Wednesday, March 10, 2021

A Prize Letter

In the run up to Christmas Day, 1893, the Aberdeen Peoples's Journal offered a prize of one guinea for the best letter about curling! That's the invitation above, courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive, from the December 23 paper.

The winning entry was published on January 13, 1894. The writer was William Wilson, and he no doubt enjoyed his winnings, equivalent today of around £140.

You have to decide if these are real reminiscences. The Club would appear to be fictional, and the names made-up. Is the whole essay a fiction of William Wilson's imagination? Could even that name be a nom de plume?

Or is the letter an accurate description of a curling club's activities in late Victorian times?

Here is the winning letter:

"Our Club - that is the Strathard and Glendarroch - is not only the oldest, but the best Club in a very wide area. Nor is this a mere idle boast for we demonstrated the fact over and over again by beating all other Clubs within a radius of more than fifty miles. By 'The Club' of course, I mean the Curling Club. We have no other Club, but though we had they could not for a moment compare with or be spoken in the same breath as the Curling Club. For what game or pastime can bear comparison with Curling? Cricket? Football, Golf? Faugh! Boys can play these, but it takes men to play at curling.

I think therefore we are justified in our long-formed and established opinion that Curling is the game of games. There is no 'caste' about it. Like love and learning it levels all. On the ice the farmer or gamekeeper may skip the laird; and the ploughman or shepherd his employer. At all Club meetings every member has equal votes and equal rights. It is a social, democratic game; and brings us nearer the poet's ideal, "When man to man the world o'er, shall brothers be for a' that."

Donald MacGillowie is the oldest member of the Club, a fact we are often reminded, especially over a 'jorum' in the Strathard Hotel; when like all great generals, he fights his battles o'er again. Among a few defeats Donald can claim many great victories. One of his keenest fights, and one often alluded to, was his triumph over a crack rink of the famed Loch Lomond Club. I happened to be one of his henchmen on that memorable occasion, but as he was skip the glory of victory is entirely his. He made a shot which deserves special mention. Our opponents had a stone on the tee, a beautiful pot-lid, long guarded by one of ours, which, equidistant, was in turn guarded by one of theirs. I directed Donald to play up the guard, as there was no alternative; it was his last stone to play. I heard whispers of "Misdirection", "Moral impossibility", etc. Donald played dead - knocked up the double guard, off flew the pot lid and we laid shot. With brooms in the air, we cheered him to the echo. That shot made us victors; it was a great triumph and a great shot. Perhaps no general that led an army to victory felt prouder than did Donald that moment.

But though giving this passing and deserved tribute to our oldest member, it is as a Club versus all other Clubs that we rise and fall. We are in fact as well as in name brother curlers. On the ice we are united, keen, enthusiastic curlers. On the ice we all feel young. We are boys again, with all the abandon of boys, for during the curling fever everything else mundane has to be subservient to the game. This curling fever is infectious as influenza, and makes its appearance every season with the first hard frost. If the frost is keen, and holds for three consecutive days, the fever is on. Then, how strange to see old, staid men like Macnaughton, Emerard - an elder of the kirk and a most exemplary man during the rest of the year - shouting across the river to Farquharson, Dumore, "if he noticed what state the ice was in on the 'Pond'?" The 'Pond' is on Farquharson's farm. Of course he asked it in a careless, off-hand manner, as if the matter did not concern him in the least; but his wife told me after the 'kirk skaillin'* on Sunday that he looked at the glass the last thing at night, and by candlelight in the morning. The fact was the fever was coming on, and though the man would hardly own it, even to himself, he almost prayed that the frost would hold. And though Farquharson controls himself better, he is quite as keen a curler, and perhaps the stongest player in the club.

I recollect when we played the Camlarig Club he was in my rink. Their leader played heavy flat stones which he boasted could not be shifted. I knew Farquharson's capabilities, and resolved to show our opponent how we 'shifted' stones. So I shouted, "Chap-and-lie," and held my broom above the 'immovable'. With quiet deliberate resolution Farquharson caught his 45-pounder. For a moment its bottom faced the sky, and the next onward it came 'dirling' in its impetuosity, and shot the leader's stone up among the heaped snow, with chips flying all around as if from a stone-dresser's chisel. That settled the 'leader' but not the 'skip': he was on the losing side and he showed it, which made Tam Lamonth and Archie Collie shout themseves hoarse. The famed Mrs Partington could not have excelled these two that day - their sweeping was perfect.

But, as a rule, we avoid strong play, and incline more to the quiet, scientific style, which I will illustrate by relating a decisive defeat sustained by a leading rink of the Invertay Club at the hands of one of ours. We won as a club - our four rinks were up - but it was old Stewart's rink that so distinguished itself.

Old Stewart is a veteran curler himself, but on this day his work was a mere sinecure, as it was to George Carrick and Duncan Smith the chief honour was due. They played so steadily into each other's hand all day by drawing and guarding that the game stood 25 to 1 when time was called. It was brilliant play. But the skip's play at one head was equal to, if it did not excel, anything done that, or I might say any other, day. Quite a cairn of stones guarded the tee as he went to play, and the winning stone was on the tee and against him. To get at it seemed impossible. With his first stone he drew up nearly opposite the tee; with his second he took an inwick off the first, knocked away the winner, and counted shot. With such play it is no marvel, as already indicated, that we are almost invariably victorious.

I think the sweeping does it. To see George Carrick plying his cowe, or even to hear him shout "Soop, soop!" when at the tee or on the crampet, is a treat that should not be missed.

Being thus generally victors we are often challenged by other clubs. Nor are we loath to accept these challenges. Ice permitting, we play all comers. If the play happens to be on our ice we treat them with genuine hospitality. With strangers we don't play on the Pond, as there is such a choice of ice on the Loch, in the middle of which stands St Fillan's Isle, where when half-time is called we lunch amid the ruins of an old castle that sheltered the Bruce in his flight after the combat with Macdougall of Lorne.

Our Annual Dinner of beef and greens usually winds up the season, when the 'fever' may be said to have reached its culmination, if not spent itself from over-exuberance and demonstrativeness. Previous to dinner new members are initiated into the Club. The initiation ceremony is, of course, a secret I must not divulge. It is carried out in its full ritual by our Club. Usually MacGillowie is officiating high priest of the 'brothering' ceremony, very much assisted by the rank and file of the Club. I question much if many of the newly joined could reveal any secrets though they were willing, owing to the pandemonium-like noise that is kept up during the ordeal. Once 'brothered' they are entitled to all the rights and privileges of the Club, including the sitting to dinner and paying for the same. The 'annual' is quite an event in the district. It is held, of course, in the Strathard Hotel, and always served in Mr Robertson's high class style, and presided over by our worthy President - who, like our skips, is annually elected by the voice of the Club. We are favoured with the company of representatives from numerous other Clubs.

The Toast List is long and varied, from 'The Queen' downwards, and is received with such cheers as only curlers can give. When the Chairman exhausts his list, private members are allowed to propose toasts. Among them, and well to the front, will be always found MacGillowie, for Mac is an orator as well as a curler, and what orator but wishes occasionally to air his abilities? Behold him, then, in his favourite attitude, with arm raised aloft, his hand holding a glass full charged, and with eyes twinkling, in a lengthy speech proposing some important toast, with a fluency begot of long practice. We generally terminate the night by singing Auld Lang Syne.

But to enumerate, however briefly, all the inwicks and outwicks even of one season on the ice would fill more space than you, Mr Editor, could spare; the few incidents I have recorded may help bring a faint idea to those who have never engaged in it of the health and pleasure, the thorough and complete enjoyment, derived from taking part in the grand, bracing, national, Scottish game of Curling."

I hope that William Wilson did receive his prize, as at the bottom of the column containing the article is (Will Mr Wilson please send his full address?)!

* I think this means as the congregation was dispersing.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Remembering 1979

Wednesday, February 7, 1979, was a memorable day. I'm in this photo, somewhere near the top centre! The pic is credited to Ron Burgess of the Scottish Daily Express, and was used for the Scottish Curler Christmas Card later that year. This is from that card. The image shows the Grand Match in progress on the Lake of Menteith, taken from a small plane.

Before digital cameras and smart phones, not everyone had a camera with them. I had a small Olympus camera, and must have asked someone to take this for me. It shows members of Carmunnock and Rutherglen CC on the ice. Back L-R, Michael Burton (our club Secretary), Russell Chambers. Front, John Hibberd, me, Norman Crosthwaite, Willie Jamieson, Robin Shand and Harry Levick.
And yes, that's the Mary Maxim curling sweater that my mother knitted for me when I began my curling career at school in the early sixties. (More here)

It's forty-two years ago, and some things about the day I remember well. But details ... ? It has been interesting searching my memory banks!


Memories can certainly be influenced by photographs, and moving images. A 35mm film of the event came out a couple of years later in 1981, directed by Jon Schorstein and produced by The Scottish Film Production Trust. This runs for fifteen minutes, and can be watched online on the National Library of Scotland's Moving Image Archive website here.

The film has some great images of the day, but now I find it a bit patronising.

In sorting through my own memories, I realised I had forgotten who we had played, and what the scores had been. Robin Shand currently has the Carmunnock and Rutherglen minute books, and he was able to tell me what Michael Burton had written therein. "The Club played two teams against Monifieth 1 and 2 and were able to record resounding wins in both games

Team 1 G Youngson [Skip] J Hibberd R Chambers R A Cowan 

Team 2 N Crosthwaite [Skip] H Levick [Sub] R Kelly R Shand [W Jamieson]

Willie Jamieson travelled down from Aberdeen to play but suffered rather from an overindulgence in transit. The resulting weakness of the knees allowed Harry Levick, a long standing friend of the Club, to play as sub.

Team 1 secured a 20-6 victory and a result of 16-2 was recorded for Team 2 in their favour."

I was then rather surprised to find that the results published in the 1979 Annual differed, recording that Carmunnock and Rutherglen 2 had been beaten by Monifieth 2!

The club minute book shows that our Secretary wrote to Robin Welsh, the RCCC Secretary, pointing out the error. Not that it made any difference to the overall scoresheet. North beat South by 3,937 shots to 3,144. If we allow for the error in recording our club's game, the winning margin would be just a few shots less. 

David Hood's Edzell CC rink won the beautiful challenge trophy. 

Nowhere in my memory is what I had to eat on the day. I cannot recall any food stalls, so I assume I had taken sandwiches with me. 

Unlike the members of the 69 CC above, our club's 'dining arrangements' were not organised. The photo above (uncredited) shows L-R: Hazel Kerr (skip), Sheila Harper, Noreen Fleming, Kirsty Letton. I was so impressed with this photo that I asked Kirsty what she remembered. "We all brought some food and drink and my offering was a great success - still remember that - it was a cold pie - pork mince, apple and chutney wrapped in pastry and sliced - delicious cold." (Yes please!)

Kirsty also had a memory of her team's stones. She says "Only Sheila’s stones were good enough to be delivered anything like the full length. Our opposition (Tullibody 2) were kind enough to move the crampit until we were able to reach the head but we still played Sheila’s stones and then swopped them with others while the next player played Sheila’s again!"

The Scottish Curler held a competition for the best photo from the day. The winner was this pic taken by Lynn Fraser, and shows her dad, Jim, roaring encouragement to his sweepers. Lynn's prize was a half gallon of Haig's whisky! There were many other entries, but (sadly) all were returned to the photographers.

There are many short anecdotes of the 1979 Grand Match that have been passed around over the years, some publishable, others not! Robin Shand has reminded me that on conclusion of our games against Monifieth, we had a 'long throwing' competition to see how far a stone could be made to travel over the Lake of Mentieth ice. The competition was won by the Monifieth curlers with an approximate distance of 150 yards.

Other than the official accounts of the day, to be found in the 1979-80 Annual, and in the pages of the Scottish Curler magazine, there are few longer published acounts. Theresa McDougall's story of the match is one, and is here. She rightly pays credit to the work of James Hamilton and his team for the 'behind-the-scenes' work in preparing for the day, especially the two days spent marking out the ice.

Recently, I came accross an interesting account of the day in this wonderful book by John Barrington, documenting a year in his life as a working shepherd at Glengyle. It was published by Pan Books, in 1986. After feeding his stock, and seeing the children off to school, he set out for the Lake of Menteith in his Landrover, with borrowed curling stones in the back. He 'answered a call' over the public address system for a spare player. "I explain to the skip that I have never actually curled before, but Allan Lauder is prepared to give me a chance anyway, and I am all set to take part in the bonspiel."

Barrington's account is a delight to read. In contrast to those of the 69CC his borrowed stones ran well. Too well, as he recalls, "I cannot pretend to be in control of these burnished bits of heavy granite. The line and direction are no trouble, but finding the range is quite another thing. No matter how careful I am with my swing, my stone gathers speed along the ice. Outpacing the valiant sweepers, it passes through the head at the far end of the rink, before disappearing into the distance."

He recalls, "The booming, moving ice makes the nervous jump. The old hands at this outdoor game and those experienced in the ways of ice, only worry if the groaning and cracking stops."

Suitably fortified after a five end break, "The ice is very keen now, and the film of melt water on the surface speeds up every shot. My stones are stronger than ever, much to my frustration and my skip's amusement. At long last, I manage to get a stone to stop right in the head. It is a pity that this is the far away head of the rink behind ours."

"Eventually, after a dogged struggle, we lose. But it has been a great experience and lots of fun."

Barrington records that the school authorities 'relented' and all the local primary schools were allowed to come to the Lake for the afternoon!

I wonder if there are other published personal accounts of the day still to be found. Do let me know of any.

Images are as credited in the text. Many thanks to Robin Shand and Kirsty Letton for help with this article.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Cult of 'Men With Brooms'

I'm sure that in lockdown many curling enthusiasts have watched (again) 'Men With Brooms'. I'm a fan of the movie. That's a promotional poster above. It's an enjoyable rom-com, based around the sport of curling in a small Canadian town. It came out in 2002, and was directed by Paul Gross, who also stars in it. Its IMDB entry is here.


This is the DVD that I have of the film. According to its Wikipedia entry (here), "The film now has a cult following on DVD. Many relish the gentle Canadian comedy with its wry look at its country."

As well as Gross, the cast also includes Connor Price, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Outerbridge, Kari Matchett, Molly Parker and Polly Shannon. Members of the Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip make a cameo appearance in the film as a competing rink representing Kingston, Ontario, the band's home city. Winnipeg's three-time Brier champion Jeff Stoughton also makes an appearance throwing his trademark 'spin-o-rama' shot.

The interior curling action was filmed in the Hamilton and Brampton curling clubs.

The movie grossed $4.2 million dollars at the box office.

More about Paul Gross and the film in this blog post here written by Angela Pressland.

Of course, if you are a fan of the film, and a curling collector, having a copy of the film will not be enough. You could look out for the soundtrack of the movie.

Here it is on a CD, issued by Universal Music, Canada. One of the tracks, 'Silver Road' by Sarah Harmer and the Tragically Hip, is a favourite of mine and is online here. Silver Road is the first track on the CD. The others are:

'Hockey Skates' by Kathleen Edwards

'Throwing Off Glass' by The Tragically Hip

'Life' by Our Lady Peace

'Mass Romantic' by The New Pornographers

'God' by Sean Macdonald

'Diggin' a Hole' by Big Sugar

'Planet Love' by Tom Wilson

'Hello Time Bomb' by Matthew Good Band

'Can U Tell' by Pepper Sands

'Leading Me Home' by Chantal Kreviazuk

'Kiss You 'Til You Weep' by Paul Gross

'Watching Over You' by Holly McNarland

'Oh Honey' by The Tragically Hip

'Men With Brooms Theme'

Unusually perhaps, the film is not based on a book. Rather, a book of the film, titled Men with Brooms: A Sweeping Epic, was published after the movie's release, by McArthur and Company, Toronto, in 2002. It is based on the original screenplay (by Paul Gross and John Krizanc), and was written by Diane Baker Mason. I read a lot and I have to say that the book is great. And it explains where all the beavers that appear in the movie come from! The summary of the book's plot in the catalogue entry at the National Library of Canada reads, "Four friends return to a small town in Northern Ontario to bury their curling coach and settle old debts."
This image is from the CD sleeve.
That should be it for fans of the movie. Unfortunately (in my opinion), a television adaptation followed some years later, the first of twelve episodes broadcast on CBC on October 12, 2010. The series is set in the fictional town of Long Bay, Ontario, and features the members of a local curling club. The curling scenes were filmed at the Fort Rouge Curling Club in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The series stars Brendan Gall, William Vaughan, Joel Keller, Anand Rajaram, Aliyah O'Brien, Glenda Braganza, and Siobhan Murphy. The show's producer, Paul Gross, narrates and makes occasional appearances as Chris Cutter, his character in the original film.

'Men with Brooms (The TV Series)' aired for one season and was not renewed. I have a two-disc DVD of all twelve episodes (issued in 2011), and during lockdown I watched them all. Part of my life I'll never get back. Being kind, let's just say I can understand why the series was not renewed. The Wikipedia entry for the TV series is here. The IMDB entry is here. And here is a review by someone who enjoyed the series.

Images are all from items in my curling collection.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Local Medals

In 1839, a year after its formation, the Grand Caledonian Curling Club (as it was then called) made the decision to award medals to encourage the sport of curling amongst its member clubs. There were District Medals, see here, and Local Medals. The latter were for individual play, in Points competitions.

The rules for the Local Medals were first published in the Annual for 1839-40. These rules, and the various shots to be played, were essentially those that had been used by the Currie CC, see here.

Sixteen Local Medals were allocated in the first year, but the Annual for 1840-41 only included one report of a club having played off its competition. That club was the Abdie Curling Club.

The umpire, James Ogilvie Dalgleish, provided a report which read, "Accordingly, the 7th January proving a clear hard frost, with fine ice, and a prospect of continuance, and a large muster of the members being present, it was agreed that the Grand Caledonian Medal should be competed for next day, and expresses were despatched to apprise the absent members. The 8th, however, wofully (sic) disappointed the previous day's expectations, being a thick fog, and ultimately a thorough thaw with rain. Notwithstanding, members having come up at considerable inconvenience, it was resolved that the medal should be played for, and at half-past twelve o'clock, nineteen competitors took the field, and played the first two points at 36 yards, but the ice becoming more and more dull, the rink was successively reduced to 32, and finally to 24 yards." 

The medal was awarded to Andrew Brown, a banker from Newburgh. He scored twelve points, out of a possible maximum of 32.

There was some controversy over whether the umpire should have reduced the length of the rink. The report notes, "The representative member takes upon himself the responsibility of reducing the rink below the distance specified by the regulations. He did so believing the intention of the representative committee to be, that the local medals should be gained by skill and science, not by strength, and the minimum distance there specified to apply to the commencement of competitors; but where one has been commenced, as in this instance, and the great majority of players unable to reach the hog's score, and yet where it was necessary that the match should be decided, he conceives that he acted quite in the spirit of curling, and trusts that the representative committee will approve of his deviation from their general rule."

The general rules for curling did allow for the rink to be shortened in specific cases, for example, "The Rink shall be changed in all cases when, from the springing of water, the majority of players cannot make up." However, shortening the rink was not to be a precedent in Points competitions, as the Annual report notes, "With reference to the above report the Club resolved that in future the second rule for the local medal competitions be strictly attended to, and that in no case the rink shall be reduced to less than 32 yards. This rule having been framed with the sole view of affording the means of comparison between different Clubs, the competitors, if not able to play up, must break off for the day."

The Annual for 1841-42 contains two tables with the results of Local Medal competitions. There were those medals which had been awarded, and played for, in the season 1840-41, and then there were those of some which had been awarded in the first season but not played for until the winter of 1840-41. Here is one example:

The table records that on January 25, 1840, thirteen members of the Blairgowrie club competed for their Local Medal. The length of the rink was 42 yards, and the ice was 'keen but biassed'. The winner was James Anderson, with a score of nine points.

The umpire was David Inches. In addition to the information in the table, his comments on the competition are recorded, "The ice was tolerably smooth and keen. There was a considerable bias in several different directions, and a slight ridge or elevation running along the centre of the rink throughout its entire length, which rendered it somewhat difficult to take many of the nice and measured shots."

I have included the above report to show that, on outside ice, scoring well was sometimes extremely difficult or even impossible. Indeed, a high score of twelve points was the highest recorded in any of the 35 local medal competitions recorded in the Annual for 1841-42. The Dumbarton CC turned out the highest number of players, 27, for its competition on February 8, 1841.

The following season saw many Local Medals competed for. The table in the Annual had been expanded to include the average number of points gained by each competitor, and the time it took for each competition to be played. For example, on January 10, 1842, eighteen members of the Kinnoughtry CC competed on Kinnoughtry Loch, on 'excellent' ice accordng to Mungo Murray, the umpire. The winner was Charles Robertson with ten points, and the average number of points scored by all the competitors was just over four. The competition took two and a half hours to complete.

Andrew Blair, the umpire, penned this report, "The Kinnoughtry Curlers met this morning with more, if possible, than their usual keenness for the manly sport; and the ice was such as to please the most fastidious son of the broom. The rink was measured, and the prescribed angles made, with mathematical accuracy and precision, by Mr Charles Robertson, when the playing began. Old age, middle life, and youth mingled together to contend for the prize of the day, with that friendly feeling and cordiality for which Curlers are so proverbial - the Fates seeming to favour now one, now another, till about the middle of the game, when they fairly fixed down upon Mr Robertson, and pertinaciously stuck by him till its close, when he was declared by the umpire, Mr Murray, to be the winner of the Medal, which was hung around his neck, amid the smiles of ladies of distinction, and the plaudits of neighbouring Curlers, who honoured us with their presence on the occasion."

The Annual for 1843-44 included a table of results from 1842-43 which now had the height of each venue above sea level, and the distance from the sea itself.

John Adamson reported on the competition which the Abdie CC held on Lindores Loch on February 15, 1843. "The competition for the honour of the day commenced very favourably, with excellent ice, keen and straight; but in a short time a thick snow began to fall, and continued during the game, accompanied with a strong wind from the north-west, which cast a gloom over the eager expectants. Nothing daunted, however, they pursued their favourite sport for three hours, when Mr George Buist of Ormiston, and Mr A Brown (a medal holder), stood equal, each counting 11 shots. After a further trial at outwicking, in which neither party scored, Mr Buist counted one in guarding, and was proclaimed the victor. The ice was swept at the commencement of each round, but soon the parties found a difficulty in reaching the desired mark, the snow frequently adhering to the sole of the stone, and leading it aside from the point aimed it." 

This report shows that even playing the outwick was sometimes not enough to decide the competition winner. And it is of interest to read of the conditions that curlers had to overcome on outside ice. 

Perhaps the last word on that comes from Michael Pottie's report of the Duntocher CC's competition, "The day was so wet that the members had some hesitation in playing for the Medal upon the 17th January, and, when not throwing their stones, they used umbrellas."

What were these Local Medals like? There were identical to District Medals on the obverse, but the reverse had 'Local Medal' rather that 'District Medal'. David Smith wrote about District Medals here. The design shown above was by Sclater. This image is of a Local Medal that was sold by Lockdales Auctioneers some years ago. Note that the surround has been lost. It went for a hammer price of £95. Unusually for Local Medals it has not been engraved with the winner's name. It could be that it was never competed for.

Graeme Adam has an even earlier Local Medal in his collection. Note that this is a medal of the Grand (not Royal) Caledonian Curling Club. The winner, William Muirhead, was a member of the Denny Curling Club, and his success was recorded in the Annual of the Grand Caledonian Curling Club 1842-43. The Local Medal was played for on Denny Pond on January 10, 1842, on a full length sheet of 42 yards. William scored seven points, the best of the fourteen members who took part.

Note that the words 'Local Medal' do not appear on the reverse of this early medal. There is some evidence to suggest that the early Local Medals AND District Medals, as issued by the Grand Caledonian Curling Club, were identical, and it was only after the Club gained its Royal patronage that Local and District Medals were distinguished from each other.

Any early Local Medal is a rare find at auction nowadays, and one issued by the 'Royal Grand Caledonian Curling Club' (from 1843) would be a real treasure!

By 1845, the popularity of Local Medals was already very much second in importance to District Medals, and in that year the regulations of these competitions for individual curlers stated that they would just be awarded 'to Clubs which, in the opinion of the Representative Committee, are too far distant from any other Club to compete for a District Medal'. The Reverend John Kerr writes in the History of Curling, published in 1890, "For a time reports of these (Local Medal) competitions were inserted in the Annuals, but the difficulty of making satisfactory comparisons, owing to the different conditions under which the medals were competed for, caused the club to give the practice up, and to cease encouraging point play by medals, although the diagrams and the rules remained."

By the time the design of the District Medal and Local Medals was changed in 1870, few of the latter were being given out to clubs.  One such was won by Charles Gibson on February 7, 1876. He may have been a member of Pitlochry CC. This medal came up for sale in a Dix Noonan Webb auction recently.
Local Medals occasionally went to overseas clubs that were affiliated to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. The Annual for 1875-76 notes that a Local Medal had been awarded to the Moscow Club. This club had been founded by William Hopper, a Scottish engineer, in 1873. David Smith wrote about the club, and of finding the medal above in an 'online auction', in the February 2004 Scottish Curler magazine.
J Russell Hopper, one of William's sons, was Secretary of the Moscow CC for many years.

David notes in his article that this medal may be the only surviving relic of curling from pre-Revolutionary Russia.

Other medals went to Canada and to New Zealand. In August 1877, Thomas Callender, the Secretary of the Dunedin Curling Club, wrote to the RCCC Secretary.

"Dear Sir - It affords me great pleasure to send you a list of office-bearers and members for the forthcoming Annual, and to report that since the 24th of this month, our Club have had curling every day from 8 o'clock am till dark; and that on Saturday the 28th, fourteen members put in an appearance to compete for the Royal Club Local Medal. Play began at 12 noon, and ended with the result as enclosed. The competition was very keen, and until the last end it was impossible to say who would win. I send you the Otago Daily Times and the Guardian, giving you the scores of the competition. The frost still holds, members curling this morning, and every prospect of holding."

Any mention of Local Medals had disappeared from the Royal Club rule book by the mid-1960s, and only District Medals and Provice Medals are still awarded. 

The information in this article mostly comes from Royal Club Annuals. The image sources are as indicated. Thanks to Graeme Adam and Lindsay Scotland for information about the William Muirhead medal.

The Points Game

Although curling is seen these days as a team sport, there is a variation of the game which tests an individual curler's skill. Such Points competitions date from the earliest years when curling clubs were formed. For example, it is known that the Duddingston Curling Society had a competition in which individual members had to play three different shots - drawing, striking, and inwicking. A gold medal was awarded to the winner for the first time in 1809.

Many long established curling clubs played variations of Points. One such was the Currie Curling Club, which had devised a more comprehensive system involving eight different shots, each of which had to be attempted four times.

In 1839, a year after its formation, the Grand Caledonian Curling Club (as it was then called) made the decision to award medals to encourage the sport amongst its member clubs. There were District Medals, see here, and Local Medals. The latter were for individual play, in Points competitions. (More about Local Medals is here.)

The rules for Points were first published in the Annual for 1839-40. These rules, with the various shots to be played, were essentially those that had been used by the Currie CC.

The first of these regulations was, "A circle eight feet in diameter shall be drawn round the tee, and a central line or score between the tees to the distance of twenty feet from the further tee." This is of interest because this eight foot diameter (four foot radius) circle was the first of any circle required to be scratched on the ice for ANY type of curling. At this time the regular game did NOT require circles to be drawn on the ice, see here.

Four stones were played at each of eight types of shot. The Annual describes these:

"Every competitor to play four shots at each of the eight following points of the game, viz, Striking, Inwicking, Drawing, Guarding, Chap and lie, Wick and curl-in, Raising, and Chipping the winner." 

These were illustrated as follows in three panels:

(1) Striking. A stone placed on the tee to be struck out of the circle. 

(2) Inwicking. One stone is placed upon the tee, and another (in two of the chances to lie on the opposite side of the central line from what it is in the other two) two feet distant from the tee, making an angle of 45° with the central line: the played stone to hit against the latter and perceptibly move the former.

(3) Drawing. The stone played to lie within the circle.

(4) Guarding. The stone played to rest, however little, on the central line.

(5) Chap and lie. A stone placed on the tee to be struck out of the circle, but the stone played to lie within it.

(6) Wick and curl-in. A stone is placed seven feet distant from the tee, and making an angle of 45° with the central line: the stone played to hit on this stone, and rest within the circle.

(7) Raising. A stone placed on the central line, and seven feet distant from the tee, to be struck into the circle. 

(8) Chipping the winner. One stone is placed on the tee, and another at ten feet distance, just touching the central line, and half guarding the one on the tee: the stone played to pass the guard, and perceptibly move the other. 

Scoring was described in this way, "Each successful shot shall count one, whatever be the point played at. No stone shall be considered within, or without the circle, unless it clear it; and every stone to be held as resting on the central line which does not completely clear it: in every case as ascertained by a square." 

This means that the maximum score possible in 1839 was 32. If two players finished on the same score, a further point could be played, that of Outwicking. The rules stated:

"In the event of two or more competitors gaining the same aggregate number of shots, they shall play four or more shots (at the desire of the judge of the competition) at (9) Outwicking, where a stone placed four feet distant from the tee, at an angle of 45° with the central line is to be so struck as to lie within the circle."

A note states, "It will save much time if, in playing for Local Medals, two rinks be similarly prepared parallel to each other, the tee of the one being at the opposite end from the tee of the other. Every competitor plays both stones up the one rink and immediately afterwards down the other, finishing at once all his chances at each point."

Remarkably, there is an early image which shows the curlers of the Fingask Curling Club at Points. This engraving, part of which is shown above, was published in the Illustrated London News on January 7, 1854. The Points contest had been held the previous season, on February 17, 1853. The members of the Fingask CC were playing for a medal awarded to the Club by Lady Murray Threipland, the Club's Patroness.
Studying the image, it can be seen that two rinks are in use, at ninety degrees to each other.

Points competitions continued to be played for under the early rules for many years. But, by 1887, changes to the rules for Points competitions were being considered, following proposals by D Croll of the Broughty Ferry Curling Club. A special committee was set up to consider these proposals, and new rules were agreed at the Annual Meeting of the Representative Committee of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, held in the Waterloo Hotel, Edinburgh, on Wednesday, 25th July 25, 1888. 

These new rules were: 

1. Competitors shall draw lots for the rotation of play, and shall use two Stones.
2. The length of the Rink shall not exceed 42 yards; any lesser distance shall be determined by the Umpire.
3. Circles of 7 feet and 4 feet radius shall be drawn round the Tee, and a central line through the centre of the 4 foot circle to the Hog score.
4. Every Competitor shall play four shots at each of the eight following points of the game, viz: Striking, lnwicking, Drawing, Guarding, Chap and Lie, Wick and Curl in, Raising, and Chipping the Winner, according to illustrated definitions.
5. In Nos. 2, 6, 8, and 9, two chances on the left and two on the right.
6. No Stone shall be considered without a circle unless it is entirely clear of that circle. In every case a square is to be placed on the ice to ascertain when a Stone is without a circle, or entirely clear of a line.

This brought the dimensions of the house into line with that in use for regular team play, ie seven foot radius. And now a perfect play counted a score of two, with one point on offer for a partial result, see below.

Just a couple of years later, at the Annual Meeting in 1892, a new 'point' was added, that of 'Drawing though a Port'. Apparently, this was already being played in Canada, and so the Royal Club brought their Points' rules into line.


Note that the new point, drawing the port, fitted in as the ninth point to be played in any competition, with outwicking retaining its position as a tiebreaker.

These points were played in competitions until 1938. Then, as noted in the Annual for 1938-39, the size of the outer circle was allowed to be variable, ie "Two Circles, one having a radius of 4 feet and the other having a radius of not less than 6 feet and not more than 7 feet, shall be drawn round each Tee." This was to accommodate the change in the size of the head in indoor rinks (to twelve feet in diameter), as well as allowing for the continued use of fourteen foot diameter rinks in outdoor play. It wasn't until 1963 when the diameter of the outside circle was standardised to twelve feet.

The current rules for Points, with better illustrations, can be found online in the RCCC 2020-21 Rulebook here, pages 78-89.

This is the illustration in the 2020-21 Rule Book showing the markings to be made on the ice.

In 1958 David Liddell presented a silver salver to Glasgow Province. Clubs in that Province joined together to play each season for this trophy. Six sheets of the main curling rink at Crossmyloof were used, but such were the 'idiosychrasies' of these, that some of the points asked for were extremely difficult, if not impossible, to play. However, much fun was enjoyed on these occasions, the winner's signature being engraved onto the Salver. The Salver is still played for, most recently at Braehead.

I always found Points play frustrating. But my proudest moment came when my club decided to hold its local Points competition at the four-sheeter at Forest Hills, north of Glasgow. I came second on the day, but I should declare that, because of the snow, only two members made it to the Kinlochard venue! (I miss that old Saab.)


Last year the sport of curling lost one of its 'characters', Leslie Ingram-Brown. Back in his playing days, he relished, and excelled, in Points play. His name can be found on six occasions on the Liddell Salver, above. I found myself thinking of him often as I wrote the above article. RIP Leslie.

Much of the information in this article comes from old RCCC Annuals. The photo of the Fingask competition is from the Illustrated London News, retrieved via the British Newspaper Archive. The photo of Leslie is my own. The Liddell Salver image is from the Glasgow Province website. Thanks to Robin Shand for help with this article.