Thursday, July 05, 2012

Charles Aird's Jubilee

David B Smith writes:

The Kilmarnock Standard of April 23, 1892, printed a long account of a dinner held in the town to celebrate the Jubilee of one of the town’s notable curlers, Charles Aird of the Kilmarnock Townend Club.

After the presentation to him of a valuable timepiece and to his daughter-in-law of a gold brooch, accompanied by appropriate speeches, the curler himself “gave an outline of his career as a curler which we think it best to print in the homely, colloquial style in which it was spoken.”

I agree; so here goes:

“My first start at the curling was on the Townhead Dam the year the Caledonia Club was formed, and also on other dams round about, sometimes at the 'Farrel o’ Bread' or 'Bessie’s Bog' – in fact, any place we could get ice. In the year '38 we had thirteen weeks' frost at one time. The Boyd Street folk and the Dean Street folk played a game, two rinks a side – on Bonnyton Loch; then we all met at nicht and had a chappin’ or twa o’ yill. I mind o’ Sawney Boyd, the shaemaker, sitting doon on the flaer singing something aboot “Dae ye no see the shaemaker’s son rinning awa' for a bawbee's worth o' roset.” (Laughter) The winners challenged the losers to play them the following Saturday, not expecting the frost to continue. However, it did so. We went on this way till we had played for seven Saturdays all running.

After Bonnyton Loch was closed I sometimes played on the Bonnyton clay-holes, and I have had a game too on Hillhead bog. Wherever we went I had aye my stanes to carry back and forrit myself, so that was surely what you would ca' a guid apprenticeship. (Laughter)

I joined the Townend Club in the year '42, that being the year the New Farm Loch was opened. My first start after becoming a member was at Lochwinnoch to play the Johnstone curlers for the district medal. I played for several years on that loch, also at Barr meadow. I played in the national game and for the big jug presented by the late Lord Eglinton, which I have no doubt cost hundreds of pounds. Then I played in a match between Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. I next played at Loch Broom, in a match between Mauchline and our own club. I have also played in a game on Cunninghamhead Pond for the district medal – Dalry against Townend. I played on Craufurdland Loch for the district medal; then later on for the big jug, and as you all know, for the gold curling stone, presented by the late Lady Craufurd of Craufurdland, times without number. I have played several games at Eglinton flushes, made by the late Lord Eglinton purposely for the big jug games.

I mind one time playing in a private game, one rink, for a load of meal for the poor. The game was between Eglinton and J. O. Fairlie. Then I played in a game at Coodham for the district medal – Townend against Tarbolton. I have also played a game on the late D.C. Gairdner's artificial pond at Coodham in J.O. Fairlie's time, and likewise on the late A. Finnie's artificial pond. I remember, too, having a game at Ashgrove, one rink, against Saltcoats and Ardrossan for dinner and drink. We met once on Dundonald Loch to play the Irvine curlers for the district medal, but they never put in an appearance. However, we managed to finish it up ourselves in Dundonald.

I once played in a game at Auchans Loch for the big jug, and I have also played more than once for the big jug on Merkland Loch, and also at the same place for Mr D.C.Gairdner's silver curling stone, which our rink won, and I took it home with me. Then I played a game at Newfield Loch for the silver kettle presented by Mrs Finnie, which our rink won, and which I took home with me. So you see I had both the silver curling stone and the silver kettle in the house at the same time. I filled the kettle up to the brim, which took about six bottles o' the real Campbeltown out of auld James Ramsay's shop in Boyd Street. (Laughter.) I handed it round freely to ane and a' to drink the health of a' keen curlers, and if there had been a hole in the curling stane I would have filled it tae with the same stuff. (Laughter.) So you see, although I have now reached my jubilee in the roaring game, I don't mean to give it up, but will throw a stone as long as I am able. I have now been a skip in the Townend Club for 46 years. (Applause.)”

Top photo: Charles Aird, a tailor who lived in High Street, Kilmarnock, from a carte de visite given to David by his grandson in 1977.

Charles Aird's stones are in the Dick Institute. Kilmarnock. The handles are fashioned from a single piece of wood and are inserted into a circular hole in the top of the stone, and were kept in place by wet cloth wrapped round the dowel. Height 6.5 in., circumference 29 in., sole 7 in., weight 42 lbs.

On the top of the stone are painted the owner's name and Townend Club in gold. Such high stones were popular in Kilmarnock until the end of the nineteenth century.

The 'big jug' as Charles Aird calls it in his speech, or 'The Jug' as it is generally referred to at the present day. It is still the most prestigious trophy contended for by Ayrshire curlers. This photograph shows a Kilmarnock Townend rink who won it in 1948-9. L-R: J. Lambie, skip, J. Gibson, Jr., L.B. Richmond, and R. Wylie.

The illustrations are from David's archive.

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