Thursday, January 17, 2013

On the Lake of Menteith 1963

Bob Cowan writes:

Fifty years ago this week, on Wednesday, January 16, 1963, the Royal Club's Grand Match was held on the Lake of Menteith. The results of 180 games are individually recorded in the Annual for 1963-64 as Grand Match Results, and a further 27 games took place in the President v President Elect Match. This indicates that 1656 curlers took part in the play on the loch that day fifty years ago, but there may well have been other games taking place on the ice which were not included in the 'official' matches. Indeed, the Report of the Grand Match Committee in the Annual suggests that some curlers had turned up hoping for a game even though they had not entered. There had also been some late cancellations. Some 230 rinks had been marked out on Monday 14 and Tuesday 15, a major feat as snow had to be cleared from the surface of each sheet, as the photo above shows. The chairman of the Grand Match Committee was Willie Murray, Glenfarg CC.

The Scottish Curler of March 1963 records that the youngest participant was 15-year old John Gill from Alness, and the oldest, at 86, was Alex Simpson of Largs Thistle.

The match was declared 'on' on the fifteenth after an early morning inspection of the venue which showed there was at least five and a half inches of ice everywhere and six inches in places. The forecast was for continuing cold weather with some snow overnight, and clear weather on the day of the match. The forecast was accurate, and the match went ahead, the cannon sounding out at noon to start play, and again three hours later to signal the games to stop.

For the record, the North beat the South. The Bishopshire club won the Challenge Trophy.

The official reports of the match were all positive as were descriptions of the occasion in the media. This was the first time the Lake of Menteith was a venue for the Grand Match. The previous Grand Match, in 1959, had been on Loch Leven. The Lake of Menteith would be the venue again in 1979.  Only these three Grand Matches have been held since 1935.

It is well recorded that the winter of 1962-63 was a severe one. There was so much snow that outside curling was restricted elsewhere! However, the Vale of Menteith was one area which received less snowfall, and this allowed the Grand Match to happen.

The photo is credited to Gerry Cranham of the Observer, and was reprinted in the Royal Club Annual and in the Scottish Curler magazine. It shows more than half of the games being played on the loch.

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