Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Sheriff

David B Smith, my friend and mentor, died on November 30, 2015, at a nursing home in Ayr. He had many interests in life, but I got to know him because of curling. That was in the 1970s, and we were taking part in the 'Under-35s' at the Haymarket rink in Edinburgh. In the years that followed, his interest in the sport's history became one that I shared. He taught me, and he encouraged me. We shared adventures together, one of which is described in this post.

David wrote extensively about the history of curling, and about collecting curling memorabilia. In the seven years I edited the Scottish Curler magazine, he was the most reliable contributor, ensuring that each issue contained a suitable article. When he faced a hospital admission, and was unsure how quickly he would recover from his operation, he even made sure I had an extra article in hand!

His book, Curling: an illustrated history, published in 1981, remains the best source for information on the sport's early history, even now.

He wrote several 'academic' articles, for example this one in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the premier journal covering all aspects of Scotland’s archaeology and history.

Together we set up this blog as an outlet for his writings about curling. Recently he didn't feel able to write much, but has encouraged me to write articles for the blog myself. Here are some photos of David taken over the years for you to remember him by. His funeral was on Friday, December 11, 2pm, at Masonhill Crematorium, Ayr.

There cannot be many photos of David without his beard! He's on the left of the group above, when he organised an experiment in 1968 to see how old stones would perform on the ice of the Haymarket rink in Edinburgh. There's a story about a similar experiment here.

I am not sure when this photo was taken, but I'm sure David is doing what he most enjoyed - talking about curling, with several old stones as his 'props'.

David's home rink was Ayr. He was a great supporter of the Eglinton Jug competition. The trophy, which David is presenting here, is the most prestigious trophy contended for by Ayrshire curlers.

David wrote regularly for the Scottish Curler magazine for more than thirty years. Robin Crearie, when he was the magazine's editor, used this photo of David on the cover of the October 1998 issue.

David often helped out by umpiring... in his own inimitable style, as can be seen in this photo taken at the Greenacres rink!

David organised many exhibitions celebrating curling's history. Most recently, in 2012, he put on a display of artifacts from his own collection on the occasion of the World Curling Federation's inaugural annual congress at Turnberry.

David had a passion for curling outdoors. He infected others with his enthusiasm. Here he is demonstrating a classic crampit delivery at Coodham in 2010, which was, I suspect, the last time he played outside. Story and more pix here.

David was always willing to talk!

Playing for Scotland: The Making of Modern Sport is an ongoing exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery in Queen Street, Edinburgh. You can still listen to David on the video Scotland: A Sporting History accompanying the exhibition. Watch that online here. (The curling content starts at just over five minutes in, after a chapter on golf.)

A favourite photo, this one, taken at the Lagoon Centre, Paisley, when David was there as a fan at the World Women's Championship in 2005.

My life is richer for having known 'The Sheriff'.

Bob Cowan

Photos are from my archives. Apologies if photographer credits are not included.


Robin Copland said...

This is a wonderful tribute to an amazing man and great promoter of our sport. Many thanks for sharing it.

Brian Alderman said...

The sport of curling in Scotland has just lost a legend. David's knowledge, enthusiasm and humour will be sadly missed by everyone who was lucky enough to know him. A big man with a big heart.

Angus MacTavish said...

I am very sorry to hear the news of the passing of David B. Smith. Though we had never met, his writings (and yours Bob) have led me in the direction of having a strong desire to study and write about curling history locally. Eventually publishing to my own little blog.

Your tribute was very touching.

David M. Sgriccia
Detroit Curling Club
Detroit, Michigan USA

AJM said...

Ayrshire is a much poorer place after the passing of Sheriff Smith, who was one of life's genuine characters whose enthusiasm for the sport of curling was infectious, event to a non curler like me. Having, during my former career, given evidence in front of 'DB' I saw the colorful side of his character in court, where he was a legend in the West Of Scotland and beyond, but was also fortunate to meet him on many other occasions away from the professional sphere and always found him extremely interesting, warm and engaging. When he got onto the subject of the history of curling his knowledge was encyclopedic and he had the ability to enthuse you on the subject too. Only a few months ago I became aware of an old curling medal for sale in a local auction and phoned Sheriff Smith to inform him. The day of the auction he turned up, thanked me graciously for informing him about the medal, then jokingly chastised for not telling him about the curling painting hanging on the wall, which I hadn't noticed, as he would now have to bid for that item too !!. Farewell to areal character and gentleman, the likes of whom we are unlikely to encounter again.

Alasdair J Malcolm