Saturday, May 05, 2012
Grand/Royal Caledonian Curling Club District Medals
This article has been prompted by my finding in my repositories (great word!) a small parcel wrapped in crinkly, grease-proof paper. I have no recollection how it came to me. When unwrapped the bundle revealed within a paper envelope a slim cardboard box, and two pieces of printed paper. The box bore the legend: R and W SORLEY, Medallists, St Vincent St. and Renfield St. Corner.
The box’s content was a mint Royal Caledonian Curling Club District Medal, with a suspension ribbon, and chased suspension pin-bar.
The first paper was a proforma letter from A Davidson Smith, secretary of the RCCC, dated December 2, 1909, sending to an unnamed umpire the district medal awarded for competition between Glenmuir Water and Kilmaurs Clubs.
The second was a Report of the Match which he was requested to fill in and return to the secretary.
I had little difficulty in deducing that the match had never taken place, or the medal would not have found its way into my collection, but a perusal of the appropriate Annuals confirmed that that was so. So this medal joined the very large number of anonymous district medals that had either never been played for or had been played for but never engraved with the result.
The awarding of district medals was one way – the main way – in which the new Grand Club encouraged the spread of the game throughout Scotland. The institution of the Club occurred at an opportune time in history, for the beginning and expansion of the railways meant that the curler’s view of competition was no longer restricted to the immediately adjacent parishes. It was now possible for quite large groups of curlers to be carried quite considerable distances for their participation in the national game. By 1847 it was possible to think of seeing a whole nation at play in the large bonspiels known as Grand Matches.
The rules about medals first appeared in the Annual for 1839-40 and both District and Local medals were provided for. For district medals all the member clubs were to be arranged in pairs of clubs which were conveniently closely situated and those to whom medals awarded decided by lot. “The number to be given in any one year shall depend on the number of associated clubs, as well as on the state of the funds…” In the first year ten district medals were awarded. Local medals were for play among the members of one club at points.
The medals proved popular and clubs were arranged on a rotation so that every club had a chance to be drawn every second year.
In an article I wrote for the Scottish Curler in 2005 I said that it would be possible to make an estimate of the total number of Grand/RCCC medals produced since 1840 by adding up the number awarded each year; a list appears in each Annual, and a remarkably large sum for payment for medals appears in the accounts, but I had not done so. There must have been thousands. For example, for the season 1932-3 alone there were 125 district medals. Prompted by finding the Glenmuir v Kilmaurs medal I have now tried to calculate accurately the numbers of the district medal produced in total for the life of the first design, that is, from 1839 until 1870.
John Sclater was the man chosen to design the Club’s medal. His design – a group of curlers at play on the front, and the name of the club and its date of foundation, on the reverse – lasted until 1870, when, with a minimum of fuss, it was decided to have a new design. The minute of the AGM of July 1870 states: “Designs for a new medal, prepared by the medallist, were submitted to the meeting, and were remitted to the Committee on the Annual, with power to select a design, and to have the medal ready for distribution by the ensuing winter.” Next winter the preface to the Annual reported merely that, “The new medal has been highly approved.” What a pity that all the competing designs have not survived. The design approved in 1870, the combination of a curling scene and the Lion Rampant, has stood the test of time, for it is still in use. Nonetheless I have always preferred the earlier design.
The first medals were of silver although they almost never were hall-marked. In more recent times they have been made of humble bronze.
The idea inherent in the design of a largely blank reverse was to allow the winning club to cause to be engraved there the details of its victory, such as the date, the place, the opposing club, the number of shots by which victory was won. I have one or two which record – rather boastfully, it appears to me – the name of the president of the winning club. With such details the medal is an actual piece of history. Without them it is merely a quite common though quite pleasing example of the medallist’s art.
Some clubs displayed their store of medals with pride on every club occasion, sometimes by arranging them on an apron or waistcoat worn by the president; others by showing them off in specially made display boxes. Sadly, many clubs have not even bothered to have their medals engraved.
It was the job of the umpire , appointed at the time of the awarding of the medal, to send a report on the match to the Grand/RCCC for inclusion in the Annual. There one can read who played whom, how many, when, where, for how long and what was the state of the ice. The reports make very interesting reading. For example, in 1855 there was the report of the match between Catrine and Douglas Water. “The Ice was keen and a little biassed, the play was particularly good on both sides. The Douglas Water Club’s Stones were much larger than the Catrine Club’s Stones, and they told severely on the small stones, otherwise the game would have been much closer.” On January 12, 1871, two rinks of Brechin Castle were beaten by Forfar, 27-34, in a three hour match on Finavon pond, the ice of which was “Keen but very much twisted”, while on January 30 of the same year Yoker beat Milton of Campsie on Ardinning Loch on ice that was “All that a keen curler could desire.”
When the system settled down one could read in the Annual which clubs had been awarded medals against which club. The theory was that next year in the following Annual one could read the result. Our fickle climate meant that this by no means always happened. In some good winters we find in the table the results for medals awarded up to four of five years before; and, of course, some medals, like the one that inspired this article, were never played for at all.
I have abstracted from the tables printed in the Annuals the numbers of all the first design medals reported as played for between 1839 and 1870. The total is 2096. The growing popularity of the game is shown by the division of this figure into decades.
David B Smith
Top: The first design of District Medal.
3. Grand Caledonian Curling Club Medal by Sclater. Struck 'GRAND CALEDONIAN CURLING CLUB DISTRICT MEDAL' and engraved 'PLAYED FOR on Penicuik Pond Between 4 Players from Drum AND FROM ROSSLYN on 8th Jany 1841 GAINED BY ROSLIN BY 13 SHOTS.' (H.1993.667.19)
4. RCCC District Medal (first form) by Sclater, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved 'ROSLIN & WHITEHILL PLAYED ON ROSLIN POND 3 RINKS ASIDE Roslin 93 Whitehill 46 Majority 47 18th December 1846'. (H.1993.667.22)
5. RCCC District Medal (first form) by Sclater, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved '29th January 1848 ROSLIN & MUSSELBURGH ON ROSLIN POND 2 RINKS ASIDE Roslin 59 Musselburgh 21 - Majority 38.' (H.1993.667.15)
6. RCCC District Medal (first form) by Sclater, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved '13th February 1855 ROSLIN & GLENCROSS ON ROSLIN POND Gained by Roslin 7 Shots'. (H.1993.667.6)
7. RCCC District Medal (first form) by Sclater, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved 'ROSLIN & GLENCROSS ON PENICUIK POND Gained by Roslin 15 Shots 31st January 1860'. (H.1993.667.16)
8. RCCC District Medal (first form) by Sclater, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved 'ROSSLYN & YESTER ON PRESTONHALL POND Gained by Roslin 34 Shots 13th February 1860.' (H.1993.667.23)
9. RCCC District Medal (first form) by Sclater, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved 'ROSSLYN & TARTH WATER at Penicuik Pond GAINED BY ROSSLYN 7 SHOTS 3 RINKS ALL WON. 11th January 1864.' (H.1993.667.20)
10. RCCC District Medal (first form) by Sclater, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved '14th January 1864 ROSSLYN & COATS CLUB ON Merchiston Pond GAINED BY ROSSLYN 41 SHOTS 3 RINKS ALL WON.' (H.1993.667.4)
11. RCCC District Medal (first form) by Sclater, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved 'Rosslyn & Eddlestone Club on PENICUIK POND Gained by Rosslyn 37 SHOTS BEING 84 TO 47 RINKS 1 TIED 3 WON 29 JANUARY 1870'. (H.1993.667.21)
12. RCCC District Medal (first form) by Sclater, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved '27 JANUARY 1870 ROSSLYN Newhall, Habieshowe on Penicuik Pond GAINED BY ROSSLYN By 68 Shots BEING 90 TO 22 3 Rinks all won.' (H.1993.667.5)
13. RCCC District Medal (first form) by Sclater, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved 'COMPETED FOR by ROSSLYN & TEMPLE CLUBS 27 DECR 1870 & Gained by Rosslyn BY 27 SHOTS'. The match was played on Whitehill Pond. (H.1993.667.7)
14. RCCC District Medal (second form) by Kirkwood & Son, Edinburgh. Struck as usual and engraved 'COMPETED FOR BY ROSLIN AND WEST LINTON CLUBS 24 DECR 1874 Gained by Roslyn BY 9 SHOTS.' The match was played on Whim Pond. (H.1993.667.8)
15. RCCC District Medal (second form) by Kirkwood & Son, Edinburgh. Struck as usual and engraved 'COMPETED FOR BY ROSSLYN AND COATES CLUBS Gained by Rosslyn BY 78 SHOTTS 1st Jany. 1875'. The match was played on Coates Pond. (H.1993.667.12)
16. RCCC District Medal (second form) by Kirkwood & Son, Edinburgh. Struck as usual and engraved 'COMPETED FOR BY ROSSLYN VERSUS COATES CLUBS. Gained by Rosslyn BY 71 SHOTS 19th December 1878.' (H.1993.667.2)
17. RCCC District Medal (second form) by Kirkwood & Son, Edinburgh. Struck as usual and engraved 'COMPETED FOR BY ROSLYN VERSUS DRUM GAINED BY ROSSLYN BY 7 SHOTS 12TH DECEMBER 1879' (H.1993.667.3).
18. RCCC District Medal (second form) by Kirkwood & Son, Edinburgh. Struck as usual and engraved `ROSSYLN VERSUS CURRIE GAINED BY ROSSLYN By 22 Shots 22nd JANY 1882.' (H.1993.667.11)
19. RCCC District Medal (second form) by Kirkwood & Son, Edinburgh. Struck as usual and engraved `Glencorse v Rosslyn 2 RINKS Rosslyn won by 5 shots 14TH DECR 1886.' (H.1993.667.25)
20. RCCC Medal (similar to second form of District Medal) by Edwards & Son, Glasgow. Struck but without the struck inscription and engraved '8th Jany 1891 COBBINSHAW LOCH 2 RINKS WON BY 26 SHOTS [names of rinks].' With crossed brooms in miniature and a cast bar: `Province Medal'. (H.1993.667.10)
21. RCCC District Medal (second form) by Edwards & Son, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved 'CORSTORPHINE v Rosslyn on Merchiston Pond 4 RINKS WON BY 46 SHOTS 9th January 1891.' (H.1993.667.17)
22. RCCC District Medal (second form) by Kirkwood & Son, Edinburgh. Struck as usual and engraved '10th Jany 1891 STOW v ROSSLYN on Whitehill Pond 3 RINKS WON BY 22 SHOTS.' (H.1993.667.13)
23. RCCC District Medal (second form) by Edwards & Son, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved 'ROSSLYN v CRAIGLOCKHART 1ST FEB 1895 Won by 40 Points.' The match was played on Roslin Pond. (H.1993.667.9)
24. RCCC District Medal (second form) by Edwards & Son, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved 'ROSSLYN v COATES 3 RINKS 27th Jany 1897 WON BY 4 SHOTS.' The match was played on Blackford Pond. (H.1993.667.18)
25. RCCC District Medal (second form) by Edwards & Son, Glasgow. Struck as usual and engraved 'PLAYED ON WAVERLEY BLACKFORD POND. BUCHAN v ROSSLYN 4 RINKS WON BY 4 SHOTS 1st February 1899.' (H.1993.667.24)
The illustrations are © David B Smith.