Monday, February 17, 2020

Ladies' Cup, Villars, 1920-21

The resort of Villars-sur-Ollon (commonly just called Villars) lies in the south west of Switzerland. It first became known as a winter holiday resort in 1905, and became popular with British tourists in the years before WW1. It was well established as a curling centre when the Villars Curling Club was first listed in the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1910-11. The resort held an international bonspiel in 1910, and this was won by a rink from the Manchester Caledonian Club.

When I wrote about 'open curling' in Switzerland, with women playing alongside the men (see here), I included this image, showing mixed play on two rinks at Villars. The postcard was mailed on November 21, 1913, and the action probably dates from the previous winter.

World War 1 intervened, and winter holidays in Switzerland put on hold.

After the war, 'normal service' was becoming established in the 1920s, the article above in the Pall Mall Gazette, from November 12, 1920, extolling the 'Lure of Swiss Winter Resorts'.

Villars certainly wished to be among the resorts that would again appeal to wealthy British tourists. This advert began to appear in a variety of publications.

Newspaper adverts, and advertorials, are one thing, but it is difficult to imagine exactly what a holiday to an alpine resort might have been like back then. The fortunate acquisition of an album of photographs has given me some insight. The album is simply entitled Villars-sur-Ollon, 1920-21. It contains 115 photographs, of family scenes, and of skating, skiing, and a good number of curling. Unfortunately few of them are captioned. There is no indication of whose album it was.

There are a couple of wide views. This one shows a woman curler in the hack on the nearer rink, and is identified as Miss Gordon Paterson.

Here's another. There's a woman on the ice, far left, seemingly playing with the men.

The male curler in the rear of this shot does look to be involved in the game! Note too the two women on the right. They are on skates.

This is a 'Miss Lubev'. That's the Villars Palace hotel in the background.
This is a group shot of the curlers at Villars. Some can be identified, and the names compared with the membership of the Villars Curling Club in 1920.

This is the Villars CC's membership list from the 1920-21 Annual. A number of women, including Miss Gordon Paterson (mentioned above), are included amongst the club's regular members.

If you look closely again at the group photo, you can see that one of the women is holding a trophy.

There is a series of photos from a match which seems to involve two women's teams. It appears to have some significance, given the skaters lined up to watch.

 Ice being given, with opposition skip and third behind.

More discussion.

Sweepers in action.

Involved in the play.

This seems to be the presentation at the end of the game, with the winners on the left, and the runners-up on the right.

The competition is identified only as the 'Ladies Cup'. I do not believe that this has been discussed before. The winning rink: (L-R) Miss E Anderson, Miss M N Osborne (skip) with the trophy, Miss Gordon Paterson and Miss Walter. All four appear on the Villars membership lists from 1920-21, or from 1921-22. Further research is needed to find out more about these four pioneering women curlers. So far I've only found a little about the skip.

This is Miss M N Osborne about to play from the crampit, with a skater, a 'Mrs Bower', watching behind. When a second curling club was established at Villars in 1921 (the Villars Chalateer CC), Miss M N Osborne is listed as the Secretary and Treasurer, with her address as Thorton Hall, by Glasgow. Thorton Hall was the home of Andrew Henderson Bishop, who was the President of Villars CC in 1920, and a representative member of the Chalateer CC.

When A Noel Mobbs and F McDermott wrote their book Curling in Switzerland, published by Arrowsmith in 1929, they listed 37 resorts in that country which had facilities for curling. One of these was Villars, which had two clubs. The Villars Curling Club had an average of 33 members, including ten ladies. The Villars Chalateer Club had an average of 13 members, including two ladies. The authors also write, "At any resort where there is curling a lady will usually find little difficulty in getting some instruction in the game, even though the remainder of the players are all men. Some ladies, however, may prefer to go to a resort where they will be fairly certain to find other members of their sex on the rink. Centres which are likely to fulfil this requirement are St Moritz, Davos, Murren, Grindelwald, VILLARS, Celerina, Maloja, and Wengen.

Much remains to be uncovered about those who holidayed, and curled, at Swiss resorts in the early twentieth century. 

The advert for the Villars-sur-Ollon resort is from the November 15, 1924, Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive. The other images are from the author's archive, or as indicated.


Colin Galbraith said...

Excellent Post Bob thanks from Jeanette and Colin Snr

Alice said...

Super research! Thanks.