Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Was Prince Albert a Curler?

It is well known that the Grand Caledonian Curling Club in 1842 sought royal patronage from HRH Prince Albert and that the prince graciously condescended to bestow that honour upon the young club. The Annual for 1843 records the gift to the prince of a 'splendid pair of Curling Stones, made of the finest Ailsa-Craig granite, most beautifully finished and ornamented, the handles being formed of silver, and bearing an appropriate inscription'.

The presentation was made by the Earl of Mansfield, then president of the Grand Club, at his home of Scone Palace, 'and with a view to illustrate the explanations that were given to Her Majesty by Lord Mansfield, the polished oaken floor of the room was summarily converted into a ‘rink’, and the stones were sent ‘roaring’ along its smooth and even surface.' So impressed was the Queen that she next year granted the club the privilege and honour of using the term 'Royal' in its title.

I long had thought that that was likely to have been the only use ever made of these special stones. My efforts to trace the stones were unsuccessful until early in 2003 when, as I described in an article in October 2003 in the Scottish Curler, I discovered that the stones were in Frogmore House in Windsor Park. Why they were there no one was able to tell me.

My continuing researches recently unearthed a couple of articles which may give a clue. It now seems possible that Prince Albert actually used his presentation stones at Frogmore.

I found in the newspaper John Bull, of January 2, 1847, this exciting piece:

“At the conclusion of the presentation of Her Majesty’s new year’s gifts in the New Riding School, at the Royal Mews, the Queen, His Royal Highness Prince Albert, and a party of upwards of twenty, proceeded across the Home-park to Frogmore, and paid a visit to her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent. The Prince Consort and the gentlemen of the Royal Household amused themselves for an hour and a half at the Scotch game of curling upon the lake, the ice being in a most excellent state for the enjoyment of the sport. The Royal party afterwards retired to the mansion, and partook of refreshment with the Duchess of Kent, and returned to the Castle at two o’clock.”

The next account appeared in the Glasgow Herald of January 4, the same year:

“The Court still remains at Windsor, and the Queen is engaged in the agreeable occupation of dispensing the hospitalities of the season… Directly after breakfast on Thursday morning, her Majesty, accompanied by the Duchess of Sutherland, and attended by all the ladies of her court, rode to Frogmore in the pony phaetons, and promenaded for several hours in the beautiful grounds surrounding that mansion; whilst His Royal Highness the Prince Consort, and all the gentlemen in his suite, amused themselves by skating and playing at ‘curling’ (as our Scottish neighbours call this fine game) on the ice of the lake…”

Whether the two accounts are speaking of the same game or two separate ones is not clear.

And Prince Albert seems to have passed on his enthusiasm to his second son Prince Alfred, for we see in The Scotsman of 29 February 1864:

“…On Saturday the party [H R H Prince Alfred, Earl of Home, Earl of Dunmore, Lord Henry Scott, MP., Lord Schomberg Ker, Hon. F. Charteris, Sir John Marjoribanks, Colonel Cathcart, &c.] at present sojourning at The Hirsel [the home of the Earl of Home near Coldstream] betook themselves to the loch, where two or three hours were spent in curling and skating…”

David B Smith.

Top: A picture of one of the single-soled, common Ailsa stones presented by the Grand Caledonian Curling Club to HRH Prince Albert.

Part of the inscription on the silver handle. The whole inscription is: “Presented to His Royal Highness Prince Albert. By the Grand Caledonian Curling Club on the occasion of His Royal Highness’ First Visit to Scotland. Edinburgh, 1st. Septr.. 1842.”

The maker’s hallmark is that of the firm of Robb and Whittet.

The photographs of the Prince’s stones are by courtesy of The Royal Collection, copyright 2003, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The 1962 Scotch Cup

The Scotch Cup international series of matches in 1962 involved four countries. The first and second series of games in 1959 and 1960 had matched Canada and Scotland against each other. The USA became involved in 1961, and in 1962 a Swedish team took part for the first time. The competitors were:

Bobby Young
Sandy Anderson
John Pearson
Willie Young (Skip)

Wes Richardson
Garnet (Sam) Richardson
Arnold Richardson
Ernie Richardson (Skip)

Nick Jerrule
Terry Kleffman
Fran Kleffman (Skip)
Dick Brown (Fourth)

Arne Stern
Per Ivar Rydgren
Knut Bartells
Rolf Arfwidsson (Skip)

The four teams played a double round robin, the first games at the Falkirk Rink and the second round at the Haymarket Rink, Edinburgh.

The Canadians were undefeated in six games, the USA lost twice to Canada, the Scots lost all their games against Canada and the USA, and the Swedes did not win a game in their first appearance in the Scotch Cup.

The Scotch Whisky Association produced a promotional 16mm cine film after the event. Leslie Ingram-Brown recently had this original film converted to DVD, and he very kindly gave me a copy for my archive. It runs beautifully on the big screen television. I already had a VHS tape, but this is so much better quality. I've edited the DVD content down to two YouTube clips, each less than ten minutes, concentrating on the curling action and discarding the social events and the trip to the Glenkinchie Distillery. It's in black and white of course, and a bit grainy. Commentary is from Doug Maxwell who was to become the executive director of the Air Canada Silver Broom World Curling Championship in 1968.

The first clip, of the Falkirk games, is here. And I bet you smile when the pipers lead the players on to the ice!

The second clip, of the Haymarket games, is here.

It is fascinating to watch our sport fifty years ago. Twelve end games! So many people smoking, even when playing and when sweeping! The old Scottish hack, and the crampit used just by Willie Young. It was the Richardsons who inspired me when I began to play in the early 60s, and I just love watching them even now, particularly with their corn brooms.

Have a look out for faces you might recognise in the crowd!

[IMPORTANT: These clips are on YouTube as 'Unlisted', ie, only those who know the links can view them. They are not searchable. If you wish to share these clips with others that might be interested, please link to this page which you are reading now (the address is:
rather than directly to the YouTube clips themselves. I think it important that anyone watching the clips knows where they came from, that they have been edited, and can read what is written above. Thanks. Bob Cowan]

The top image is of the Falkirk Rink, long since closed, and is a frame from the DVD.