Sunday, February 07, 2021

Remembering 1979

Wednesday, February 7, 1979, was a memorable day. I'm in this photo, somewhere near the top centre! The pic is credited to Ron Burgess of the Scottish Daily Express, and was used for the Scottish Curler Christmas Card later that year. This is from that card. The image shows the Grand Match in progress on the Lake of Menteith, taken from a small plane.

Before digital cameras and smart phones, not everyone had a camera with them. I had a small Olympus camera, and must have asked someone to take this for me. It shows members of Carmunnock and Rutherglen CC on the ice. Back L-R, Michael Burton (our club Secretary), Russell Chambers. Front, John Hibberd, me, Norman Crosthwaite, Willie Jamieson, Robin Shand and Harry Levick.
And yes, that's the Mary Maxim curling sweater that my mother knitted for me when I began my curling career at school in the early sixties. (More here)

It's forty-two years ago, and some things about the day I remember well. But details ... ? It has been interesting searching my memory banks!


Memories can certainly be influenced by photographs, and moving images. A 35mm film of the event came out a couple of years later in 1981, directed by Jon Schorstein and produced by The Scottish Film Production Trust. This runs for fifteen minutes, and can be watched online on the National Library of Scotland's Moving Image Archive website here.

The film has some great images of the day, but now I find it a bit patronising.

In sorting through my own memories, I realised I had forgotten who we had played, and what the scores had been. Robin Shand currently has the Carmunnock and Rutherglen minute books, and he was able to tell me what Michael Burton had written therein. "The Club played two teams against Monifieth 1 and 2 and were able to record resounding wins in both games

Team 1 G Youngson [Skip] J Hibberd R Chambers R A Cowan 

Team 2 N Crosthwaite [Skip] H Levick [Sub] R Kelly R Shand [W Jamieson]

Willie Jamieson travelled down from Aberdeen to play but suffered rather from an overindulgence in transit. The resulting weakness of the knees allowed Harry Levick, a long standing friend of the Club, to play as sub.

Team 1 secured a 20-6 victory and a result of 16-2 was recorded for Team 2 in their favour."

I was then rather surprised to find that the results published in the 1979 Annual differed, recording that Carmunnock and Rutherglen 2 had been beaten by Monifieth 2!

The club minute book shows that our Secretary wrote to Robin Welsh, the RCCC Secretary, pointing out the error. Not that it made any difference to the overall scoresheet. North beat South by 3,937 shots to 3,144. If we allow for the error in recording our club's game, the winning margin would be just a few shots less. 

David Hood's Edzell CC rink won the beautiful challenge trophy. 

Nowhere in my memory is what I had to eat on the day. I cannot recall any food stalls, so I assume I had taken sandwiches with me. 

Unlike the members of the 69 CC above, our club's 'dining arrangements' were not organised. The photo above (uncredited) shows L-R: Hazel Kerr (skip), Sheila Harper, Noreen Fleming, Kirsty Letton. I was so impressed with this photo that I asked Kirsty what she remembered. "We all brought some food and drink and my offering was a great success - still remember that - it was a cold pie - pork mince, apple and chutney wrapped in pastry and sliced - delicious cold." (Yes please!)

Kirsty also had a memory of her team's stones. She says "Only Sheila’s stones were good enough to be delivered anything like the full length. Our opposition (Tullibody 2) were kind enough to move the crampit until we were able to reach the head but we still played Sheila’s stones and then swopped them with others while the next player played Sheila’s again!"

The Scottish Curler held a competition for the best photo from the day. The winner was this pic taken by Lynn Fraser, and shows her dad, Jim, roaring encouragement to his sweepers. Lynn's prize was a half gallon of Haig's whisky! There were many other entries, but (sadly) all were returned to the photographers.

There are many short anecdotes of the 1979 Grand Match that have been passed around over the years, some publishable, others not! Robin Shand has reminded me that on conclusion of our games against Monifieth, we had a 'long throwing' competition to see how far a stone could be made to travel over the Lake of Mentieth ice. The competition was won by the Monifieth curlers with an approximate distance of 150 yards.

Other than the official accounts of the day, to be found in the 1979-80 Annual, and in the pages of the Scottish Curler magazine, there are few longer published acounts. Theresa McDougall's story of the match is one, and is here. She rightly pays credit to the work of James Hamilton and his team for the 'behind-the-scenes' work in preparing for the day, especially the two days spent marking out the ice.

Recently, I came accross an interesting account of the day in this wonderful book by John Barrington, documenting a year in his life as a working shepherd at Glengyle. It was published by Pan Books, in 1986. After feeding his stock, and seeing the children off to school, he set out for the Lake of Menteith in his Landrover, with borrowed curling stones in the back. He 'answered a call' over the public address system for a spare player. "I explain to the skip that I have never actually curled before, but Allan Lauder is prepared to give me a chance anyway, and I am all set to take part in the bonspiel."

Barrington's account is a delight to read. In contrast to those of the 69CC his borrowed stones ran well. Too well, as he recalls, "I cannot pretend to be in control of these burnished bits of heavy granite. The line and direction are no trouble, but finding the range is quite another thing. No matter how careful I am with my swing, my stone gathers speed along the ice. Outpacing the valiant sweepers, it passes through the head at the far end of the rink, before disappearing into the distance."

He recalls, "The booming, moving ice makes the nervous jump. The old hands at this outdoor game and those experienced in the ways of ice, only worry if the groaning and cracking stops."

Suitably fortified after a five end break, "The ice is very keen now, and the film of melt water on the surface speeds up every shot. My stones are stronger than ever, much to my frustration and my skip's amusement. At long last, I manage to get a stone to stop right in the head. It is a pity that this is the far away head of the rink behind ours."

"Eventually, after a dogged struggle, we lose. But it has been a great experience and lots of fun."

Barrington records that the school authorities 'relented' and all the local primary schools were allowed to come to the Lake for the afternoon!

I wonder if there are other published personal accounts of the day still to be found. Do let me know of any.

Images are as credited in the text. Many thanks to Robin Shand and Kirsty Letton for help with this article.

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