Friday, March 29, 2013

A Curler's Family Tree

There cannot be many curlers who can point to an old photo from a hundred years ago and say, "That's my great, great grandfather!" Robin Brydone, a young curler from Perth, can do so. You see, the curlers in the photo above, which was taken around 1901, are named on the back as (L-R) J Davidson, G Jenner, J Liney, T McLauchlan and J Gordon. The middle figure is Joe Liney who is Robin's great, great grandfather. The building in the background is Fonab Castle, near Pitlochry.

Note that the curlers all have long handled brooms. Two crampits are side by side on the ice for both right and left-handed play. And on the left is a tee-marker, or 'dolly' (see here).

Lieutenant Colonel George Glas Sandeman bought the Port-na-Craig Estate in 1890, and set out to have a new home built there. Fonab Castle was completed in 1892. He was of the Sandeman family, the firm of George G Sandeman Sons and Company Limited, wine shippers and cotton merchants, having been established in London in 1790 by George Sandeman (1765-1841). From the beginning the founder specialised in wines from the Iberian Peninsula, notably port and sherry. Later the business expanded to include insurance and the export of British linen and cotton goods to the West Indies, Central America and Mexico, see here. It was a profitable business.

The Sandeman family had a property at Roche Court, Wiltshire. George Jenner was head gardener in the employ of the Sandeman family there. Joe Liney also worked on the estate. Joe married George's daughter Alice in 1890 in Wiltshire. Family knowledge says both George and Joe were given the opportunity to move the five hundred miles north to Scotland and work on the new estate. A story has been passed down that George Glas Sandeman particularly wanted Joe to move as he had been teaching one of his sons to bowl at cricket! Joe would have been in his late 20s when he moved to Pitlochry with his wife and family around 1893 or 94.

It is interesting that a curling pond was constructed in the grounds of the new house. The Brydone family history records the story that the trees beside the pond were planted by Joe and his father-in-law, see the photo above. George is also in this photograph. He's second from the left.

Most of the places where curling is known to have taken place can be found in the Historical Curling Places website. Tracing the history of these places can be done by looking consecutively at old maps, using all those that the National Library of Scotland has made available online, and coming forward in time. This is a great resource for the curling researcher in Scotland! The NLS maps website is here. As an example of what can be found, the screen above is of Fonab, with the curling pond, as shown on the OS 25 inch to the mile map from 1900.

This is another photograph from the Brydone family archive. It is not dated, but is probably post-WW1. It is likely to be of the Fonab pond, and, if so, the trees have grown! The curlers are now using brushes, rather than brooms. Again two crampits are in use, as well as the tee-marker. The curler on the left is Joe Liney. The others are not identified.

Joe Liney is on the hack in this photo. The four watching are not identified. Again, note the two crampits and the tee-marker. None of those in the photo is carrying a brush. It's almost as if Joe is demonstrating how a stone should be delivered. However, the presence of the stone in the bottom left corner of the photo suggests that the grouping has been set up for the benefit of the photographer!

Captain George A C Sandeman inherited Fonab in 1905, but upon his death in 1915 during WWI, his cousin and uncle by marriage Alastair C Sandeman inherited it. From 1915 to 1918 the house was a British Red Cross auxiliary hospital where 926 patients were cared for.

Colonel and Mrs Kinglake Tower succeeded to the property soon after 1928, and made it their home until 1946 when it was sold to the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, at which time the name reverted to Port-na-Craig House. After being on the 'buildings at risk' register for some years, it has recently been converted into a hotel which opened this year (2013), the Fonab Castle Hotel.

Modern roadworks seem to have obliterated any trace of the pond today.

Joe worked at Fonab Castle all his days and died in Pitlochry in 1943. His wife Alice outlived him and died in Pitlochry in 1956. They did not return to England. They had eleven children. One of them, Rose, who was born just before they moved to Scotland, married Archbald Brydone, who had a son, also Archibald, who fathered Tom Brydone, Robin's dad. Some reading this will know Tom who is often seen in the curling rinks around the country with his camera.

Tom tells me he didn't curl until after meeting his wife-to-be, Lesley, who was already playing the sport at Perth.

This is their son Robin, who's now sixteen, on the ice at the Dewar's Centre, Perth, last season. He has already made his mark as one of the country's top juniors. He is one of the youngest ever to have won the Royal Caledonian Curling Club's Rink Championship (photo here), and has even been on a team that has scored an eight-ender (see here). I am sure we'll be hearing more about Robin in the years ahead. After all, curling has been in his genes for five generations!

This article has been put together by Bob Cowan with considerable help from Tom Brydone. All the photos are © Tom Brydone.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Grand Match Challenge Trophy Gold Badge

This is a general view of the scene at the Grand Match at Carsebreck on December 24, 1935, from the collection of David B Smith.

David writes:

December 24, 1935, saw the last Grand Match ever played on the RCCC pond at Carsebreck. It was also the largest, with three hundred and twenty two rinks aside. The North beat the South by 5102 shots to 4206.

The Annual for 1936-7 reports, “As the skips passed the Secretary's office they passed in their cards, which were taken to Edinburgh for the count in the evening. Soon the players were in the trains and setting out on the homeward journey – as jolly and good-natured a company of sportsmen as one could meet in any country. It made little difference to them that rain was beginning to fall. The frost had held just long enough to provide them with a memorable day's sport – one to be discussed, perhaps, for other five years until a great frost comes again to freeze Carsebreck Loch...”

“There were not a few women curlers. One rink consisted of four sisters – the Misses Carnegie, from Colinsburgh, Fife, skipped by Miss Pat. They are well-known players, and their play is on a standard equal to that of many skilled men... An interested spectator of the bonspiel was Mr. Ernest Brown, M.P. For Leith, and Minister of Labour. It was his first visit to Carsebreck.”

The list of results shows that the Misses Carnegie played as Hercules Ladies, and lost 27-3 to a Craigielands team.

Amongst the Royal Club regulations for the Grand Match was:

“6. The Challenge Trophy shall be awarded to the Club on the winning side having the highest average majority of Shots per Rink. There shall also be awarded to the Rink of the winning Club which has the greatest majority of Shots four Gold Badges to be retained by them...” In order to qualify for the Trophy a club had to put onto the ice at least two rinks.

The Challenge Trophy was commissioned by the Royal Club after the decision was taken at the annual meeting held in 1884 in Southport "to procure a Trophy, so that the energies of 'Keen Curlers' might be roused to friendly rivalry in Auld Scotland's 'Ain Game' for the honour of holding the Prize."

The reason for having the meeting in England was, of course, that Southport had a Glaciarium, on the artificial ice of which the curlers who came to the meeting were able to enjoy several games.

The magnificent, large silver cup was first shown to the members at the next AGM and illustrated as a frontispiece to the Annual for 1885-6. On the base of the trophy are two figures of curlers, one wearing Highland dress symbolising the North of Scotland, and the other the South. A quaint touch is that they are standing on a plate of glass through which some sphagnum moss is showing; the whole gives a nice impression of a sheet of black ice.

The club which had 'the highest average majority of Shots per Rink' in 1935 was Monzievaird and Strowan; their opponents, Duntocher CC, having been vanquished by scores of 46 to 2 and 24 to 11. The rink skipped by Major C.H. Graham Stirling, President of Monzievaird, having won by 44 shots, were entitled to be awarded, and 'to retain', the Gold Badges.

The reason for this posting is that one of these four gold badges was recently offered to and acquired by the RCCC Charitable Trust. It is of the design with which many curlers will be familiar, a crowned shield on the front of which is a representation of the Challenge Trophy. The Royal Club has also used the badge in gold and silver as a prize for at least the International Match and the RCCC Rink Championship.

On the reverse is the following engraving:

Challenge Trophy 1935

Of these players Mrs Boothby was an occasional member of the club.

Not surprisingly, the two rinks who gained the Challenge Trophy had their photograph taken. Very surprisingly, I have discovered a copy of it in my collections and I reproduce it below. 

The two Monzievaird and Strowan rinks who won the Trophy; the badge-winning rink is seated in front. They are Mrs Boothby, W. Hood, D. McLaren, and Major Graham Stirling of Strowan. (From the collection of David B Smith).

Some curlers had travelled far to take their part in 'a whole nation at play'. There were two rinks from Aboyne on Deeside, and their preparation had included the making of a special teemarker. It is made of wood in the shape of a bottle, nicely painted. In addition to the names of one rink there is the legend: CARSEBRECK DEC. 24 1935.

From the collection of David B Smith.

Illustrations are © of the author.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

On the Trail of the Keswick Curlers

A personal tale of 'curling research' by Bob Cowan:

'The Scotch game of curling, for which it would be difficult to find a nobler area, is also pursued with much zest'. This excerpt, from The Times of January 31, 1870, on page 12 in the News in Brief section, is evidence that our sport was played on Derwentwater in the north of England's Lake District. It is a common misapprehension that curling was exclusively a Scottish pastime within the British Isles in the nineteenth century, but this is just not true. More and more evidence is coming to light documenting where curling was played throughout England. The Historical Curling Places website now has a dedicated map for England, with much research to be done. Perhaps you can help with Lindsay Scotland's efforts? This is the story of my own attempts to clarify the location of one spot on the map!

This painting of 'Skaters on Derwentwater' is by local artist Joseph Brown. Note the group on the bottom right of the painting engaged in a curling match (click on the image to see it larger). This oil on canvas measures 7.1 x 11.8 cm and is in the collection of Keswick Museum and Art Gallery. It has been made available online through the BBC's YOUR PAINTINGS project, see here. Keswick's museum is currently closed for refurbishment but I look forward to being able to see the painting close up at some point in the future. It is suggested on the website that it was 'painted at the later end of the nineteenth century, possibly during the Great Freeze of 1895'.

By that time, the curlers of Keswick had formed themselves into a club (in 1874), and the Derwentwater Curling Club was admitted to membership of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1876. (There was no separate English Curling Association back then.) The Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club lists members of the Derwentwater CC from 1876 right up until the mid-1960s.

It can be assumed that for a curling club to have been active over such a long period, its members must have had a place to play. Derwentwater itself, being a large mass of water, would freeze over infrequently. Was there a shallow water pond near Keswick?

My interest in Keswick curlers had been stimulated by the discovery of twelve photographs of curling in the Joseph Hardman archive in the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry in Kendal. You can find these online here. You can read about Hardman here. He photographed Lakeland life from the 1930s through to the 1960s. He died in 1972 and his collection of some 5000 glass negatives was given to the Museum by his widow.

The curling photographs show two games being played on a pond, with caravans in the immediate background, and distinctive mountain slopes as the backdrop. The photos are not dated, and James Arnold, the curator of the collection, notes that, "The glass plates that we hold in the collection do not have any of Hardman's original catalogue information with them so there are no accurate dates for the images." Nor was there any information on exactly where they were taken, other than near Keswick. He suggests that the curling photos date from the 1940s or 1950s. What do you think? Study them here.

I felt that I might be able to identify the spot by visiting Keswick town. But my first visit in January was unsuccessful. It had been a clear and bright day when I left Scotland, but by the time I reached the Lake District National Park it had clouded over. The Information Centre in Keswick was closed for refurbishment, as was the Museum and Art Gallery. I had printed out a low resolution copies of a couple of the Hardman photos and a helpful assistant in a local outdoor pursuits shop identified the mountain in the background as Skiddaw. He suggested that the pond might have been in Crow Park, near a present day caravan site. A further suggestion came from a local photographer's shop that the curling pond might have been in Fitz Park, beside the River Greta. By this time the rain was coming down heavily, and the mountains completely obscured, so it was time to journey home, no nearer to knowing the whereabouts of Keswick's curling pond.

Last month I mounted a second 'expedition', this time better prepared with an OS map, and a large Hardman photo, purchased from the Museum of Lakeland Life. The weather forecast was good for the whole day. And this time I could not have been more successful!

This time the Information Centre in Keswick's historical Moot Hall was open. Two extremely helpful assistants listened patiently to my story and looked at the photograph. After some discussion, one of the women (Bridget) seemed convinced she knew where the pond was, and pointed it out on the large map on the Centre's wall. Burnside, just north of the town, had at one time been a caravan site, and was nearer Skiddaw than the two previous suggestions. This was now the favoured location!

The suggestion was made that I look in at the office of the local newspaper, the Keswick Reminder. I decided to do this before heading for Burnside. The counter assistant said she would ask the Editor, and a few minutes later Jane Grave appeared ...... carrying a curling stone! I was (almost) rendered speechless! The last thing I expected to find on my Keswick adventure was a curling stone whose provenance was known.

Here's Jane, holding my Hardman photo, and a photo of her maternal grandfather, Percy Watson McKane. Jane remembered him curling at Burnside, and indeed he is listed in the RCCC Annuals as a member of Derwentwater CC in the 1940s and 1950s. The club had fifty-five members in 1948. George McKane, Jane's great grandfather, had founded the Keswick Reminder in 1915 and Jane confirms he was also a curler. The stone is one of a pair which belonged to him.

Enthused by this discovery I made my way to Burnside which lies just off the A591. The geography of the area is complicated somewhat by the (new) A66 which was not built until the 1970s. However, I was able to match the slopes of Skiddaw with the background in some of the Hardman photos. Burnside is in the shadow in the dip in the foreground of this pic.

The caravan park is now a collection of timber lodges.

A marshy low lying area of a field to the south of the lodges, and flanked by a stream, is all that remains of the curling pond today.

But that's not the end of the story.

I subsequently found this photo online (here) of curling at Burnside at an earlier date than the Hardman photographs. Two, possibly three, games are taking place. It was posted by davidhume100 in his Flickr Photostream of family photographs. The caption states, "Burneside [sic], Keswick. John Hume (b1880) keen on curling, as was his father Francis. Stones at Woodend, Threlkeld. John (b1922) one of the lads at far right." This last information puts the date of the photo no later than 1930, probably a little earlier.

Knowing the location of a pond at Burnside allowed study of old maps of the area using this website, and sure enough, on the OS 1:2500 map of 1899 a 'curling pond' is indicated. However, tracing the history of the area and coming forward in time using all the available maps, it seems that there were TWO ponds at Burnside. The one shown on the 1899 map was built over when the area became a caravan park. A second pond, immediately to the south of the caravan park, is the one in the Hardman photos. The photo above may well be the earlier pond.

Of course, if the minute books of the Derwentwater CC have survived all might become clearer. I wonder if they exist somewhere. Perhaps someone reading this may know?