie Young is on the right. (From a 6x6 cm contact print, by Michael Burns Photography.) Note that you can watch some of the live action in the original promotional film here, and here.

CIP-21. Spectators watch USA's Fran Kleffman and Scotland's 3rd player John Pearson at the 1962 Scotch Cup at the Haymarket rink in Edinburgh. The USA team was Dick Brown (4th), Terry Kleffman (3rd), Fran Kleffman (skip and 2nd), and Nick Jerulle (lead). Scotland was Willie Young (skip), John Pearson (3rd), Sandy Anderson (2nd) and Bobby Young (lead). Note the lockers, back right. Were these used by local club curlers to store their own stones? Anyone confirm this? (From a 6x6 cm contact print, by Michael Burns Photography.)
ADDED LATER: Trevor Dodds has confirmed that the lockers were indeed used to store stones, and curling gear, right up until the rink closed in 1979.

The source of images are as indicated. For more Curling Image Project posts go here and here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

From Scotland to the USA

It is said often that it was the Scots who took the sport of curling to North America, but very rarely do actual names come to light.

My attention was grabbed some time ago when, thanks to the British Newspaper Archive, I came across a short article in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard of Wednesday, April 29, 1857. This was titled 'THE CHANNEL-STONE IN NORTH AMERICA - EXTENSION OF CURLING'.

Here's the article in full. "A number of the miners who left the villages of Wanlockhead and Leadhills two or three years since, having located themselves the banks of the classic Susquehanna, at a place named Pittston, in the county of Luzerne, North America, have shouldered broom during the last winter, and formed themselves into a curling society. The club numbers eighteen, who mean to adopt the rules and regulations the Caledonian Curling Society; and that they may the more easily carry out their intentions, they elected the following office-bearers, namely, John Williamson, president, Mr William Reid, secretary, William Williamson, treasurer. The members committee are - Messrs James Moffat, James Watson, John M'Kenderick, John Williamson, junior, and William Slimmon.

Mr Williamson was thirty years cashier (of) the Wanlockhead club, and by his untiring exertions contributed greatly to promote its prosperity. The juniors of the Pittston club are all good and keen curlers, partly reared under the tuition of Williamson, and have taken early opportunity of shewing their attachment to Scotia's national and manly game by attempting to establish it in the land of their adoption.

The club have ordered a very handsome medal from Mr Muirhead, Glasgow, and have likewise sent to Watson, who was twenty-seven years president of the Wanlockhead club, a photographic representation of a band of curlers, fully equipped, and also a massive gold pen and pencil-case, with a suitable inscription, as a mark of their friendship, and a memorial of the many happy days spent on the 'crystal field' in their native glen, and the joyous meetings which occasionally took place among the merry and warm-hearted band after the contest.

The Pittston club played their first game on the 30th January last. The spiel excited much curiosity among the inhabitants of the district, and a considerable crowd assembled to witness their sport; and therefore they expect next season to double their numbers."

So, the names we have of some of the members of the Pittston Curling Club in 1857 are: John Williamson, William Reid, William Williamson, James Moffat, James Watson, John M'Kenderick, John Williamson junior, and William Slimmon. 

I concentrated initially on John Williamson, and his son of the same name. Williamson snr had been a member of the Wanlockhead curling club for many years, and the club's treasurer since 1821. The old minute books of the curling club, which survive in the Miners' Library at the Wanlockhead Lead Mining Museum, confirm that.

John Williamson and his son were still living in Wanlockhead at the 1851 census. In 1851 John snr, a widower, was 58 and his son was 21, and that of course tells us how old they were when the Pittston curling club began in 1857 - John was 64, and John junior 27. They are both listed as lead miners in the 1851 census. They had a house servant (Helen Porter, age 21) living with them in 1851. Ten years previously, there had been a wife, Jane (if I have deciphered the writing correctly) of the same age as her husband, given as 45, and two other children, James (15) and William (14), as well as John (11). Note there is a discrepancy in John snr's age in the records. He is 45 in 1841, and 58 in 1851. One can easily understand how this might have happened, but if one takes the earlier age as the correct one, it means that he was just 61, not 64, when the Pittston CC was formed. Still, I think it was extremely courageous for John snr to leave Wanlockhead in his late 50s (say) to start a new life in the USA.

There would have been two reasons for leaving Wanlockhead in the 1850s. One would have been economic. The viability of the lead mines in the area would have been a consideration. And with the loss of his wife one can understand the Williamsons taking the opportunity to emigrate to North America to start a new life. Note that one of the children is called William, and there is indeed a William Williamson mentioned as a member of the newly formed Pittston CC. It is possible that these are one and the same person. Perhaps William had moved out of the family home by the time of the 1851 census.

I would love to find out what happened to father and son after 1857. I've failed to confirm what happened to the rest of the family, either before or after they emigrated. Death records were not compulsory here before 1855. However, the Pittston Curling Club was still active in 1860. A letter to the Editor of the New York Times on January 9, 1860, records 'the result of that long-pending match between the Pittston (Penn) Curling Club and the New-York Caledonian Curling Club, of New-York. The game came off at Pittston, on Friday, Jan 6, with 12 players on each side'. John Williamson snr and John Williamson jnr were the skips of two of the Pittston teams. Overall, the New York club were the winners.

I have recently added a wonderful book to my curling library, 'A History of the Grand National Curling Club of America and its Member Clubs: 1867 - 2017', assembled by Gwen Krailo-Lyons, the GNCC President in 2007-2009 and 2016-2018. The Grand National Curling Club is the oldest national governing body for curling in North America. Pittston Curling Club was one of the eighteen curling clubs belonging to the GNCC in its first season, and so we can assume that the Pittston curlers had weathered the Civil War (1861-1865), and were among the founding member clubs when the GNCC was formed shortly after the war ended.

The book has individual entries for almost all of the curling clubs currently associated with the GNCC. The Anthracite Curling Club, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, traces the origins of curling in the area. Unfortunately, Dave Cawley and John Burns who submitted the entry for the Anthracite Curling Club, say, "Little is known about the Pittston Curling Club or what happened to it." However, they note that other curling clubs sprung up in the area and then they too disappeared, namely, The United Curling Club of Pittston (1891-1905), The Thistle Lackawanna Curling Club of Avoca (1892-1900), The Thistle Curling Club of Inkerman (1895-1897), and the Wilkes-Barre Curling Club (1895-1906).

After a break of many years, local enthusiasts founded the Scranton Curling Club in 2006, curling on ice at a skating rink in Pittston. The club moved to Wilkes-Barre when that town renovated their ice rink, and changed its name to the Anthracite Curling Club. The club rightly traces its legacy to the Wanlockhead curlers who emigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1850s.

It's all an interesting story, but I'm very much aware that it is incomplete. This is why I've not written about this before now. I have not found any record of how and exactly when the Williamsons travelled to Pittston. Or how they would have learned about coal mining opportunities there.

I've wondered if the medal ordered from Mr Muirhead, Glasgow, has survived. And what happened to the photo of the curlers, and the 'massive' gold pen and pencil-case, referred to in the newspaper article?

Did father and son have a successful life in Pittston?

I've also had limited success in trying to find the background of the other Scots mentioned in the newspaper article (William Reid, William Williamson, James Moffat, James Watson, John M'Kenderick, and William Slimmon). What did these six curlers do before they got to Pittston, and how did their lives pan out thereafter? There's a whole book to be written here. A huge amount of research would have to be done first, and I've probably left it too late to start. Perhaps local genealogists in the Wanlockhead/Leadhills area in Scotland, or in Pennsylvania, might well have information to hand. Can anyone in the USA trace their ancestry to Scottish miners who came over to work the coal mines of Pittston in the 1850s? If so, do get in touch.

There's one other reference to curling in Pittston that I've discovered recently in a local Scottish newspaper. In The Hamilton Advertiser of January 27, 1872, in a section called 'American Notes' the following appears. "Curling is becoming more common as Scotchmen are getting closer together. Mr Wiseman, watchmaker here, had an order last season for twelve pairs of curling stones and handles for the County of Lucerne, Pennsylvania. A society had been formed there called the Pittston Mutual Curling Club. President, Thomas Waddell; vice-president, Henry Smith; secretary, Walter Whinton; treasurer, William Wallace. The stones were sent off in the end November last." This may be a missing link in the evolution of the curling clubs in Pennsylvania, or it may refer to the original Pittston club having changed its name after a few years of membership of the Grand National, becoming, for whatever reason, the Pittston 'Mutual'. And here are yet more names to research!

Thanks to Gwen Krailo-Lyons. The British Newspaper Archive continues to be an immense reservoir of curling's history.