Monday, October 12, 2015

Curling Minutes Online

Review by Bob Cowan

Ethnology is 'The study of the characteristics of different peoples and the differences and relationships between them'. A short video, here, from the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore explores 'What is European Ethnology?' The European Ethnological Research Centre, based at the University of Edinburgh, is engaged in a study of the ethnology of Dumfries and Galloway, the south west region of Scotland, see here. The Edinburgh group is transcribing diaries, memoirs, account books and journals for their research, as well as recording the spoken memories of people alive today.

The reason for this article is that the Centre has published online the full text of The Minute Book of Lochmaben Curling Society 1823-1863.

In times past, particularly in the late eighteenth and in the nineteenth centuries, the sport of curling was an important social activity during the winter months. Curling club minute books contain a fascinating record, not just of matches won and lost, but of interactions between members and the club's patrons, the difficulties of maintaining a place to play, the interactions with other clubs, and the costs involved in playing the sport. Curling club minute books can contain much information about everyday life.

But early minute books are not easy to access. Some, from clubs long defunct, have found their way into national and local archives. Others may still be in the hands of clubs that have survived and have long histories. Many others have just disappeared. Depending on the hand of the club secretary, they may not be easy to read. Some club historians have gathered material from old minute books to publish within club histories, usually to celebrate significant anniversaries. Cameron McKiddie's 'Celebrating Curling - The Roarin' Game', published to commemorate the bicentenary of Kirriemuir Curling Club, is a good example, see here.

But, until now, no complete curling club minute book has gone online, to become a readily accessible resource for researchers of the future. That it has happened is all due to the diligence and perseverance of Lynne Longmore.

Lynne had used club minute books when researching her MPhil in Decorative Art and Design History at the University of Glasgow. Her dissertation was on the subject of silver curling medals including those still held by the Lochmaben Castle Curling Club. At the time (2004) she realised just how significant were these minute books which provided first hand accounts of the historic Scottish sport. At a personal level it was all the more fascinating for Lynne as she had grown up in Lochmaben. After completing her masters degree, she made it her mission to transcribe the earliest minute book, covering the period from 1823 to 1863. This took four months over the winter of 2004-2005. Lynne says, "I worked away slowly deciphering the various styles of flourishing handwriting combined with the fading ink, unfamiliar old Scots terminology and often Latin phrase used, but enjoying every moment of it."

Having completed this task, Lynne presented the Lochmaben curlers with their own copy for any member to read, as a thank you for allowing access to the minute books.

Lynne then began to think that a summary of the more notable minutes would make easier reading. This led to the publication in 2012 of 'Minutes of Note', above, and reviewed in the Curling History blog here.

Alison Burgess, the Dumfries and Galloway Local Studies and Information Officer at the Ewart Library in Dumfries, suggested that Lynne contact Mark Mulhern of the European Ethnological Research Centre about the Sources of Local History project which was in its infancy. From that approach, Lynne was put in contact with Dr Kenneth Veitch. A meeting was arranged in Edinburgh, and the effort to put the Lochmaben minutes online was underway.

Lynne notes how important it was to obtain permission from the current Lochmaben Castle Curling Club committee and members, and the proposal was discussed at the club's AGM in 2013. Lynne says, "The club has been very supportive in all my work regarding the club’s history and this was no exception. They conveyed great pride at being the first to lead the way in the new online Local Studies Written Word series and full permission was granted."

Lynne and Kenneth worked through several drafts over a two year period, checking and rechecking details, and then they worked together on a Foreword and Editorial.

The Foreward shows what can be uncovered in the fully transcribed minutes: "The book will naturally be of interest to historians of curling. The carefully set out minutes and regulations in themselves show the extent to which societies organised and formalised the local game in the early nineteenth century, and so ensured not only its continuance, but also its development. Details, such as the decision of the Lochmaben curlers to incorporate their rules with those of the Duddingston Curling Society, highlight how societies also helped to create both an awareness among their members of curling as a national game, and the organisational framework for it. The move towards standard rules and equipment was also encouraged by their promotion of local and, in particular, inter-parish spiels (the latter aided by ever-improving transport and communications). The minutes are replete with records of such matches, including a proposed inter-province spiel between Dumfriesshire and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright."


"That the curlers of Lochmaben repeatedly voted against adopting the two stone rule is a reminder that the creation of a uniform, national game was nonetheless a gradual process, with regional variations persisting even after the founding of the Grand Caledonian Curling Club in 1838. Indeed, it is revealed here that at the beginning of the 1860s the rinks from the neighbouring parishes of Lochmaben and Dryfesdale were playing different forms of the game."

The full publication can be downloaded from this page.

The front cover for the online minute book was a collaboration between Lynne and designers at Edinburgh University!

Congratulations go to Lynne Longmore and Kenneth Veitch on all their efforts to date. And there's more to come. The European Ethnological Research Centre Written Word project is keen to continue with the transcript of the second Lochmaben minute book 1863 to 1891, so this may be the next to go online.

Lynne has also completed the full transcript of the other Lochmaben curling club, the Royal Bruce Curling Club. These minutes begin in 1831 and continue through to 1897.
The top photo of the original Lochmaben minute book is used courtesy of Lynne Longmore. The Lochmaben Castle CC has a Facebook page here.

Thanks to Lynne for her help with this article. Some of her MPhil dissertation research has been published: 'Curling Medals in Nineteenth Century Scotland: Their Historical, Social and Cultural Significance within Rural Parishes of Dumfries and Galloway' by Lynne J M Longmore, Review of Scottish Culture, Volume 26, 2014, pp87-108.