Thursday, July 04, 2019

The 1985 Air Canada Silver Broom in the Kelvin Hall

Glasgow's Kelvin Hall has been undergoing renovation in recent years. Part of the building now houses some of Glasgow Museums' extensive collections; the University of Glasgow's Hunterian Museum has space in the building; the Glasgow Club provides many different sporting activities; and the National Library of Scotland has its digital resources with viewing facilities, and I have visited often. All the above occupies just a small part of the building. Read about its history here.

Last month, like many, I wanted to see Trix. I headed for the Kelvin Hall to see the 66-million-year-old skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Glasgow being the only UK stop on a European Tour. The experience was both fascinating and enjoyable. The exhibition was staged in the large part of the Kelvin Hall still under renovation, and not usually accessible to the public.

It took me back ..... to 1985, when the Air Canada Silver Broom World Curling Championship was staged in that very space. The Kelvin Hall was not an ice arena, and an ice pad was built specifically for the event, the first time that had ever been done for an international curling competition. This is not uncommon now of course, but 1985 showed just what could be accomplished even if a town or city did not have a dedicated ice arena.

This post is based on my memories of the time leading up to the championship.

It took an innovative mind to even have the idea of staging the World Curling Championship in the building. The owner of that mind was Richard Harding. He had competed in the Silver Broom in 1977, and was, in 1982, editor of his own curling magazine. Many years ago I wrote, "It wasn't a new idea to use a conference or exhibition centre as a venue for a Silver Broom. Edinburgh curlers had discussed that before, but the suggestion had been dismissed as too costly, and impractical. What Harding did - and to those who know him it is typical of him - was to keep after what he thought was a good idea, and not be put off by the pessimists. Richard Harding was the spark that kindled the enthusiasm for the Glasgow Silver Broom."

Richard approached Bob Dalgleish, of the Glasgow Sports Promotion Council, and the plan to bring the World Curling Championship back to Scotland was set in motion. The Championship had last been in Scotland in 1975, at the Central Scotland Ice Rink in Perth. It had grown since then, and involved ten nations. It was a men only competition, the women having gained their own world championship in 1979. In 1980 the Silver Broom had been held in Moncton, New Brunswick, and in 1981, in London, Ontario. In 1982, the event had taken place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Richard involved Robin Brechin, a successful Glasgow businessman, and several other curling friends to form a 'bid committee', and a proposal to hold the 1985 Silver Broom in Glasgow was duly submitted. This was rather more than a formality, as several other venues wanted to host the Championship, and Glasgow had to prove it was best placed to do so.

This is the cover of the May/June 1983 issue of Curling, which pictures the members of the 'site selection committee' for the 1985 Silver Broom. L-R: Chick Windsor (whose company organised the organised North American travel packages), Clif Thompson (International Curling Federation President), Pierre Jerome (Air Canada), Sam McColm (Royal Caledonian Curling Club President), Don Lewis (Icemaker) and Doug Maxwell (Executive Director, Silver Broom). They are standing in front of a Glasgow Corporation bus which had been specially decorated for the occasion. The group were welcomed at Glasgow Airport from a British Midland flight from London, on which the captain had identified them and welcomed them to Scotland as they flew over the border. In their bus, they then visited Glasgow hotels, the City Chambers, and the Kelvin Hall, where the annual circus and carnival was being set up. It is recorded that Air Canada's Pierre Jerome fed the elephants, and that became part of Silver Broom folklore.

The effort and planning that had gone into Glasgow's Silver Broom bid was examined in detail. Don Lewis, who would be in charge of making the ice for the event, was convinced that a temporary ice rink was a realistic proposal.

Glasgow was awarded the Air Canada Silver Broom in April 1983, at the opening of the Championship in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Twenty committees were established and this photo shows the chairs and the executive in 1984, on their way to experience the Silver Broom in Duluth, and observe at first hand all that was involved in hosting the event. The jackets were made of the Glasgow tartan.

On March 18, 1985, the venue became available for the construction of the rink, and in just eight days and nights the ice pad was built, and seating installed. Here is a photo of the ice pad build underway.

Glasgow became the centre of the curling world during March 25 - 31, 1985. This is a photo of the opening ceremony in the Kelvin Hall.

This video of part of the opening ceremony has been rescued from a VHS tape, from a Scottish Television broadcast of the event. To view in Youtube link here. It shows the entry of the teams, each accompanied by young curlers from around the country, carrying the national flags. It's not the greatest quality, but can you identify any of the flag bearers? I can see Peter Smith, from Perth, and George McConnell, from Greenacres. Can anyone identify others? And one can see that the stands were packed with spectators.

ADDED LATER. Thanks to John Brown who has commented,  "The flag bearer for the England team, dressed up as a Pearly King, was Alastair Burns who later skipped the England team in the World Championships in 1992, 1995 and 1996."

The cover of the event programme. More about the 1985 Silver Broom itself in future posts.

Thanks to Kirsty Letton for the photo of the committee chairmen, in their tartan uniforms. The photo of the rink under construction is courtesy of Star Refrigeration. Other images are my own or from my archive.

1 comment:

John Brown said...


The flag bearer for the England team, dressed up as a Pearly King, was Alastair Burns who later skipped the England team in the World Championships in 1992, 1995 and 1996.