Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The story behind the photograph

Click on the photo to see it larger size

Old-Time Bonspiel in Edinburgh

I recently came across a photograph of a group of curlers posing in front of a motley selection of ancient curling stones. Since Lindsay Scotland was in the picture I sent it to him.

He in turn sent it to Bob Cowan to test how many of the curlers Bob could name. Bob forwarded it to me with the request that I write 'a wee post around' the photo.

Here goes.

On 30 December 1972 the Abbotsford Curling Society had a game 'using Dave Smith’s collection of old stones', as the Scottish Curler put it in its account of the game in February 1973, under the above title.

"Since none of the old stones matched, either in size, shape, weight or running property, it was decided to revert to the late 18 th century custom of having eight in a rink, each throwing one stone. This, of course, meant that six were available for sooping…Sometimes the skips couldn’t see the stone for brushes, besoms and bottoms (when there are six sweepers helping the stone along it’s not always easy to ‘sweep to a side’)... It took a couple of ends to learn the idiosyncracies of one’s allotted stone, but thereafter the standard of play was high."

Eleven ends were played in two and a half hours; Professor Murray McGregor from Guelph, Canada, ably assisted by his two sons, Bob and Scott, skipped the winning rink; and beat the said Dave Smith by 16 shots to 6.

The photograph shows: back row, left to right: Calwell Loughridge, David Brown, Lindsay Scotland, Sandy Moffat, David B Smith, Jim Gardner, Alastair Stewart, ?, Murray McGregor and Ronnie Malcolm; front row: Bob McGregor, Hazel Smith, Bob Martin, Janice McGregor, Jessie Loughridge, and Scott McGregor.

Dave Smith was the only person who followed his own suggestion that people might like to dress up in a sort of eighteenth century style!

Sadly two of the curlers are no longer with us, but most of the remaining Scots are still actively involved in the game one way or another. So obsessed with it did Ronnie Malcolm become that he chose to be manager of Murrayfield Ice Rink.

Murray McGregor was professor of agricultural economics at the University of Guelph, Ontario, and he and his family, of two sons and a daughter of curling age, and a daughter who was too young and therefore kept her mother off the ice, spent a year’s sabbatical in Scotland. So keen were they on curling that before the year was over they had curled in nearly every ice rink in Scotland, and made friends all over the country. When he left Murray donated a fine silver quaich for competition in Edinburgh. I am very proud to have won it.

As can be seen from the photograph the stones were mainly single-soled, circular, early nineteenth century. The sharp-eyed may think they can discern the massive Jubilee Stane, but, no, it was a fibre-glass replica included in the picture to enhance the 'old-time' atmosphere.

David B Smith.


Anonymous said...

This is a great picture and article. I am the grandson of Murray and the son of Bob. I will pass this article along to my father who still curls on a regular basis...but now with rocks of the same weight, shape and size!

Alice said...

A question for you! I noticed in many of the outdoor curling pix what looked like wood bowling pins marking the center of the house. What were those called? Are they still in regular use for outdoor curling?

I saw one old photo of curlers in Switzerland with what looked like a carved wooded pin with a hook on top. Ever seen one of those in use?

Anonymous said...

I am also the grandson of murray but son of the middle daughter it is a great article and picture thank you