Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Curling's High Flyers

Last August I posted a piece about a game held high in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland but also deep within a glacier (see here). It was, of course, the famous game in the ice palace at the Jungfraujoch above Grindelwald, and it took place at 11,333 feet above sea level.

I suppose that these curlers, like the first conquerors of Mount Everest, did what they did 'because it was there'. When I proposed climbing yet another peak my children when they were little used to chant the song, “Daddy climbed over the mountain, daddy climbed over the mountain, daddy climbed over the mountain - to see what he could see. And what do you think he saw? And what do you think he saw? The other side of the mountain; the other side of the mountain; the other side of the mountain - was all that he could see.”

Mountains do seem to present a challenge to the human race and as curlers are part of the human race they sometimes accept the challenge.

The royal burgh of Stirling lies at the foot of that fine and picturesque but comparatively low range of mountains, the Ochil Hills. They seem to have offered a challenge to a 'knight of the broom', for on February 9, 1866, in the Stirling Journal there appeared this advertisement:

“Wanted seven swells who are game for a day’s curling on Demyat. Apply to Mr Moss, office of this paper. NB Donkeys can be got to carry up the stones.”

Demyat, or Dumyat, to use the modern spelling, is the highest point of the range, but it is only 1373ft or 418m in height above sea level. Sadly, neither history nor the Stirling Journal tells us whether the challenge was accepted. If it was, the curlers would have been able to enjoy one of the finest views in Lowland Scotland over the meanderings of the River Forth to far away Edinburgh.

About twenty years later some curlers in Lochaber at the foot of Ben Nevis, than which there is no higher point in these islands, again felt the challenge of the mountain. Their excuse was the lack of ice at sea level. This time, however, their exploits were fully recorded, and here is the report from the Glasgow Herald of, January 5, 1885.

“FORT-WILLIAM. –The Lochaber Curling Club had an excellent game on Saturday. The knights of the broom, getting impatient that there was no ice to play on the low ground, resolved to ascend to Lochan Meall-an-t-Suidhe 1850ft. above sea level. Accordingly, three horses were laden with curling stones and brooms. These were despatched at 8 A.M., and the curlers left at 9 A.M., arrived at the lake 10.30A.M., and found the ice excellent, of unknown thickness, and any strength. There was no snow on it, but slight snow fell during the game. Play was continued for four hours. The following were the rinks: - Married – D.Macniven (skip), D.Sinclair, T.A.Ainslie, John McCallum, 26; Single – C.Livingstone, (skip), E.Cameron, John Young, A.S. Macintyre, 22. A number of skaters followed the curlers. The whole party arrived at Fort-William at 6 P.M.”

Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe is well up the Ben Nevis massif. This must be the highest match ever played in Scotland.

Top photo shows Dumyat and the Ochil Hills viewed northeast from the Wallace Monument. Photo © Copyright Chuck Schubert and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

This is Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, viewed from the path to Ben Nevis. Photo © Copyright Stephen Sweeney and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Ben Nevis seen from the south. The tourist path can be seen, and Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe is in the notch on the left. Photo © Copyright Graham Scott and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry to tag this on to the article but it is the closest I can get to David B Smith at short notice (just going away).
Scottish Curler October 2009 page 17 - Glenarklet Curling Club.
My Mother (born 1902 at Stronachlacher) remembered her Father (David Grant - superintendent of Glasgow Water at Loch Katrine) regularly going away during winter for up to 2 weeks at a time with his curling stones. These were taken by horse and cart either locally or, maybe, to the train at Aberfoyle then ....? Loch Katrine would not be good for curling but my Mother remembers the ice on Loch Arklet cracking and roaring (cold expansion c.f. Lake of Menteith 1979) so it would seem probable my Grandfather would be one of the 16 original regular members of Glenarket CC mentioned in the article. I have 2 of his curling stones and these look very similar to the one in the photograph.
Can't help about WH Wood except, perhaps, he had a connection with the Glasgow tobacco industry and Glasgow Corporation - they ran Stronachlacher House as a rather exclusive hotel for Councillers and associates! Maybe Mr Wood was an early link with the English / Welsh curling bodies bearing in mind the connection with Preston has been around for a long time.
David, if you have a list of 1903 members of Glenarklet CC I will be delighted to hear from you.
Russell Brown on e-mail at 'russell@brown4067.fsnet.co.uk'