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.

1907

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.

1912

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.

1936

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.

1938

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.

1939

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. 

1964

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.

1966

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.

1967

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.

1968

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.

1970

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

1973

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.

1976

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.

1977

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.

1979

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.

1980

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).

1982

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.

1983

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.

1984

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?

1985

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.

1986

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.

1987

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?)

1988

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.

1989

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'.

1990

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)

1992

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.

1993

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.

1997

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

1999

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. 

2000

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.

2005

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.

2009

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.

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