Friday, April 13, 2012

Playing for Scotland: The Making of Modern Sport

Playing for Scotland: The Making of Modern Sport is an exhibition in Gallery 10 on the second floor of the recently refurbished National Portrait Gallery in Queen Street, Edinburgh. It is set to run until December 31, 2014. The exhibition traces the transformation of sport during the nineteenth century when traditional games flourished and new sports were invented. Our sport of curling is well represented.

The exhibition has paintings and curling artifacts. The paintings include Sir George Harvey's The Curlers, oil on panel, 1835, see here. This takes centre stage, and you can study the detail of the painting at close quarters.

There is a steel engraving of Charles Lees's The Grand Match at Linlithgow Loch, the original of which the Royal Caledonian Curling Club has been raising funds to restore, see here.

It was a real thrill to see the John E Maguire painting of Thomas Thorburn's curling stone workshop in Beith. Restored, and beautifully framed, the painting provides a fascinating insight into how curling stones were made in the nineteenth century. In the Scottish Curler of December 2007 David B Smith wrote about how he had found this painting in an East Renfrewshire Council store as a flat canvas with no stretcher and no frame. It was heartening to see that the painting is now treasured and on display for all to enjoy.

A film, Scotland: A Sporting History, was specially commissioned to accompany and introduce the exhibition. It was directed by Derek Lodge and combines expert interviews and archive footage to explore the history of organised sport in Scotland. It is available to watch online here. The curling content starts at just over five minutes in, after a chapter on golf.

David B Smith is the curling expert in the film.

There is some wonderful archive footage of the sport being played indoors and out. I believe these scenes are from the Haymarket Rink in Edinburgh, but I may be wrong. (Added later. I am wrong. The footage is of curling at the old rink in Ayr. Thanks to Jim Fraser for identifying it correctly.)

The photos are screenshots from Scotland: A Sporting History.

This post is by Bob Cowan, April 2012.

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