Friday, September 21, 2018

The Curling Image Project (Week 3)

CIP-15. Does anyone have memories of drinking in The Silver Broom pub in Perth? (35mm transparency, Bob Cowan)

CIP-16. Another 'When We Were Young' pic. This is a very young Mike Hay, for a series of coaching slides used in the 1980s, before the no-backswing delivery began to be taught. Mike was the British Olympic Association's chef de mission for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. (35mm transparency, photographer not known.)

CIP-17. Outside play in a photo dated January 7, 1891. This is one of a series of photos from January 1891, rescued from an old family album. It's amongst the oldest I have in my collection. The original (15x10.4 cm) is rather faded, and has been enhanced to produce the above. The provenance is unknown, but the location could be the pond in the grounds of Cambo House, Kingsbarns, Fife (see here). Can anyone confirm this?

CIP-18. Play on an outside 'Cairnie-style' artificial rink. Rescued from an old album with five others. Sadly no provenance, nor date, nor place. Ideas, anyone? The original is a 12x9 cm print, photographer unknown.

CIP-19. "It's a haggis!" Scotland's Willie Young tempts Canada's Wes Richardson with a recently shot haggis at the 1962 Scotch Cup. (From a 6x6 cm contact print, by Michael Burns Photography.)

CIP-20. The Swedish team (Rolf Arfwidsson, Knut Bartels, Per Ivar Rydgren, and Arne Stern) contemplates its next play at the 1962 Scotch Cup at the Haymarket Ice Rink, Edinburgh. Scotland's Willie Young is on the right. (From a 6x6 cm contact print, by Michael Burns Photography.) Note that you can watch some of the live action in the original promotional film here, and here.

CIP-21. Spectators watch USA's Fran Kleffman and Scotland's 3rd player John Pearson at the 1962 Scotch Cup at the Haymarket rink in Edinburgh. The USA team was Dick Brown (4th), Terry Kleffman (3rd), Fran Kleffman (skip and 2nd), and Nick Jerulle (lead). Scotland was Willie Young (skip), John Pearson (3rd), Sandy Anderson (2nd) and Bobby Young (lead). Note the lockers, back right. Were these used by local club curlers to store their own stones? Anyone confirm this? (From a 6x6 cm contact print, by Michael Burns Photography.)
ADDED LATER: Trevor Dodds has confirmed that the lockers were indeed used to store stones, and curling gear, right up until the rink closed in 1979.

The source of images are as indicated. For more Curling Image Project posts go here and here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

From Scotland to the USA

It is said often that it was the Scots who took the sport of curling to North America, but very rarely do actual names come to light.

My attention was grabbed some time ago when, thanks to the British Newspaper Archive, I came across a short article in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard of Wednesday, April 29, 1857. This was titled 'THE CHANNEL-STONE IN NORTH AMERICA - EXTENSION OF CURLING'.

Here's the article in full. "A number of the miners who left the villages of Wanlockhead and Leadhills two or three years since, having located themselves the banks of the classic Susquehanna, at a place named Pittston, in the county of Luzerne, North America, have shouldered broom during the last winter, and formed themselves into a curling society. The club numbers eighteen, who mean to adopt the rules and regulations the Caledonian Curling Society; and that they may the more easily carry out their intentions, they elected the following office-bearers, namely, John Williamson, president, Mr William Reid, secretary, William Williamson, treasurer. The members committee are - Messrs James Moffat, James Watson, John M'Kenderick, John Williamson, junior, and William Slimmon.

Mr Williamson was thirty years cashier (of) the Wanlockhead club, and by his untiring exertions contributed greatly to promote its prosperity. The juniors of the Pittston club are all good and keen curlers, partly reared under the tuition of Williamson, and have taken early opportunity of shewing their attachment to Scotia's national and manly game by attempting to establish it in the land of their adoption.

The club have ordered a very handsome medal from Mr Muirhead, Glasgow, and have likewise sent to Watson, who was twenty-seven years president of the Wanlockhead club, a photographic representation of a band of curlers, fully equipped, and also a massive gold pen and pencil-case, with a suitable inscription, as a mark of their friendship, and a memorial of the many happy days spent on the 'crystal field' in their native glen, and the joyous meetings which occasionally took place among the merry and warm-hearted band after the contest.

The Pittston club played their first game on the 30th January last. The spiel excited much curiosity among the inhabitants of the district, and a considerable crowd assembled to witness their sport; and therefore they expect next season to double their numbers."

So, the names we have of some of the members of the Pittston Curling Club in 1857 are: John Williamson, William Reid, William Williamson, James Moffat, James Watson, John M'Kenderick, John Williamson junior, and William Slimmon. 

I concentrated initially on John Williamson, and his son of the same name. Williamson snr had been a member of the Wanlockhead curling club for many years, and the club's treasurer since 1821. The old minute books of the curling club, which survive in the Miners' Library at the Wanlockhead Lead Mining Museum, confirm that.

John Williamson and his son were still living in Wanlockhead at the 1851 census. In 1851 John snr, a widower, was 58 and his son was 21, and that of course tells us how old they were when the Pittston curling club began in 1857 - John was 64, and John junior 27. They are both listed as lead miners in the 1851 census. They had a house servant (Helen Porter, age 21) living with them in 1851. Ten years previously, there had been a wife, Jane (if I have deciphered the writing correctly) of the same age as her husband, given as 45, and two other children, James (15) and William (14), as well as John (11). Note there is a discrepancy in John snr's age in the records. He is 45 in 1841, and 58 in 1851. One can easily understand how this might have happened, but if one takes the earlier age as the correct one, it means that he was just 61, not 64, when the Pittston CC was formed. Still, I think it was extremely courageous for John snr to leave Wanlockhead in his late 50s (say) to start a new life in the USA.

There would have been two reasons for leaving Wanlockhead in the 1850s. One would have been economic. The viability of the lead mines in the area would have been a consideration. And with the loss of his wife one can understand the Williamsons taking the opportunity to emigrate to North America to start a new life. Note that one of the children is called William, and there is indeed a William Williamson mentioned as a member of the newly formed Pittston CC. It is possible that these are one and the same person. Perhaps William had moved out of the family home by the time of the 1851 census.

I would love to find out what happened to father and son after 1857. I've failed to confirm what happened to the rest of the family, either before or after they emigrated. Death records were not compulsory here before 1855. However, the Pittston Curling Club was still active in 1860. A letter to the Editor of the New York Times on January 9, 1860, records 'the result of that long-pending match between the Pittston (Penn) Curling Club and the New-York Caledonian Curling Club, of New-York. The game came off at Pittston, on Friday, Jan 6, with 12 players on each side'. John Williamson snr and John Williamson jnr were the skips of two of the Pittston teams. Overall, the New York club were the winners.

I have recently added a wonderful book to my curling library, 'A History of the Grand National Curling Club of America and its Member Clubs: 1867 - 2017', assembled by Gwen Krailo-Lyons, the GNCC President in 2007-2009 and 2016-2018. The Grand National Curling Club is the oldest national governing body for curling in North America. Pittston Curling Club was one of the eighteen curling clubs belonging to the GNCC in its first season, and so we can assume that the Pittston curlers had weathered the Civil War (1861-1865), and were among the founding member clubs when the GNCC was formed shortly after the war ended.

The book has individual entries for almost all of the curling clubs currently associated with the GNCC. The Anthracite Curling Club, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, traces the origins of curling in the area. Unfortunately, Dave Cawley and John Burns who submitted the entry for the Anthracite Curling Club, say, "Little is known about the Pittston Curling Club or what happened to it." However, they note that other curling clubs sprung up in the area and then they too disappeared, namely, The United Curling Club of Pittston (1891-1905), The Thistle Lackawanna Curling Club of Avoca (1892-1900), The Thistle Curling Club of Inkerman (1895-1897), and the Wilkes-Barre Curling Club (1895-1906).

After a break of many years, local enthusiasts founded the Scranton Curling Club in 2006, curling on ice at a skating rink in Pittston. The club moved to Wilkes-Barre when that town renovated their ice rink, and changed its name to the Anthracite Curling Club. The club rightly traces its legacy to the Wanlockhead curlers who emigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1850s.

It's all an interesting story, but I'm very much aware that it is incomplete. This is why I've not written about this before now. I have not found any record of how and exactly when the Williamsons travelled to Pittston. Or how they would have learned about coal mining opportunities there.

I've wondered if the medal ordered from Mr Muirhead, Glasgow, has survived. And what happened to the photo of the curlers, and the 'massive' gold pen and pencil-case, referred to in the newspaper article?

Did father and son have a successful life in Pittston?

I've also had limited success in trying to find the background of the other Scots mentioned in the newspaper article (William Reid, William Williamson, James Moffat, James Watson, John M'Kenderick, and William Slimmon). What did these six curlers do before they got to Pittston, and how did their lives pan out thereafter? There's a whole book to be written here. A huge amount of research would have to be done first, and I've probably left it too late to start. Perhaps local genealogists in the Wanlockhead/Leadhills area in Scotland, or in Pennsylvania, might well have information to hand. Can anyone in the USA trace their ancestry to Scottish miners who came over to work the coal mines of Pittston in the 1850s? If so, do get in touch.

There's one other reference to curling in Pittston that I've discovered recently in a local Scottish newspaper. In The Hamilton Advertiser of January 27, 1872, in a section called 'American Notes' the following appears. "Curling is becoming more common as Scotchmen are getting closer together. Mr Wiseman, watchmaker here, had an order last season for twelve pairs of curling stones and handles for the County of Lucerne, Pennsylvania. A society had been formed there called the Pittston Mutual Curling Club. President, Thomas Waddell; vice-president, Henry Smith; secretary, Walter Whinton; treasurer, William Wallace. The stones were sent off in the end November last." This may be a missing link in the evolution of the curling clubs in Pennsylvania, or it may refer to the original Pittston club having changed its name after a few years of membership of the Grand National, becoming, for whatever reason, the Pittston 'Mutual'. And here are yet more names to research!

Thanks to Gwen Krailo-Lyons. The British Newspaper Archive continues to be an immense reservoir of curling's history.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Curling Image Project (Week 2)

CIP-8. One of my favourite photographs! It dates from 1956 and shows action from the opening day of the new season at the Central Scotland Ice Rink, Perth. The women curlers may be from the Strathallan curling club. Names, anyone? There's no indication just who the gentleman on the adjacent sheet is! (21x16 cm black and white print, credited to Star Photos, Perth.)

CIP-9. The Billy Howat team of Robert Clark (3rd), Robert Shaw (2nd), and Alistair Henry (lead) won the Langs Supreme Scottish Curling Championship at the Kirkcaldy Ice Rink in 1985. L-R: Howat, Henry, Shaw and Clark). (24 x 19 cm black and white print, unknown photographer. Published in 'Curling', Vol 3 No 5, 1985)

CIP-10. Back in the days before I had found out just how difficult it was to take good action pix of curlers and curling myself, I knew this was the standard to which I should aspire! It was taken by the late Rod McLeod. It is of Canada's Connie Laliberte on her way to winning the Royal Bank Ladies World Curling Championship at Perth in 1984. Connie's team was Chris More (3rd), Corinne Peters (2nd), and Janet Arnott (lead). (From a 35mm transparency, Rod McLeod)

CIP-11. Has anyone a suggestion what the trophy might be, and who has won it? Who is making the presentation? (22x16.4 cm black and white print, credited to 'Falkirk Herald Studio', so perhaps a club that used to play at the Falkirk Rink?)

ADDED LATER. (Thanks to John Brown) Since posting this pic, I've since discovered it was published in the Scottish Curler magazine in March 1957. Sir John Muir is presenting the 'Queen's Trophy' to Falkirk's A C Carroll, with his team of J Dunn, D Adamson and G S Adamson.This trophy was the 'consolation event' for the British Open at Falkirk Ice Rink. Teams which lost in the first round of the main competition were eligible to play for the Queen's Trophy.

CIP-12. One of many 'when we were young' photos I have to show. The pic is of four 'Lanarkshire Ice Rink Juniors', (L-R) Jackie Steele, Margaret Craig, Isobel Torrance and Christine Allison (skip). The team finished ninth at the Wallisellen International Tournament in Switzerland on October 10-11, 1981. What interesting and successful curling lives these four women have had since then! (The 14.7x10.5 cm print is one of many by the later Erwin Sautter of Zumikon who was a great supporter of Scottish Curling, and the sport in general.)

CIP-13. "Medals must be worn!" I need help in identifying this one. It's a beautiful quaich, and there are lovely single soled stones on the table. But just look at the badges/medals on the curler second from left! No date. Names, anyone? (25x20 cm black and white print, credited to Mitchell and Averell Photographers of Dumbarton, so could it be of Dumbarton CC curlers?)

ADDED LATER: Liz and John Paul thought the person on the right might be the late Jim Hutton. Liz followed this up and writes, "Thanks to Bill and Corona Marshall, here’s the info required....1985 Presentation to Dumbarton CC of the Strathleven Quaich. L-R: Director of Strathleven Bond, Willie Wilkie, President DCC, Gordon Kilgour MD Strathleven Bond, Jim Hutton Secretary DCC."

CIP-14. Mrs Ada Wilson, described as the 'tartan-trewed skip', on the ice at the Central Scotland Ice Rink, Perth, in the 1950s. Don't know exactly when. Note the duster on the ice at the front of the house! (21x16 cm black and white print, credited to Star Photos, Perth) 

Sources of all images are as stated. More about the Curling Image Project here.

Friday, September 07, 2018

The Curling Image Project

I have been amassing photographs of curling for many years. Many date from before the days of digital cameras and smart phones, and have never been digitised, nor posted online. Most never will be. But I did decide over the summer that it would be interesting to share some of them, and so the 'Curling Image Project' has been born.

My plan is to post a photo each day on Twitter, and then gather these together every week or so here on the Curling History site. The first photo went out on September 1 on @CurlingHistory. Below are the first seven photos that have gone up.

Why do this? Well, on a selfish note, it keeps my old brain active! Important these days. And I do like a good wallow in nostalgia. It is also a project to remind the (young) curlers of today, and those new to curling, that the sport has an interesting history! I also hope that it might engage others who have an interest in curling's history. Not all the photos were taken by me, and I will try to make sure that the original photographer is credited in each case. In some cases there will be photos with no indication of who is in the picture, or where it was taken. That's when you may be able to help.

The project needed a name, and I decided to call it the 'Curling Image Project' - at least that sounded more grand than 'odd photos from Bob's collection'!

Thanks to Jayne Stirling, one time correspondent for the Scottish Curler magazine, and 2017 Scottish Mixed Doubles champion, who gave me the idea for a 'photo of the day' from her own Facebook account a whiles ago. 

Comments are welcomed, but these are monitored, and may not appear immediately below. Or you can email me (address on the right) if you wish to add any information on an individual photograph.

CIP-1. The Jubilee Stone is swept down the ice during the opening ceremony of the 1975 Silver Broom World Curling Championship at the Central Scotland Ice Rink, Perth, Scotland. Note Bill Tetley's Canadian team in green nearest the camera. They did move before the cannon was fired! (From a 35mm transparency, Bob Cowan)

CIP-2. Round robin play at the 1975 Silver Broom. How many players can you identify? You can check the WCF Historical Records for ALL the participants' names, here. (From a 35mm transparency, Bob Cowan)

CIP-3. "Save me first!" Two participants in the 1979 Grand Match on the Lake of Menteith with the two on duty divers/frogmen, should the worst happen! Names, anyone? (From a 35mm transparency, Bob Cowan)

CIP-4. This helicopter on the ice at the Lake of Menteith had brought the Royal Club President, Captain Jack Anderson, to the 1979 Grand Match. (From a 35mm transparency, Bob Cowan)

CIP-5. The great Paul Gowsell team in action at the 1976 Uniroyal World Junior Curling Championship at Aviemore. Paul Gowsell (skip), Neil Houston (3rd), Glen Jackson (2nd), Kelly Stearne (lead) won gold. (From a 35mm transparency, Bob Cowan)

CIP-6. The Scotland team in action at the 1976 Uniroyal World Junior Curling Championship at Aviemore. Ken Horton is in the head for his skip's (Bob Kelly's) stone. Keith Douglas and Willie Jamieson are the sweepers. (From a 35mm transparency, Bob Cowan)

CIP-7. Ed Werenich, the skip of the winning Canadian side, holds the Silver Broom aloft at the closing ceremony of the 1983 Air Canada Silver Broom World Curling Championship in Regina. The Canadians (Werenich, Paul Savage, John Kawaja, and Neil Harrison) beat Keith Wendorf, Hans Dieter Kiesel, Sven Saile and Heiner Martin in the final. (From a 35mm transparency, taken, if I recall correctly, by a colleague on the press bench with my camera.)

Photo sources are as indicated. Slides (35mm transparencies) were popular from the 1960s to the mid-1990s. They were a cheap and easy way to make images which could be projected on a screen with a slide projector. The above seven slides are just a sample of several boxes of them I have kept. Scanning them all these years later gives results of varying quality, as you can see.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

How Scotland Fared at the Commonwealth Winter Games

Was there really a Commonwealth Winter Games? When I noticed the badge above on Google Images I went searching. There was indeed a series of such competitions, in 1958, 1962, 1966, and 1970, according to Wikipedia (see here), and this informative blog article, from where the image above originates.

The Commonwealth Winter Games were the brainchild of Thomas Dow Richardson (usually known as 'Tyke' Richardson), a keen figure skater, who represented GB in the 1924 Olympic Winter Games, and wrote several books about his sport. He was eventually to receive an OBE for services to skating.

The Games were never officially sanctioned. Karl Magee, Archivist at the University of Stirling Library (which holds the Commonwealth Games Scotland archive, see here) has been extremely helpful in providing information. Richardson's efforts certainly came to the attention of the Commonwealth Games organisers. Karl notes that the Minutes of the Meeting of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games Federation in General Assembly at Melbourne University, December 2, 1956, indicate that a 'Winter Games', had been discussed: "Lord Aberdare (Wales) stated that enthusiasts from many countries within the Commonwealth and Empire had approached him regarding the staging of a series of British Empire and Commonwealth Winter Games." After discussion, it seems that the issue was not progressed, "The matter, therefore, was left in abeyance unless the project was raised officially on a future occasion by one of the constituent members of the Federation."

After the first Winter Games had taken place in 1958, the minutes of a meeting of General Council, British Empire and Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland, in Edinburgh, February 23, 1959, has the following, "Winter Games: The Secretary reported he had attended a meeting of the Federation Advisory Committee in London to discuss the proposal to hold Winter Games under the patronage of the Federation. The scheme outlined by Mr T D Richardson envisaged the Federation taking over the administration, but a separate committee from the Winter Sports bodies themselves would do all the organising. Competitors or their Associations would be expected to finance their own travel and subsistence, but National Games Councils would be asked to approve and sign their entries.

As all the Winter Games bodies did not appear enthusiastic about the scheme, it was agreed to circularise them all to ascertain:
Whether they were in favour of the concept of future Commonwealth Winter Games being held on the lines detailed, and
Whether, if they were in favour, they would be prepared to assist in the financing and organising of them, as the Federation would not be involved in either of these."

It would seem that there was little support for this scheme, as the Minutes of a meeting of the Advisory Committee of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games Federation, held in London, on March 28, 1961, had the following, "Commonwealth Winter Games. The Chairman reported that further unofficial ‘Commonwealth Winter Games’ would be staged in St Moritz in January 1962. These Games were not recognised by the Federation or by its affiliated BE and CG Associations. All attempts to find a firm basis of finance and administration for these Games had hitherto failed, but the door was not closed. It was hoped to have an ‘observer’ from the Federation during the period of the Games."

The lack of official support for the Commonwealth Winter Games did not deter Tyke Richardson from organising them again in 1962, 1966, and 1970. He died in 1971.

Tyke Richardson's biography can be found here, and, aside from figure skating, it seems he was a keen sportsman. Apparently he also curled. And that information may go some way to explaining why there was a curling competition as part of the 1966 Games!

There's a report entitled 'Curling in the Commonwealth Winter Games' in the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1966-67. This sits alongside other 'Reports of International Competitions'.

The report is by RCCC Council Member Tom Stewart, and reads, "The Curling Competition forming part of the Commonwealth Winter Games was held at St Moritz, Switzerland, on 27th/28th January, and took place on the St Moritz Curling Club Ice. Eight rinks took part - three from Scotland, two from England, two from Canadian Servicemen in Europe, and one rink provided by the St Moritz Club. The Scottish Rinks were skipped by the Royal Club President, Bill Robertson Aikman, Bob Grierson, and veteran Bob Dick; the English Rinks by Dan Kerr and Bill Black; the Canadians by Wing Commander G Robertson and LAC Bangle, and the St Moritz rink by Henry Martineau.

About 11.00 pm on Thursday, 20th January, the President (who seemed somewhat surprised that it had actually happened) found his party all present and correct at London Airport. The party was richly enhanced by the inclusion of the four charming wives of Bob Grierson and his rink.

An uneventful flight was followed by a pleasant train journey through magnificent scenery and in brilliant sunshine and the party reached St Moritz about 11.30 am. We were greeted by Harry Martineau and Jimmy Niven of the St Moritz Club, and Bobby Zen Ruffinen was who to be our 'mine host' for the duration of our stay.

The party took part in competitions at the St Moritz Engiadina Club (18 rinks), the highlight being the St Moritz Curling Derby with an entry of 36 rinks from all over Switzerland and including two rinks from Sweden. Scotland No 1 (Bill Robertson Aikman) finished best of the visiting British rinks being 13th with 31 points - the winners notching a total of 40 points. But for losing his last two games by one shot, Bill might well have been in the first three. The weather wasn't too good and the ice conditions varied considerably.

On Thursday afternoon when the opening round of the (Commonwealth Winter) Games was played, conditions were not ideal and the three Scottish Rinks made their exit - a disappointing effort perhaps, but conditions were the same for everyone, and we seek no excuse.

Conditions were better next day and in the semifinals Dan Kerr fell to the Canadians and Harry Martineau to the London rink of Bill Black. The final was close and exciting and eventually the Canadian Air Force rink, skipped by Wing Commander George Robertson, proved too good for Bill Black.

Both rinks are to be congratulated in winning the Gold and Silver Medals respectively.

At the presentation Cocktail Party given by Harry Martineau, Bill Robertson Aikman presented an RCCC plaque to the St Moritz Club, and a Scottish Standard to each of the skips. Each competitor was presented with a Commonwealth Winter Games souvenir badge.

We cannot speak too highly of the hospitality received during our stay, and would like to record our thanks to the St Moritz Club, Harry Martineau, Jimmy Niven, Bobby Zen Ruffinen and many others who did so much to make our visit a success.

We were also very pleased and delighted when our old friend Collie Campbell flew in from Canada to spend a few days amongst us. Needless to say, 'Night Class' and 'Morning Class' were immediately resumed and thoroughly enjoyed. The indefatigable Collie does a 'whale of a job' for curling everywhere and it was a tonic to see him looking so well and carrying his ambassadorial work to Switzerland.

It was with regret that the party, by now a little 'battle weary', broke up on Saturday, 29th. Bert Sibbald and Ronald Grant went on to Kitzbuhel, Tom Stewart to Zermatt and the remainder back to London, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen and Stranraer."

James Niven, Secretary of the host St Moritz Club, added the following, "None of the three Scottish Teams struck form, but this had something to do with the ill health from which many of them suffered. An excellent performance was put up by Henry Martineau's St Moritz CC Team who first beat the Canadians, skipped by LAC Bangle, and were wearing down Bill Black's Surrey Team in a ding-dong game and standing at four-all when, with one stone to play, St Moritz were lying six without a guard and Bill Black drew the winning shot, and went on to win.

In the final, the Surrey Team from the London Province played well at the start, but were eventually beaten by the consistency of the cheery Canadians who were very well skipped by George Robertson, RCAF."

And here is a photo of the winning team, from the 1966-67 Annual:

This is captioned, "The Canadian Air Force Rink from Metz, France, who won the Gold Medals in the Curling Competition in the Commonwealth Winter Games at St Moritz. Left to right: Mrs Martineau, who presented the medals, Joe Zedan, Ron Pound, Scotty Miller and Wing Commander George Robertson (skip). The runners-up, who won silver medals, were Bill Black, Davie Kennedy, Jock Marr and Jim Adams. (The photographer is not stated.)

Images are as stated in the text. Many thanks to Karl Magee for his help with this article.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Canada and USA Women Curlers in Scotland in 1955

I encountered this curling pin badge recently, and, initially, I could not explain what it was about. When did Canadian and US ladies visit Scotland together? I set out to find out more, and only then realised the significance of it all.

The pin badge represents the first time that women curlers from North America had come to Scotland on a 'goodwill' tour. Scotland's men had first crossed the pond to Canada and the USA in 1902-03, and the Strathcona Cup had been contested on many occasions since. More recently the Herries Maxwell trophy had been donated for Scotland v USA men's matches in 1951. But it was not until 1955 that women from Scotland and North America were to meet on the ice. Who had taken the initiative for this, I wondered?

I find the first mention that women might also engage in goodwill tours in remarks made by William Paterson of the Canadian Branch of the Royal Club when he attended the RCCC AGM at Stirling on July 27, 1949. He had just been made a Vice-President of the RCCC. Paterson said, "Why don't you ladies arrange to have a team sent over with some of you ladies who want to have games with our ladies. I know some of our ladies have asked me about that possibility. I just put that as a suggestion and then perhaps something will come of it."

Nothing did come of this, for nearly three years.

I think it is important to realise that in the early 1950s, the Royal Caledonian Curling Club had no input from women. The Office Bearers, and the Council of Management, were all male. There was no Ladies' Branch. One of the members of the US Men's team which had been in Scotland early in 1952, a Mr Kochs, on his return to America wrote to the Royal Club suggesting that an invitation be sent to lady curlers of the United States of America to visit Scotland. The Council apparently thought this was worth following up, and they invited all the Scottish women's curling clubs to send a representative to a meeting on June 18 to discuss this. This meeting was very successful, apparently, and a committee, headed by Mrs Love, of Perth Ladies, was established to take things forward.

But when this was brought up at the July 1952 AGM, there was an 'oops' moment, when William Paterson stood up to say, "I want to talk up for the ladies in Canada." It was he who had suggested a match between Canadian and Scottish women three years previously! Much discussion then ensued, with the outcome being to refer the matter back to Council, as the previous Canadian invitation had been 'overlooked'! 

Two more years were to pass, but at the Annual Meeting of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, at Ayr Ice Rink, on Wednesday, July 28, 1954, an invitation for North American lady curlers to come to Scotland was back under discussion. On the Agenda, Item XIII, was 'Proposed Invitation to Canadian and USA Ladies'. John Watson, the incoming President, had taken the chair by the time the item was reached. He spoke in this way, "We have extended a provisional invitation to two rinks from Canada and two rinks from the United States of lady curlers to visit this country in January 1955. The ladies in Scotland have been extremely helpful. They are all working hard to gather up funds to entertaintheir visitors. The Council had a meeting with representatives from the ladies' clubs and we rather left it to themselves to decide whether they would house them in their own homes or in hotels. Each Area will decide that for themselves. They are raising, I think, adequate funds, but the Royal Club or the Council of the Club have agreed that they will be behind the ladies if they need financial assistance, and it is not too great. (Laughter.)

The duration of this tour is to be approximately one month. We understand that the ladies don't wish to play more than one game per day, and they will accordingly have perhaps rather a less strenuous time than the men had.

We have decided that the opposition in all cases shall be confined to ladies. They will not play against men on any occasion. I make that quite clear. (Hear, Hear.) It would be too dangerous for the visitors.

Now, I am going to ask this meeting very wholeheartedly to confirm this invitation to our lady friends across the water. (Hear, Hear, and Applause.)"

The meeting confirmed the invitation. A question followed from Mrs Fairley Daly of Glasgow Ladies to clarify if the invitation had already been sent. The Chairman replied that an unofficial invitation had been sent and accepted. Now that the matter had been officially raised at the RCCC AGM, the official invitation would be sent.

I was interested to read the words, "We have decided that the opposition in all cases shall be confined to ladies. They will not play against men on any occasion. I make that quite clear. (Hear, Hear.) It would be too dangerous for the visitors." Patronising, or what? Or was John Watson just trying to be funny?

The Tour went ahead in January 1955. Detailed information is hard to find, but perhaps this article might stimulate further research.

This is a photo of the Canadian and United States ladies on their arrival in Scotland, at Prestwick Airport. They were met by James Hamilton, Secretary of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, and Mrs Murray, president, and Mrs Littlejohn, secretary, of Ayr Ladies Curling Club. Also in the photo are James McWhirter, Tom Smillie and Archie Gilmour. The photo was taken apparently by David Murray of the Gangrels Curling Club, and forwarded to the Scottish Curler.

Here are the four teams:

One of the Canadian teams, from Ontario. L-R: Mrs Andy Grant (skip), Mrs TG Davitt, Mrs MG Squires, and Mrs JB Walker. (Note the convention of the time in describing the women in terms of their husbands' names!)

This Canadian team was from Quebec. L-R: Miss E Gauthier (skip), Mrs H Clark, Mrs R Pollack, and Mrs HL Liffiton (who was Captain of the Canadian team).

The first USA rink. L-R: Mrs Ross Bennett (from Portage), Mrs George Erwin (Chicago), Mrs Frank Pollen (skip, from Chicago), and Miss Eleanor Garfield (from Boston).

The second of the US rinks. L-R: Mrs Horace Vaile (skip and captain of the US side, from Chicago), Mrs James A Clarke (from Yonkers, NY), Mrs Julien Leonard (Brookline), and Mrs Arthur Long (Chicago).

I do hope that curling friends in Canada and the USA may be able to say more about these pioneering women, for example, how they were selected to come to Scotland, and what has been handed down of their experiences here.

The illustrations in this article come from the February 1955 Scottish Curler magazine, in its first season of publication. This was the first time that an action picture of a woman curler had appeared on the magazine's cover! The caption says, "Everything is forgotten except the stone which curls its way to the target. Mrs Vaile, captain of the United States lady tourists in Scotland, lies flat on the ice to watch her stone. Often she waggles her right foot in agitation. This picture is an object lesson in concentration."

Robin Welsh, the Scottish Curler Editor, was extremely complimentary about the visitors in his Editorial. 'Lady Tourists Set the Heather on Fire. Canadian and United States Lassies ... a credit to their countries' was the header. He wrote, "A toast to the lassies ... of the Canadian and United States team. They have just left our shores, and, in retrospect, we can now survey the tour - the first ever made by a group of overseas lady curlers.

Everywhere they went these ladies captured the imagination; the colour and spirit of them infected us, curler and spectator alike, and their tour was a triumphant progress.

And how appreciative they were of anything done for them. Said Mrs Vaile, captain of the United States side: 'Never have we met such friendly and hospitable people. Nothing has been left undone for our pleasure. I think none of us will be content until we come back again.' Well, Mrs Vaile, will ye, and your sister tourists, no' come back again?

They were such a cheery happy lot - sixteen smiling gals. But I'll say this about their huge success in Scotland. They worked for it. Not only did they play almost continuously for a month (standing up to the strain magnificently), but they also had a month's round of official functions AND they found time to write kind letters to their many new friends AND they kept smiling.

The Castle in Edinburgh was floodlit in their honour; and the visitors lit their own lights of friendship throughout Scotland. A great performance all round. These ladies were a credit to their countries."

It is in the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1955-56 that we find a further Scottish response, in the report of the Annual Meeting at Perth Ice Rink, on Wednesday, July 27, 1955. Mrs T Love of Perth Ladies addressed the meeting, "Mr. Chairman, my Lord, Sister and Brother Curlers, it has been said, to be seen one must stand up, to be heard one must speak up, but to be appreciated one must sit down. I shall be brief. As you all know, in January of this year eight ladies from Canada and eight from America arrived at Prestwick Airport, all ready for four weeks' curling mixed with fun and good sportsmanship. I think their hopes were realised. Speaking for the Scottish Ladies, and I think for many of the men too, our guests were most charming. They appreciated all that we did for them. They were good curlers and they were good sports, and I hope that we will always remember that. (Hear, Hear.)

As Scottish Convener I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the Royal Club for their kindness and help to us during the times of our meetings, especially Mr Hamilton, with whom I had many long telephone conversations, and long epistles and short ones from time to time. The members of my committee I thank very much for the hard work they put into all the arrangements they made and for the raising of the funds. This was done very successfully, and no area was one penny in debt. (Hear, Hear.) And the £200 which was offered from the Royal Club was not called upon, too. (Hear, Hear, and Applause.) In fact, in this area we have £60 invested against the next visit. (Hear, Hear, and Applause.)

This was a tour of goodwill, and an experiment which we hope will be repeated. The results of the games did not seem of importance so much as the games themselves, as you will realise when I tell you that some of the areas had no records of the games' scores. (Hear, Hear, and Applause.) Everyone was most helpful and was very willing to help in any function in which they were approached, such as civic receptions, and every-one was very helpful indeed. I would like to say, thank you very much, one and all. I can say truthfully that the tour was very successful. (Hear, Hear, and Applause.)"

This confirmed that a committee of Scotland's women curlers had taken charge of the arrangements of the incoming tour. More importantly, it had all been accomplished within budget.  

The Scottish Committee were organised too, in having their own commemorative pin for the event.

Mrs Love states that the tour was an 'experiment'. Its success set in motion important consequences for women curlers in Scotland. Three years later saw the formation of the Ladies' Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. In 1958 there was an increasing number of lady curlers who were members of clubs affiliated to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. At the AGM of the RCCC in July 1958, Irene Cleland (Edinburgh Ladies Curling Club) asked the Royal Club 'if it would consider the formation of a Ladies’ Committee, so that the women could confer with each other over matters pertaining to women’s curling'. According to Marjorie Broatch who wrote The Ladies Branch Of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club: The First Twenty-five Years, Mrs Cleland reminded the Chairman, Brigadier Jack Gow, that prior to the visit of the Canadian and American Touring Team in 1955, a temporary Committee was formed. This Committee was responsible for the entertaining of that team and for raising the necessary sums of money. If a permanent Committee was to be formed, the women would then have the machinery to call meetings. This would enable the clubs to get in touch with each other without lessening their loyalty to the RCCC whose traditions meant so much to all women curlers."

And so the Ladies' Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club had its origins. In November 1958, the first Scottish Ladies' team toured Canada and the USA.

It was not to be until 1979, that the first World Women's Curling Championship took place. But that's another story.

The illustrations are as indicated in the text. My thanks to Lindsay Scotland for taking the photos of the two pins. Both these pins will be for sale at a fundraising event, organised by the Carrington Curling Club, at Murrayfield Curling Rink on November 18, details here. The proceeds will benefit the ongoing rink renovation project. Some of the other items which will be on sale, or auctioned:

Friday, July 27, 2018

Scotland's Indoor Curling Rinks: A Timeline

"When was the 'Golden Age' of curling in Scotland?" I was asked this question earlier this year. It can be answered in a number of ways. It could be argued that the 'Golden Age' was in the 1830s and 1840s when curling was the most popular winter sport in the country, and the first to have a national governing body. Or perhaps it was the beginning of the twentieth century, when the sport was played widely on outside ice, and the first Scottish team travelled to Canada and the USA and experienced how the sport had established itself in North America.

My own curling career encompassed a huge growth in the indoor game. I was aware that, at one point, the number of rinks providing curling facilities in Scotland had grown to more than thirty, from the handful that were available in the early 1960s when I threw my first stones. I set out to document the growth of the indoor rink in the second half of the twentieth century, but I found that information was not recorded in any one place, and that details on some of the rinks is sketchy at best. The timeline below is very much a 'first draft'. If you can add any information, particularly on when rinks closed, please contact me.


Crossmyloof, Glasgow. The Scottish Ice Rink at Crossmyloof opened on October 1, 1907. The rink survived through most of WW1, but closed in 1918, purchased by William Beardmore and Company Ltd, and used as a company store for the next ten years. The site was purchased by the Scottish Ice Rink Company (1929) Ltd, and the new rink opened for play in January 1929. Only some walls of the old rink were utilised in the new building. There was room for six sheets of ice (seven when the house size changed in 1938). An extension for curling (and for ice hockey practice) was added in 1938, and a four sheet annex added in 1961. Read here for more about the Crossmyloof rinks. Crossmyloof closed in February, 1986.


Haymarket, Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Ice Rink, at Haymarket, was opened on February 3, 1912, by Lord Balfour of Burleigh. The ice surface was 'upwards of 16,900 square feet' so could accommodate six curling rinks, with end ice for skating even when the curling was on. From 1919 to 1929 Haymarket was the only indoor curling rink in Scotland. It closed in 1979.

Lochrin, Edinburgh. The Lochrin Ice Pond, Tollcross, Edinburgh, was also opened in 1912. As far as I am aware, there are no photographs of the rink, although it seems to have had four sheets. It did not reopen after WW1.

Aberdeen Glaciarium. The Aberdeen Winter Recreation Institute, with its 'Glaciarium' of 18,400 square feet, was opened on September 30, 1912, with space for eight curling rinks. It closed in 1917.


Central Scotland Ice Rink, Perth. The rink was opened by the Duke of Atholl on October 1, 1936. The 1975 Air Canada Silver Broom World Curling Championship was held in this rink, as was the first Women's World Championship in 1979. The rink closed c1989.


Kirkcaldy Ice Rink. The multi-sports ice arena opened on 1st October 1938. The rink hosted the European Curling Championships in 1982.

Dundee-Angus Ice Rink. The Dundee Ice Rink opened on September 30, 1938. An annex just for curling with six sheets, was added to this building in 1984, before it closed in the early 1990s. The last curling in the annex was in 1989.

Falkirk. The Falkirk Ice Rink was opened by the Earl of Stair on November 30, 1938. Falkirk Ice Rink was the venue for the Annual Meeting of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club on July 22, 1964, when HRH The Duke of Edinburgh became the Club's President, see here. The rink closed as an ice sports venue in 1977.

Dunfermline Ice Rink. The Dunfermline rink opened in the summer of 1939 and ceased operation circa 1954. There is video footage of skating and ice hockey on the rink here, but nothing of curling. Indeed, little seems to be known about curling there in the early years of the rink.


Ayr, Beresford Terrace. The Ayr Ice Rink opened on March 13, 1939, and was used for skating, ice hockey and curling. It hosted the first USA touring team in 1952, see here for the story, or go directly to a video, here. It closed in 1972 and was demolished to make way for a supermarket.

Donald's Ice Rink, Aberdeen. Donald's opened as a skating rink in 1939, and was used for curling after the war until 1982. It closed in 1983. 


Border Ice Rink, Kelso. The four sheet rink, for curling and skating, opened on October 1, 1964. The first stone was thrown by Major Allan Cameron, past president of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.


Aviemore Ice Rink. The ice rink, in the Aviemore Centre, was opened in December 1966. Bill Robertson Aikman, the Royal Club President, threw the opening stone. The ice surface covered 20,000 square feet with seven lanes for curling. There was end-ice skating, even when the main sheet was being used for curling. There was seating for 500. The rink was the venue for the 1976 Uniroyal World Curling Championship, and was demolished in the late 1990s.


South of Scotland Ice Rink, Lockerbie. The South of Scotland Ice Rink on Glasgow Road, Lockerbie, was opened on January 20, 1967. It has five sheets of curling ice and is also used for skating.

Lanarkshire Ice Rink, Hamilton. The six-sheet Hamilton rink opened on Friday, September 29, 1967. Bill Robertson Aikman threw the opening stone towards the broom held by Bob Dick. The stone was swept by Chuck Hay and Alex Torrance. The rink is also used for skating.


Inverness Ice Rink. The rink at Bught Park opened for skating in July, 1968. In September the curlers took to the ice, Lord Bruce, the Earl of Elgin, throwing the opening stone. The rink accommodates five sheets for curling.


Stranraer Ice Rink. The four sheet rink, part of the North West Castle Hotel complex, was officially opened in November 1970.


Ayr, Limekiln Road. The new multipurpose Ayr rink for curling and skating replaced the old arena at Beresford Terrace. The six sheet rink opened in October 1973, and there is a small practice annex for skating.


Magnum, Irvine. The multipurpose ice rink within the Magnum Leisure Centre in Irvine opened in September 18, 1976. The ice pad accommodated seven lanes of curling ice. Curling at the complex finished in 2011 when nearby Harvie's reopened after its refurbishment, and the whole leisure centre complex closed in 2016, and was demolished in 2017.


Kinross. The four sheet curling rink at the Green Hotel, Kinross, opened at the beginning of the 1977-78 season. The rink was fully refurbished by the Kinross Curling Trust in 2014 and improvements continue.


Gogar Park, Edinburgh. The Gogar Park Curling Club, with four sheets, opened on January 15, 1979. Gilbert McClung and Irene Cleland threw the first stones, with young curlers Susan McLean and David Aitken holding the brushes for them. They were both then involved in throwing the last stone at the closing ceremony on April 9, 2005.

Greenacres, Howwood. The four sheet Greenacres Ice Rink was opened in October 1979. A two sheet annex was added soon thereafter.


Stirling. The Stirling Ice Rink, Williamfield. The rink, used for both curling and skating, opened on September 29, 1980, and closed in 2009.

Murrayfield Curling Rink. The first curling on the seven sheet rink, built alongside the Murrayfield Ice Arena, had been going on since September 8, 1980, before the official opening on October 4. Philip Dawson, Royal Club President, threw the first stone, with Marjorie Broatch, Ladies Branch President, holding the broom. A new floor has been laid this summer (2018).


Atholl Curling Rink, Pitlochry. The four sheet rink in Pitlochry was constructed in the old Festival Theatre, which had moved to new premises in the town in 1981. A group of local enthusiasts purchased the vacant building on December 29, 1981 and the rink opened for play in October 1982. The rink closed in the summer of 2008.


Abeerdeen Curling Rink, Dyce. Her Majesty the Queen officially opened the Aberdeen Curling Rink on October 18, 1983. Dr Norman Cooper, Chairman of the Board, threw the opening stone. Fellow director Roy Gray held the broom, and the stone was swept by the Barton Henderson team, winners of the European Championship in 1980.


Forest Hills. Olympic gold medal athlete Sebastian Coe ran to the platform with a blazing torch which Scottish Tourist Board Chairman Alan Deveraux used to burn the ribbon to open the Barratt Forest Hills Trossachs Club, near Aberfoyle, on September 14, 1984. The complex included a four sheet curling rink. The last curling at Forest Hills was at the end of the 2005-2006 season.

Letham Grange. The four-sheet rink, partially built underground because of planning concerns, was officially opened in September 30, 1984 by Scottish rugby internationalist Jim Aitken. The rink was mothballed at the start of the 2004-05 season and has not re-opened.

Crystals Arena, Glenrothes. Included in the leisure complex at Glenrothes, opened on October 2, 1984, was an ice rink with six sheets of curling ice. The complex closed in 1993. When was the last curling played?


Brora. The four sheet rink at the Royal Marine Hotel, Brora, was officially opened on October 12, 1985, with Bill Muirhead throwing the first stone. The rink closed at the end of the 2005-2006 season.


Summit Centre, Glasgow. The rink was officially opened on February 13, 1986. The first stones were thrown by Glasgow's Lord Provost, Robert Gray, and Lord Marshall, Chairman of Municipal Mutual Insurance Ltd. There were six sheets of ice for curling on weekdays, and the ice pad was available for skating and ice hockey at the weekends. It had seating for 600 spectators. The Summit Centre hosted the Glayva World Women's Curling Championship in 1988, and the Royal Bank of Scotland World Junior Curling Championships in 1991. It closed in 1998.

Lochgoilhead. The Drimsynie House Ice Rink, Lochgoilhead, was a four sheet rink in the Drimsynie Estates Leisure Centre. It opened on December 27, 1986, when Douglas Currie, Convener of Argyll and Bute District Council, threw the first stone. The rink closed in 2011.


Galleon Centre, Kilmarnock. The Galleon Centre on Titchfield Street, Kilmarnock, opened to the public on May 15, 1987. The complex houses a swimming pool and other sports facilities. The first curling at the rink was in September, 1987. There are five sheets of curling ice, when the rink is not in use for other ice sports.

Icelandia Ice Rink, Livingston. Opened in September 1987. I do not know exactly when this rink closed. (Anyone?)


Harvies, Stevenston. The Auchenharvie Leisure Centre opened for curling (four sheets) and skating in 1988. The original ice surface was on two levels. The rink closed in August 2009 for a major refurbishment, opening again in July 2011, with the first curling in September of that year. The new ice pad can accommodate six rinks.


Forfar. The Forfar Indoor Sports complex was opened in 1989. Curling is mostly on a dedicated four-sheet rink where the opening stone was played by Royal Club President Roy Sinclair on September 30, 1989. The complex contains an indoor bowling rink, and a skating rink, which can accommodate three curling sheets when required.

East Kilbride. The Olympia Ice Bowl, a multipurpose ice sheet for skating and curling, was in use by October 1989 although the official opening was not until February 1990, when Mr J Allan Denholm, Chairman of East Kilbride Development Corporation, presented two crystal curling stones to the rink for annual competition. Located in a large shopping mall, the ice rink, with five curling sheets, has been refurbished and it re-opened at the end of 2016 as part of a 'leisure hub'.


Dewar's Rinks, Perth. The Dewar's Rinks complex, which incorporates eight curling rinks and eight indoor bowling rinks, was built on the site of the former Dewar's Scotch Whisky blending and bottling plant at Glover Street, Perth. Sir Norman Macfarlane, Chairman of United Distillers, threw the traditional first stone on October 9, 1990.

The Ice House, Cumbernauld. The Ice House at Cumbernauld became available for skating on October 1, 1990, then the official opening of the facility took place on October 15 when David Mitchell, Chairman of Cumbernauld Development Corporation, threw the first stone. The opening bonspiel was won by a Reform Curling Club team of Alistair Govan, Alison Cron, Jim Jamieson and Liz Jamieson. The rink did not have a long life, closing later in the 1990s. (When exactly, anyone?) (Note - this one missed the list when first posted)


Lagoon Centre, Paisley. The Lagoon Leisure Centre was officially opened on June 19, 1992, by Princess Diana. The complex included a multi-purpose ice rink for skating and curling. Six sheets for curling were available on two days each week. The venue hosted the World Women's Curling Championship in 2005, but shortly thereafter the ice rink was found to have a significant floor heave, affecting the building's walls, and the rink closed for good, although the rest of the centre remains open.

Dumfries Ice Bowl. The Ice Bowl complex, when it opened in September, 1992, had an ice arena for skating, ice hockey and curling, as well as a six lane indoor bowling rink. In 2010, the bowling rink was converted into a dedicated curling rink, with six sheets. Both ice surfaces were in use when the World Seniors and World Mixed Doubles Championships were held in Dumfries in 2014.


Moray Leisure Centre, Elgin. The centre, with a 1,125 square metre ice rink, providing five sheets of ice for curling, opened in July 1993.


The Waterfront, Greenock. The Waterfront Leisure Complex opened in 1997, and includes four sheets of curling ice, the ice pad also used by skaters.


Braehead. The curling rink at intu Braehead, attached to the shopping mall, has eight sheets, and was opened in September 1999, Hammy McMillan throwing the first stone. The World Seniors Championships were held in the rink in 2000, alongside the World Championships in the nearby arena. When the European Championships were staged in the arena in 2016, the curling rink hosted the B division. 


Dundee, Kingsway. The Dundee Ice Arena is a multi ice sports facility for curling, skating and ice hockey, with seating for 2,300. It can accommodate six sheets of ice for curling.


Curl Aberdeen. The first stones were thrown in the six sheet curling rink on January 4, 2005 by two young members, Kirsty Lockhart and Stuart Henderson. On October 4, 2005, the rink was visited by Her Majesty the Queen. She unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion. The games in the B Division of the European Championships were held in the rink in 2009, and the World Junior Curling Championships were held there in 2018.


The PEAK, Stirling. The PEAK is an indoor sports and leisure complex containing an ice rink, which can accommodate six sheets of curling. The complex was opened in 2009. The National Curling Academy, with four sheets of ice, opened on July 30, 2017, and is a separate facility attached to The Peak.

In addition to the above, the following rinks have hosted curling for a short period, or because of a special competition: Paisley (East Lane), the Lynx (Aberdeen), the Braehead Arena, the Murrayfield Ice Arena, and the Kelvin Hall (Glasgow), where a rink was constructed to host the 1985 Air Canada Silver Broom World Curling Championship.

So when was 'the Golden Age' where there were the most curling rinks in Scotland? That would be in season 1993-94, when 31 rinks were in operation: Aberdeen (Dyce), Atholl (Pitlochry), Aviemore, Ayr (Limekiln Road), Border (Kelso), Brora, Crystals Arena (Glenrothes), Dumfries Ice Bowl, East Kilbride, Forest Hills (Aberfoyle), Forfar Indoor Sports, Galleon Centre (Kilmarnock), Gogar Park (Edinburgh), Greenacres, Green Hotel (Kinross), Harvies (Stevenston), The Ice House (Cumbernauld), Icelandia (Livingston), Inverness, Kircaldy, Lagoon (Paisley), Lanarkshire (Hamilton), Letham Grange, Lochgoilhead, Magnum (Irvine), Murrayfield (Edinburgh), Dewars, (Perth), South of Scotland (Lockerbie), Stirling (Williamfield), Stranraer, and the Summit Centre (Glasgow).

Since then the following fifteen have closed: Aberdeen (Dyce), Atholl, Aviemore, Brora, Crystals Arena (Glenrothes), Forest Hills, Gogar Park, the Ice House (Cumbernauld), Icelandia (Livingston), Lagoon (Paisley), Letham Grange, Lochgoilhead, Magnum (Irvine), Stirling (Williamfield), and the Summit Centre. But in certain areas new rinks have appeared replacing the losses above, eg Braehead has replaced the Summit, The Peak has replaced Stirling (Williamfield), and Curl Aberdeen has replaced Aberdeen (Dyce) on the list above, and the Moray Leisure Centre (Elgin), Dundee Ice Arena, and the Waterfront (Greenock) have opened. So the number of rinks in Scotland offering curling facilities currently stands at 22 (or 23 if one considers the National Curling Academy as a separate facility from the main rink at The Peak). Find the list, with contact information, here.

It is of course incorrect to say that the change in numbers of curling facilities is the defining marker of any decline in the sport in the recent years. A calculation of number of sheets lost, and their usage per day and per week, would need to be carried out, and compared with what exists today. Comparing curling facilities is not a like for like calculation, as some rinks offer six or more sheets seven days a week, and some of those which have gone only offered curling on certain days of the week.

For more information on all of Scotland's indoor curling rinks, note that they are on the Historical Curling Places map, see here, with information (and photos) on the subsidiary pages.

Please let me know if you find anything on the timeline in error, and if you have any information that you would like to see added about any of the rinks. My email address is on the sidebar.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Blankets from Canada

During the second world war, curling continued in Scotland, although naturally to a limited extent. The Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club continued to be published during the war years, but as a slimmed down publication, no longer including the memberships lists of all the affiliated clubs. In looking at these Annuals to try to understand how much the war affected the sport, I came across examples of the generosity of curlers, not just at home, but from overseas as well.

The Annual Meeting of the Representative Committee of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club was to have been held at Ayr, but, because of the war, it was (again) held within the North British Station Hotel in Edinburgh, on July 30, 1941. David Hutchison of Kinross, one of the Vice-Presidents, was in the chair in the absence of Sir Donald Cameron of Locheil, the President, who was unable to attend. Thirty-seven clubs were represented.

In his opening remarks, David Hutchison made a point of acknowledging a gift of blankets 'which the Canadian Branch sent to us to distribute as we wished among sufferers from the war'. Blankets? I had to find out more about this.

In the Annual for 1941-42 the Royal Club Secretary, Andrew Hamilton, is recorded as saying:

"Presentation of Blankets from Canadian Branch.

It is with great pleasure that I inform you of a most generous gift from our old friends, the members of the Canadian Branch of the Royal Club. During the winter a letter was received by the Secretary of the Royal Club from Mr H R Cockfield of Montreal, a Vice-President of the Royal Club and a member of the Special Committee appointed by the Canadian Branch to raise a fund with which to purchase equipment or materials which could be used to help to alleviate the distress of citizens suffering from the results of air raids. Mr Cockfield stated that his Branch desired that the President of the Royal Club should have the disposal of these gifts.

The President, Sir Donald Cameron of Lochiel, KT, approved of Lord Kinnaird, President of the Scottish Branch of the Red Cross Society, being consulted as to the form the gift should take, and he suggested blankets. With that suggestion the President, President-Elect and the Vice-Presidents in this country agreed.

In the course of a few months 1700 blankets of the finest quality have been received from the Canadian Branch, the whole consignment having safely reached Scotland.

The blankets were on 29th April last formally presented to the Scottish Branch of the Red Cross Society by the Earl of Stair, KT, President-Elect of the Royal Club, and were acknowledged by Lord Kinnaird.

The Canadian Branch has been most gratefully thanked for this generous and patriotic gift, and the Council desire particularly to refer to the great services rendered by Lieut-Colonel Vivian Graham, a former Vice-President of the Royal Club, Chairman of the War Subscription Fund Committee, and by Mr Cockfield, to whom the Royal Club also tender their most grateful thanks."

These blankets had arrived not long after the Clydebank Blitz when in the nights of March 13-14 and 14-15, 1941, several industrial centres along the River Clyde were bombed by the Luftwaffe. In proportion to its population, Clydebank suffered the worst. According to an official count in 1942 (see here), the Clydebank raids killed 528 people and seriously injured 617, compared to totals of 1,200 people, and 1,100 in the whole of Clydeside. And of course many were left homeless. The Canadian blankets would certainly have been put to good use by the Scottish Branch of the Red Cross. Although the raids of March 1941 are the best remembered, other places in Scotland suffered too, all recorded in Les Taylor's recent book Luftwaffe over Scotland, see here.

The Annuals in 1942-43, 1943-44, and 1944-45, recorded that the Canadian Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club sent, in total, 6420 blankets, as well as 3000 flannelette sheets. Aside from the cost, there had been problems when wool had become scarce, and finding space on ships crossing the Atlantic was not always easy. The blankets that were sent were of top quality from Ayers Mills of Lachute, Quebec, see here, and from the Kenwood Mills of Arnprior, Ontario, see here.

Most of the blankets sent from Canada were not immediately put to use in Scotland. It is a reflection of the uncertainty of the war years that they were kept in store by the Scottish Branch of the Red Cross Society. At the end of the war, the Society's President, Lord Kinnaird, reported in the 1945-46 Annual, "May I just say how grateful we are to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club for the blankets? We kept some in reserve to the end of the war in case of bombing accidents, and now some have gone up to Norway. 4000 of those you have given have been despatched to Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France to help these countries."

The Annual Report of the Executive Committee of the Canadian Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club for the season 1945-46 records the following, "During the year we have received many letters of appreciation from people in Great Britain, Holland and France, for the gifts of blankets they have received from us. Some of these letters are very touching and make us feel that what we have done has been a great comfort to the war sufferers."

I wonder if any of these blankets have survived. I suspect this is unlikely. Were they colourful? Or just functional?

It was not only blankets that came across from Canada. There were many donations of cash from individuals and clubs. I noticed something else. In 1943, the Royal Club Secretary Andrew Hamilton, after recording the gift of blankets and sheets, noted, "In addition, the Ladies' Curling Association of the Canadian Branch are busy packing half a ton of hard boiled, clear candies in 1/2 lb cellophane bags. These have been shipped to the Women's Voluntary Service for distribution among the children of Britain. The Royal Club acknowledge with high appreciation this kindly action."

Sweets were a special delicacy during the war years, and for several years thereafter. General rationing started on January 8, 1940, just a few months after war broke out. Sweet and chocolate rationing started on July 26, 1942, only finishing in February 1953.  WW2 was over when I was born, but, as a wee boy in the 1950s, I can remember rationing, and receiving parcels from family in North America. Eating sweets was a rare occurrence, but very much enjoyed when the opportunity arose!

This was brought to mind when I came across something in the 1952-53 Annual. This is from the President's address, "At our last annual meeting a reference was made to a consignment of sweets provided by the Ladies' Curling Association, Canada, with the suggestion that they be distributed amongst the poorer children of Scotland. I am very happy to state that these sweets have now been distributed, and I have been informed by our Secretary here today that he has just received another cheque for the same purpose from the Canadian Ladies' Curling Association. (Hear, Hear and Applause.) The donations are much appreciated by the Royal Club."

Blankets and sweeties - curling connections with Canada that should not be forgotten! It's a small uplifting story of a time which we now remember for the horrors and atrocities of WW2. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Yet More Royal Connections

I have written recently about how the Royal Caledonian Curling Club gained its Royal Patronage here, and about other Royal connections during Victorian times, here.

One of the most surprising locations where curling was played south of the border is Buckingham Palace. Yes, the Historical Curling Places website has tantalising evidence from 1895 that the Prince of Wales played curling on the pond at the palace, see here. This is certainly possible as the winter of 1895 was a severe one. It would be great to find out more.

When Queen Victoria died in 1901, Edward VII succeeded to the throne. As Prince of Wales he had been the Royal Caledonian Curling Club's Patron since 1861, so it was a straightforward matter that he continue to hold that office when he became King.

The Annual for 1901-02 noted that this was the first time 'that the Patron of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club has actually been found seated on the throne, and it has in these unique circumstances seemed appropriate to give a portrait of His Majesty as a frontispiece to the Annual'. That's the image, above.

When Edward died in 1910, George V became King, and he also became the Royal Caledonian Curling Club's Patron.

The Royal Club's Annual each year simply noted that the Patron was 'HM the King', and one has to read further at times of succession to clarify which monarch is being referred to. In 1936, for example, Edward VIII was confirmed as Patron, even though he abdicated before the year ended.

George VI became the Club's next Patron. He died in 1952, and that's when Queen Elizabeth became our Patron.

This is the preface from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1952-53. This Annual contains the following letter to Lord John Hope, Royal Club President, from the Keeper of the Privy Purse, Ulich Alexander.

"Dear Sir,
I am commanded by The Queen to inform you that Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to grant Her Patronage to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.
It will be in order for the words 'Patron—Her Majesty the Queen' to appear in future under the name of your Club on all correspondence.
Yours truly,
Ulich Alexander,
Keeper of the Privy Purse."

At the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Club each year, a short message from the Queen is usually read out, and all the members present stand for this.

In 1964, something rather unusual happened, in that HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, became President of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. Above is part of a page from the Royal Club Annual for 1964-65. Her Majesty the Queen was Patron, and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was President!

The Annual for 1963-64 records the background to it all in Major Cameron's speech at the AGM, "Now, we come to the election of the President-Elect. When Gilbert (McClung) and I were discussing this some time ago we felt that it would be your unanimous wish that we should ask His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, if he would consider becoming our President. I wrote him a personal letter and he replied that he would be very pleased to become President in the year following my presidency. The Duke of Edinburgh, as you all know, is a great sportsman himself. He takes great interest in anything to do with sport. He is, as you know, President of the National Playing Fields Association. He has taken a great deal of interest in the Olympic Games and the Empire Games, and I do not think there is any shadow of doubt that he will show the same enthusiasm for curling as he has shown in all the other forms of sport that he is interested in. I hope we may see him partaking in the Grand Match. I gather that he is an Honorary Member of a Curling Club in Canada. As yet, his name does not appear in the Annual, and I hope that any club who considers that they have the highest priority for his membership will rake him in and get his 4/-! For myself, I am extremely honoured that Prince Philip should follow me as President and I have great pleasure in nominating him as President-Elect. (Loud Applause.)"

Falkirk Ice Rink was the venue for the Annual Meeting of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club on July 22, 1964. The Duke of Edinburgh piloted his own helicopter to the meeting, and was met by Major Allan Cameron, the outgoing President.

Major Allan Cameron with Prince Philip.

Some 1600 curlers, and members of the press, awaited Prince Philip inside the Falkirk Ice Rink.

And if you look very closely, amongst those on the main floor are four teenagers wearing dark coloured blazers.

Yes, that's Bill Horton, David Horton, Robert Cowan and Martin Bryden in the middle of this pic. That season we had won the TB Murray Trophy, for young curlers of 25 years and under. Although the trophy had already been presented to us by Chuck Hay at Perth a couple of months earlier, we were invited to Falkirk to receive the trophy again from the hands of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Here's Bill Horton (skip) on the platform with Prince Philip. His brother David is behind, and Martin and I are awaiting our turn out of sight! (Actually, the large TB Murray Trophy is obscured too, by the Grand Match Trophy, but it is there!)

It was the proudest day of my life, at just sixteen years old!

The Duke of Edinburgh's year as President was a real public relations coup for the Royal Club. As far as I know he never took to the ice, although he did say in his speech, "I don't see why there shouldn't be non-playing Presidents - and I suppose I could always do something about the non-playing part!"

At the lunch after the meeting, attended by the Council, Past-Presidents, and overseas personalities, Major Allan Cameron 'presented the Duke of Edinburgh with a beautiful pair of Kay's red hone stones, suitably inscribed'. I wonder where these are now?

Queen Elizabeth has twice been associated with Aberdeen's curling rinks.

On October 18, 1983, this is HM Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Dr Norman Cooper, Chairman of the Board, at the official opening of the new Aberdeen rink, at Stoneywood Road, Dyce. She is about to speak to Anne Parker, North East Province President, with members of Grampian Ladies CC behind.

Her Majesty seems to be enjoying a joke with Norman Cooper and Philip Dawson, a Past-President of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

Jane Gray, a local young curler, presented Her Majesty with a glass curling stone.

Her Majesty in conversation with Royal Club Past-President Alan Johnston.

Springing forward twenty-two years to 2005, Her Majesty was again back in Aberdeen, on October 4, visiting the new Curl Aberdeen!

Here she is, again talking to Alan Johnston. She presented him with a certificate as an Honorary Member of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

Escorted by George Esson, Curl Aberdeen's first chairman, Her Majesty met Carolyn Morris and her team, then the World Senior Champions.

With rink manager Tom Brewster, Her Majesty received an explanation about pebbling from George! Graham Smith is doing the work.

Finally, here's another member of the Royal Family, at the Braehead Rink in 2005.

Angie Malone presents Anne, Princess Royal, with a posy of flowers when she visited the World Wheelchair Curling Championship at Braehead in January 2005. Kirsty Letton, the event chairman, is on the right.

Have I missed any other Royal connections?

The image of Edward VII is from the 1901-02 Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. The photo of Princess Anne, and of the Queen at Curl Aberdeen are © Bob Cowan. Those from the opening of the Aberdeen Rink in Dyce were taken by Studio Morgan of Aberdeen for Robin Welsh. Those of the Duke of Edinburgh at Falkirk are by various news photographers, for Robin Welsh, Editor of the Scottish Curler, now in my archive.