Monday, June 26, 2017

Canadians in Scotland 1909

In 2009, Robin Copland wrote 'Curling in the Footsteps of History', looking back one hundred years to when Canadian curlers visited Scotland for the first time. Robin's booklet was reproduced on the Curling History blog in four parts, here, here, here and here.

Recently I came across some interesting images which relate to that visit, but all raised questions that I was unable to answer. The photo above, from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1909-10 is simply titled 'En Route'. Where was this taken? Was it in Liverpool, as the tourists joined a special train to take them up to Edinburgh on January 16, once they had disembarked from the Empress of Ireland (here)?

The report of the tour as published in the 1909-10 Annual notes that, "The curlers, after having been photographed and refreshed, left Riverside Station, Liverpool, by special trains (sic) for Edinburgh, their appearance with broom, bonnet, and tartan attracting general attention." Now, this confirms that the Canadians were indeed photographed at Riverside Station. However, whether the photo shows the Riverside Station is questionable, see the images of the station here.

The report in the Annual does imply that the curlers travelled on more than one train, but other reports would suggest this is unlikely.

And what about the decoration on the locomotive? There is a special headboard, crossed curling brooms, and two curling stones! Does HR 68 indicate that it could possible be this locomotive, and that the special train was from the Highland Railway and had run down to Liverpool to collect the curlers? Or is the photo simply of special transport arranged for the curlers at some other time on their tour?

The tour itinerary can be found here, and a list of all those in the Canadian party is here.

This is a postcard of the 'Canadian Curlers at Peebles'. Robin has described how the group travelled to Peebles by train on Monday, January 18. As they steamed into Peebles station, 'a great shout arose from the local curlers, who were lined up on the platform'. All then the visitors marched behind a pipe band to the town hall for a civic reception. The Canadians stayed overnight at the Peebles Hydro.

Given the mild weather, there was no natural ice, so actual curling was not in the programme. However, the group was royally entertained with a dinner at the Hydro, and the next day were taken in eleven 'motor-cars', 'six of which were private vehicles lent for the occasion', to visit Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott.

I think that the photograph above is of the group prior to setting off for Abbotsford. Note that several women are present! Indeed, the Canadians had brought with them two women. One was a 'Mrs MacDonald' from Toronto, and I presume she was the wife of Randolf MacDonald who was one of the Ontario players. The other woman was a Miss St Clair Silver from Halifax. She likely was the daughter, or sister, of the captain of the Nova Scotia players. The presence of the two Canadian women probably explains why 'several local ladies' also took part in the outing to Abbotsford. I wonder if it will ever be possible to identify who's who in the group photograph?

Motor cars were still not common in Britain in 1909. Less than 100,000 were on the roads.  

In my collection I have this postcard, a promotional card for the Queen's Hotel, showing the Canadian Curlers' 'Visit to Blairgowrie' on February 4, 1909. Again, there was no natural ice to allow play when the Canadian party travelled north to Coupar Angus, as guests of Strathmore Province on Wednesday February 3. They stayed overnight at the Queen's Hotel, and, according to the report in the Annual for 1909-10, 'they had a delightful outing' on Thursday, February 4, when they visited Murthly Castle. They left the Queen's Hotel at 10.25, travelling in ten motor cars 'lent by gentlemen in the neighbourhood'! 

This is a closeup of two of the vehicles used to transport the curlers. Can anyone identify the cars?

Nowadays, with modern coach travel, it is easy to transport groups of curlers around the country. In 1909 though, the logistics were not a simple matter.

Three test matches, and other provincial matches, were played at the Scottish Ice Rink at Crossmyloof, as Robin describes here.

The photo of the curlers with the locomotive is from the 1909-10 Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. The other images are scans of postcards in my collection.

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