Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The 'fung in the mouth' and other stories

Curling is generally associated with good behaviour, on and off the ice. There are few incidences recorded when this was not the case. John Orr, playing for Lochwinnoch in the year 1798, is an early example of a bad loser!

In that year, two rinks travelled from Dalry to play against two from Lochwinnoch. The winner would be the first side to reach 51 shots scored. It was the tightest of matches, the score across the two rinks was 50-50. Dalry was the first to make the extra shot needed for the win.

Such matches attracted a considerable number of spectators. One of these, described in John Cairnie's 1833 book 'Essay in Curling, and Artificial Pond Making' as 'a son of old Gomery Skeoch', had travelled from nearby Kilbirnie to watch the match. When the Dalry curlers were declared the victors by the one shot, 'he took off his bonnet and huzzaed in favour of Dalry'.

At that, John Orr came up to him and gave him a 'fung in the mouth', which knocked him down. The Dictionary of the Scots Language describes a 'fung' as 'a blow from the hand or the foot' (see here), as we can tell from the context!

Cairnie describes what happened next. Skeoch got up much surprised, saying, "What's that for?" Orr said, "Just hurra again, an' if tu dis, I'll let thee ken what it's for, if I sud hunt thee to Kilbirnie!"

I wonder if there are any present day examples of curlers at major championships becoming violent with the fans in the stands?

Writing in 1911 about the history of the Morton Curling Club, Dr RB Thomson of Thornhill records that the parish bonspiels between Morton and Sanquhar were 'in the olden days' noted for the extreme rivalry between the parishes. Thomson writes, "It is recorded on one occasion, when Morton was successful at Sanquhar, the carriage windows of the Thornhill conveyances were smashed in, and the curlers just managed to get out of the town without serious injury."

Who would have believed it!

The Sanquhar home support made its presence felt during games. Thomson writes, "The old wives who used to attend the matches threw snowballs in front of the Morton stones." Not surprisingly, one of the Morton players was somewhat annoyed with this, and approached the women. But perhaps he did not chose his words very carefully when he said to them that 'they might be better employed at home darning socks'. Apparently this Morton player 'received a rather rough handling'!

Reading through old curling club minute books it seems that occasionally an individual club member could cause trouble. The records of the Coupar Angus and Kettins Curling Club (or the 'Society of Curlers in the United Parishes of Coupar and Kettins' when it was formed in 1749) had problems with one of their members, as described in a minute dated December 30, 1783. It was one of the rules of the club that swearing was not countenanced on the ice. Some of the members reported that John Crockatt, a new member of the club, had been guilty of swearing several times. He had also apparently 'lost one sixpence at play' (whatever this means, presumably a wager). He was asked several times to appear before the Society to pay the fine for his misdemeanours, and when he failed to do so, four members of the club were sent to his house. He pointed a gun at them and threatened to shoot the first person that attempted to lay hands on him. He then struck one of the party, Charles Ducatt, on the chest!

It is not surprising to read that Crockatt was dismissed from the club and the other members were debarred from curling on the ice with him 'until he shall in a full meeting hereafter acknowledge his faults and make such compensation to the Society as they shall think the nature of the crimes above requires'.

Two years later Crockatt must have provided satisfaction, as he was readmitted to the Society. However, he was immediately fined two shillings for not having his curling stones ready on the ice, as required to do so by one of the other Society regulations.

No-one ever swears on the ice these days, do they!

John Crockatt's story is told in an article in the September 1963 Scottish Curler, and the details confirmed in a copy of the Coupar Angus and Kettins CC minute book, in David Smith's research collection of papers now in the care of the Scottish Curling Trust. The RB Thomson's 'History of the Morton Curling Club' appeared in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard in 1911. 

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