This year’s unaccustomedly early onset of really cold weather and the chaotic traffic conditions thereby brought about caused me to think about the dates on which Grand Matches have been held.
We must remember that in the whole history of the Royal Club - a period of 172 years, of which the 163 since Penicuik in 1847 have been potential years for Grand Matches - only thirty-three examples of the whole Scots nation at play have actually taken place; and that in a long period when namby-pambyism and 'health and safety concerns' had not yet taken hold.
After the trial run at Penicuik in 1847 the first real Grand Match was, of course, played on Linlithgow Loch in 1848. Was there some serendipity involved in holding it on Robert Burns’s birthday, the 25th of January? Since then January has proved to be the most popular month for the event, sixteen Matches in total having been played in that month.
It is not surprising to find that December has been the next favourite month, with nine. February has had seven and only one has ever taken place in November. That was the Match on Carsebreck on November 24th. The latest date for event has been 15 February.
In one calendar year, 1896, but in two different winters, two matches were played – on 12th January and 21st December - both on Carsebreck, and BOTH won by the same club, New Monkland, who were, incidentally the very first winners of the new Grand Match Trophy which is still the much-coveted prize.
David B Smith
The Grand Match on Linlithgow Loch, 1848, oil painting by Charles Lees.
Sir Mitchell Thomson, Lord Provost of Edinburgh and president of Craiglockhart Curling Club. Oil sketch by Charles Martin Hardie for his large oil painting of the Grand Match at Carsebreck, signed by initials and dated 10.2.99.
The Grand Match of 1929 in progress at Carsebreck.
1929, Carsebreck. The happy but droukit curlers make their way from the Royal Club Pond to the railway, which was just over the fence. The Royal Club Secretary’s office is the building on the left.
Your author, suitably attired in the rear of the photo, prepares for the start in 1979.
Top photo: Aerial view of the Lake of Menteith, February 6, 1979, with the last Grand Match in full swing.
Photos © David B Smith