Monday, September 27, 2010

Played in Glasgow

The Curling History Blog's guru, and my good friend, David Smith, has been ill for some months. I welcome his return to health with this contribution, the first in a while, in the form of a book review.

Played in Glasgow, Charting the heritage of a city at play, by Ged O’Brien, pp. 228, Malavan Media, £14.99.

This is the tenth and latest in a series of books designed to celebrate the sporting heritage of our country. The importance of the series is vouched by the sponsorship of the series by Historic Scotland for this volume and English Heritage for the previous volumes which all dealt with aspects of English sporting history.

The coverage is encyclopaedic, both in terms of time and variety of sports. A feature of the series is the richness of the pictorial material.

The blurb includes this; “…until now there has been little work on the architectural heritage of British sport and recreation; on the pavilions and clubhouses, the greens, the grounds and the grandstands, the parks, pools, and lidos that form such an integral part of our urban landscape and, whether we play or not, watch or not, our cultural identity too.”

The first seven chapters deal with the history of sport generally in the city of Glasgow and thereafter more particularly in relation to distinct portions of the city, like the East End, Glasgow Green, Queen’s Park, Jordanhill and Anniesland. In each of these chapters there are successions of pictures showing the evolution of stadiums, such as Celtic Park, and of bowling greens and clubhouses.

Chapters 8 to 15 cover specific sports, such as golf, bowls, ice sports, cricket, football, greyhounds and speedway, swimming, and doocots. In relation to each sport there is a profusion of pictures, old and modern. The book is a veritable treasure house of sporting material.

The curler, of course, will look to see how his favourite game is handled. The chapter on Ice Sports contains fourteen pages, largely devoted to curling. A very evocative portion of the text and pictures tells the story of Partick Curling Club, and illustrates this with modern pictures of the club’s curling house and tarmac rink in Victoria Park, Glasgow, which were in use in January this year. No doubt it is preferable to be able to plan and execute a whole season’s curling in an indoor ice rink than to be dependent on the fickleness of John Frost, but these pictures will help to show that we have lost something.

The first building in which curling in Scotland was played indoors on machine-made ice was the spectacular circular, domed, Glasgow Real Ice Skating Palace, situated in Sauchiehall Street directly below the present School of Art. In 1896 a few games were played on the small, circular ice pad. This precursor of modern curling is illustrated by a fine engraving and an architect’s plan.

This is a marvellous book. What a pity that for whatever reason the publishers have chosen to send it forth without an index.

David B Smith.

Previous blog posts here and here are relevant.

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