Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Carsebreck 1928: 'A black day in the annals of curling'

The photo, from the Dundee Courier of January 2, 1928, shows the depth of the ice being checked at the Royal Caledonian Curling Club's pond at Carsebreck, in anticipation of a Grand Match. William Angus of Carsebreck Farm is on the left, with the ruler, and his efforts are being watched by David King, who was supervising preparations for the big match. Although back then just four inches of ice was deemed to be a sufficient thickness for a match to be held, that season it was particularly important that the ice be strong. Some six hundred teams were expected should the Grand Match go ahead!

The pond at Carsebreck had seen 23 Grand Matches since it was first used in 1853. Only one match had been held on the pond since the end of the Great War.

The draw for the 1927-28 Grand Match was published in early November, 1927, the Scotsman, for example, printing the full list of games.

The Dundee Courier, of November 18, 1927, also printed the full draw. There were to be 244 rinks in the North v South match, and 56 rinks for the President v President-elect match. Note that the use of 'rinks' here refers to the number of matchups, and so the number of individual teams expected to appear was 488 for the main match and 112 for the other, ie 600 in total = 2400 curlers.

Local newspapers, such as the Kirkintilloch Gazette of November 25, 1927, noted that the Grand Match was planned for Carsebreck 'if ice permits', and printed just those games which would involve local curling clubs.

By the end of December, excitement was beginning to build that the Grand Match would take place. The Dundee Courier (above) and the Scotsman on December 30 reported that the ice at Carsebreck was nearly four inches thick, with a covering of snow. As it was still freezing, the date of January 4, 1928, was provisionally fixed for the Grand Match.

On January 2 of the new year, the Dundee Courier ran a large article which contains lots of interesting detail for the Grand Match enthusiast today. For example, "Two months ago or more the Railway Companies drew up timetables for long-distance trains to transport the curlers to and from Carsebreck, and so carefully were the advance arrangements made that the whole transport scheme is put into operation at a few hours notice."

Transport to the Carsebreck loch by train had been a key component of the Grand Match since the first match held there in 1853. There was even a special halt on the nearby railway line, see here.

"Every morning for days past, Mr Wm Angus, of Carsebreck Farm, has measured the thickness of the ice on the loch and kept the Royal Club secretary in Edinburgh informed of the daily prospects for the Grand match. At least four inches of ice are required, and the thickness was fully that yesterday, with a slight covering of snow over the expansive surface."

We learn too that David King, foreman platelayer of Stirling Road, Blackford, was the man in charge of preparations at the pond and had a squad of 32 men to mark out the 300 rinks.

The Dundee Courier article noted that the whole area of the loch (60 acres) would be used for the bonspiel. The reporter had calculated that the ice would have to bear some 255 tons, and the marking out of the rinks was carried out 'to ensure an even distribution of weight over the 60 odd acres of ice'.

The article continues, "Small wonder then that the responsible officials make doubly sure of the soundness and thickness of the Carsebreck ice before summoning Scottish curlers to the Grand Match. True, there is a belief that curlers won't drown, but the Royal Caledonian Club take no risks."

On the morning of Monday, January 3, there was 'a fine layer of ice on the loch' and Andrew Hamilton, the Secretary of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, declared 'Match ON', with play set to begin at 11.30 the following day.

Monday's Dundee Evening Telegraph reported that curlers from Nairn and Kingussie were already en route that afternoon, spending the night in Aberdeen or Perth in order to catch the trains to Carsebreck the next morning. Representatives from Coldstream, Kelso, Jedburgh, Selkirk and Earlston were also on their way from the south, to overnight in Edinburgh.

By all accounts, transport arrangements to Carsebreck worked well. But, unfortunately, the weather did not play ball.

This photo from the following day's Dundee Evening Telegraph shows the problem. On the morning of January 4, it had begun to rain. Those arriving early found that rain had been falling since early morning. It appeared to dry up at one point, and a rainbow appeared. But then the rain began again, in earnest.

The Grand Match was scheduled to begin at 11.30, instead of at mid-day, as in former years. At 11.20 the announcement that the match would not take place was made by megaphone, and to signal this shots were fired. This photo shows the guns being fired to indicate that the match had been called off.

When the Royal Club Annual was published later in the year, the report of the Grand Match began, "The day of the abortive Grand Match of 1928 will long be remembered as a black day in the Annals of Curling, when Jack Frost played an army of curlers a nasty trick by tempting them out in their thousands and then levanting at the last moment, and leaving them soaked and disappointed to take their various homeward ways."

The Annual also reprinted the photo above which shows a number of curlers on the loch, waiting to learn if the match would go ahead. This photo had originally appeared in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News on Saturday, January 14, 1928, with the legend, 'Bonspiel abandoned: The curlers on the pond at Carsebreck'.

The Scotsman of Wednesday, January 4, contained an extensive report of what had happened. Their correspondent wrote, "This has been a black day for Scottish curlers. The Carsebreck bonspiel, the greatest event in the curling world, had to be abandoned at the eleventh hour because of the ice being under water. Before the decision that the bonspiel could not be held was made, 2000 curlers, some of them from remote parts of the country, had arrived here. Curlers have suffered many disappointments through the bonspiel, with its Grand Match having to be put off, but never in the experience of the oldest enthusiasts has it failed to take place when the players had arrived at Carsebreck.

The bonspiel, unfortunately, could not be cancelled earlier. Conditions seemed all that could be desired last night and early this morning. A sheet of ice five inches thick covered the spacious loch, and, although a dampness lay on the ice, there was no water until the rain began about six o'clock. The markings of the rinks up till then were quite distinct. A fresh wind which began to blow at ten o'clock last night proved the forerunner of this morning's rain, which showed no signs of abating when the time for play drew near. With a sheet of water, inches deep in parts, covering the rinks, it was decided, ten minutes before the bonspiel was due to start, that play would be impossible. A deluge of rain was falling at the time, the rink markings had long since been obliterated, and there was also the prospect of the loch becoming dangerous for curlers."

The Editorial in the Annual for 1928-29 reflected, "The disappointment to the Secretary and his staff of assistants after all their multifarious work in organising and preparing for the Grand Match, and the chagrin occasioned to the huge concourse of curlers that assembled on the margin of the club's pond, was like a huge practical joke perpetrated by natural forces against the curling fraternity, and shows that curling is, in more senses than one, 'a slippery game'. The contretemps brought out the sport's manlike spirit of the curling army that had mustered 'boden in fier of war' (equipped for war) beside the battlefield, only 'to find nae field to fecht in' (no field to fight in); and those who had often proved that they knew how to play the game, showed that they furthermore knew how, on occasion, not to play it."

A correspondent simply describing himself 'Anthony' contributed the following to the Edinburgh Evening News of January 5, 1928. "The scene was a strange one. The great loch stretched into a faint haar, and the trees on the banks of a hill on the horizon were likewise mist-kissed, having a quaint, ghostly appearance. Hills on all sides lost themselves in their burdens of mist - grey, clinging, soaking mist which matched and met the sky low down.

The rain was the kind of rain that doesn't dance off your mackintosh, but creeps down your neck and burrows up your sleeve. It came from all directions. You stood on the rain, you walked about with the rain, you breathed in the rain.

The curlers were attired in all sorts of rig-out. Some were in kilts. A large number wore Balmoral bonnets. Amongst the whole two thousand present, only one was noticed with an umbrella."

A few adventurous curlers threw some stones, despite the conditions. The Dundee Courier reported, "Stones were tried on the ice, but miniature geysers sprang from them as they went their way."

This photo shows many of the disappointed curlers headed back to the railway platform. The pond is in the distance, and the Royal Club Secretary's hut, the only building on site, can be seen top right.

This photo in the Dundee Evening Telegraph is captioned, "Lord Kinnaird of Rossie Priory and his factor, Mr Macdonald, taking their curling equipment to the station by sledge." One has to imagine that it must have become rather muddy! How stones were transported has been discussed before, see here, and the photo shows that Lord Kinnaid and his factor had two stones in separate boxes, and two in baskets.

For the departing curlers it had been arranged that nine special trains would take curlers away from Carsebreck after the bonspiel. The first of these had been due to leave at 14.55, after the curling was over. However, with the cancellation of the match, the timings were all brought forward, and very quickly all curlers were on their way home!

To make sure that everyone caught the correct train, several enclosures had been erected alongside the platform, to separate the passengers for the different trains, and to avoid overcrowding and crushing.

This photo from the Annual of 1928-29 carries no explanation. The Sunday Post, a few days later on January 8, printed a similar scene, explaining, "The curlers took the news of the abandonment of the bonspiel very philosophically. The contents of their knapsacks were immediately ransacked, and it was not their oversocks that they passed around to their friends."

The Scotsman similarly reported how the players reacted to the cancellation of the match, "Keen though their disappointment must have been, they received the decision philosophically, in the true curling spirit. Curlers are, of course, used to the caprices of the weather, and the decision was not unexpected; yet at the same time it was satisfactory to note the spirit in which it was taken and to hear such remarks as 'Better luck next time'.

The 'beef and greens' part of the curlers' traditional dish was lacking, but the liquid with which that repast ought to be washed down, according to the unwritten laws of curling, was not, and that, no doubt, offered some consolation for the unhappy day."

Not all of the competitors travelled to Carsebreck by train. By 1928, other transport options were available. One player travelled to the venue by car, and later complained that because of a lack of signs, he took the wrong road and had to carry his stones more than a mile to the pond side!

Those who travelled by bus had an exciting journey, according to the above account.

The final irony on that day in January 1928 was that, in the afternoon after everyone had left, a group of curlers from the Kincardine Castle CC, whose secretary lived in nearby Auchterarder, returned to the pond and played for three hours. According to the Dundee Courier, "The ice was in fairly good condition, and keen stones were thrown, while the ice was otherwise deserted." The paper recorded the names of the players. James Fleming and James Eadie were the skips, and the other players were E Forrester, James Reid, T Callum, John McNee, H Elliot and James Dow.
The following season saw the staging of a successful Grand Match at Carsebreck. Read the story of that match on the Royal Club website here

Newspaper clippings and photographs are © as indicated, courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive. The other two photos are from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1928-29.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

'Soop it up!' : The Story of a Christmas Postcard

Yes, it's a Christmas greeting on an old postcard which depicts a curling scene.

I enjoy collecting postcards which show our sport of curling - I suspect that makes me a 'curling deltiologist' - and I know I'm not the only one! I've written about my hobby before, see here.

Sending postcards was most popular in the early years of the twentieth century, and lots of cards survive from that era. Collecting postcards is a hobby that appeals to many, for all sorts of reasons, see here.

I have the same curling postcard, without the 'A Happy Christmas' greeting.

The postcard is a Raphael Tuck and Sons 'Oilette'. 'Oilettes' were a type of card produced by Tuck from around 1903, with a facsimile of an artist's work. The history of the Tuck company is here.

The curling card is one of six in series number 9235, 'The Humour of Life'. The other cards in this series are 'A Member of the Goose Club', 'Hurrah! For the Holidays', 'Misfortunes Never Come Singly', 'The Hamper He Got', and 'The Wrong Hamper'. The set was printed in England, and sold in Britain and the USA. The reverse of my card above has a Canada stamp, and was sent within that country, so perhaps it was also sold in Canada. The postmark is smudged, and I cannot decipher when it was sent. Apparently this card set was being used in December 1906, see here.

The card was listed in Tuck's 1908-09 catalogue, and again in 1912.

The back of the card has this note, 'After the black and white drawing by A. Stewart'.

The 'A. Stewart' is the Scottish artist Allan Stewart (1865–1951), well known for his military paintings. The original on which the Tuck postcard is based can be found in the Illustrated London News of Saturday, January 10, 1903, where it is captioned "Soop it up! A Curling Match in Scotland. Drawn by Allan Stewart. When an opponent's stone is likely to settle on the tee, the defending party ply their brooms merrily to smooth the ice and coax the stone to overshoot the mark. Wild cries of "Soop (sweep) it up!" accompany the play, which is well named the roaring game, both from the sound of the stones and of the players' voices."

This explanation seems to show how little the person who wrote the caption knew about the sport. It would indeed make for an interesting game if the opposition was allowed to sweep in front of the tee and coax your stone to travel too far!

However, the caption doesn't detract from Stewart's lively depiction of the game. Tuck's Oilette is a close reproduction of the original, although Allan Stewart's signature has been removed. The original is a black and white drawing, and the colour has been added for the postcard.

The illustration in the Illustrated London News occupies the whole of page 20 of that issue which ran to 37 pages. There is no information about the curling drawing, or the scene on which it was based, in the newspaper, other than the caption. Was the drawing commissioned especially for the paper? 

Here's another version of the postcard, with 'A happy Christmas' printed on the white rectangle at the bottom. As this space appears on the postcard without the greeting, see above, I surmise it is there simply to marry the scale of Stewart's original drawing with the standard dimensions of the postcard.

I wrote an article about 'The Curling Christmas Card' three years ago, see here. That included the image of another seasonal postcard. I closed that article with "David and I wish all followers of the Curling History blog, and indeed all curlers everywhere, 'Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year'."

David is no longer with us, but I will repeat that sentiment here. And add, 'May you ply your brooms merrily!'

Images are of postcards in the author's collection. The image from the Illustrated London News is © Illustrated London News Group via the British Newspaper Archive.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Jeff Lutz and Andrew McClune

December and Christmas is a happy time for many. But for others, there are never to be forgotten anniversaries at this time of year. The terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103, with the loss of 243 passengers and sixteen crew as well as eleven people on the ground, happened on December 21, 1988. Among the passengers were 35 students from Syracuse University returning home for Christmas following a semester studying in London.

If anything good can be said to have come out of such a tragedy, it is the links that have been forged between Syracuse University and the town of Lockerbie, particularly the scholarship programme which gives the opportunity for two students from Lockerbie to study at SU each year. Even that programme has had a sad anniversary this month. Andrew McClune was one of those from Lockerbie who took part in the programme in 2002-03, but on December 13, 2002, Andrew died as a result of injuries sustained in a fall at a student residence.

Andrew was a keen curler, having played for many years at the Lockerbie rink, just across the road from his school. He is not forgotten. For example, the Andrew McClune memorial trophy is played for by Dumfries and Galloway schools each season.

There's someone else who has good reason to remember Andrew. Jeff Lutz was in his first year at Syracuse University in 2002. He too was a curler. Growing up in Bloomfield Hills, in suburban Detroit, he had begun curling in 1998 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, at the Roseland Golf and Curling Club. He spent the next two years crossing the border to learn the game. In late 1999, he became the fifth player with an Ohio junior team and took part in the 2000 US Junior Championships in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Headed to Syracuse to study, Jeff left his broom and curling gear at home. When Andrew and Jeff crossed paths and realised they had a common interest in the sport of curling, the pair hit it off and became good friends. Jeff learned that Andrew wanted to put together a University curling team, so he phoned his mother to ask her to ship his curling shoes and brushes to Syracuse!

This is the team that Andrew and Jeff put together. L-R: Adam Duke, Andrew McClune, Jeff Lutz, Jon Mason. This photo was taken in November 2002, at the Utica Curling Club.

After Andrew's death, the remaining three curlers decided that they would still take part in the US Collegiate Championships in St Paul, Minnesota, in Andrew's memory, and three months after Andrew's death they played in the competition as a three-man team. The story is here.

Jeff Lutz continued to curl whilst finishing his studies at Syracuse, and in the years that followed. Fast forward a few years to 2014. The Israel Curling Federation was back in the WCF family, thanks particularly to the work by Sharon Cohen and Simon Pack on the ground in Israel with a wheelchair curling programme. When Jeff saw that Israel was an official, active WCF member, he made contact with Simon and suggested that he might help build a men's team for play. He says, "I saw the Israel curling opportunity as a global one - with North America being one of the epicenters of growth."

After a week-long recruiting trip in the USA and Canada, the ICF recruiters identified some fifteen men and five women as possible future team members. Jeff Lutz was one of these.

After try-outs, a men's team was put together, see here, and this rink came through the European 'C' Championships to earn a place in the 'B' Division at Champery/Monthey in 2014, finishing with a two win, four loss, record. Jeff played second on that team. The following year, in Esbjerg, Jeff was in the squad that finished with a six win, five loss, record. The five were Adam Freilich, Leonid Rivkind, Ariel Krasik-Geiger, Jeff Lutz, and Gabriel Kempenich. Last month, at the Le Gruyere European Curling Championships at Braehead, Team Israel, with the same five player squad as 2015, made it to the playoff stages of the 'B' Division but lost out to the experienced Netherlands team in the semis, and to the Czech Republic in the bronze medal game, eventually having to settle for a six win, four loss record, over the event. All the results and linescores can be found here.

Jolene Latimer, who was a winner of the WCF Sports Media Trainee Programme and attended the Braehead event last month, wrote this feature about Team Israel.

This is a photo of Jeff Lutz at the Greenacres rink, where the team practised prior to the recent European Championships at Braehead. Now thirty-two years of age, married to Dana, holding dual US and Israeli citizenship, and Director, Marketing and Communications with TRIARQ Health, based in Troy, Michigan, Jeff has come a long way since 2002 when he was a first-year student at Syracuse.

He has not forgotten Andrew McClune. When the European Championships were over, Jeff found the time to catch a train to Lockerbie, and pay respects to his friend.

In a recent email he says, "I remember vividly chatting with Andrew in the back of the lecture hall and dreaming about representing Syracuse at the college nationals. I always found him to be calm, yet confident - incredibly different to the curler that I was at the time. Admittedly, I was not the most composed curler, so when you find a curler like Andrew, you couldn't help to admire him. He was truly my first friend at college, and the fact that he played this same wonderful game as I, absolutely made him a friend for life - he was good hearted and wanted to make those around him feel loved. That's the definition of a special person."

Jeff visited Andrew's grave in Dryfesdale cemetery, and the Garden of Remembrance and the Lockerbie Disaster Memorial. He called in at the ice rink ... but Jeff should probably tell you the story of his visit himself. Read his account here, in a post that Jeff has put online about his visit to Lockerbie. I think Andrew would have been proud of his friend!

The Syracuse - Lockerbie connection still continues. The students from Lockerbie that have studied at Syracuse over the years are listed here. Ellen Boomer, another curler, participated in the programme last year. She kept a blog diary, which is a wonderful record of her experiences. If you have time to read just one entry, make it this one here, and be proud of Ellen, and of our young people!

Thanks to Sandy Scott. And to Jeff for sharing his memories. The photo of the Syracuse team is by Lawrence Mason. Jeff's photo at Greenacres is by Sharon Cohen.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Summer Ice

'Summer Ice' is a traditional game played on a long, narrow table, with a marked target at each end. There is a channel round the table to catch any wayward stones. The rules of the game are very similar to those of curling.

Until recently, the above was the extent of my knowledge about summer ice. I had read it described as 'a most mysterious and unique version of curling'. I always associated it with villages to the north of Glasgow. I had never seen it played.

Earlier this year I came across a painting by Jemima Wedderburn, belonging to the National Galleries of Scotland, and this set me off to find more about summer ice.

Although not currently on show, Jemima Wedderburn's painting can be examined in detail here. It is described: 'Summer ice. Sir Philip Eggerton arriving late, received by the Earl of Selkirk'. Lady Katherine Douglas, Isabella Blackburn, Jemima Wedderburn (the artist herself), Helen Blackburn, Mr Carnegie, and Colonel Oswald, are named in the painting. The occasion can be dated to Saturday, December 4, 1846.

Jemima Wedderburn was brought up by her mother, her father having died just before she was born. Her uncle was Sir George Clerk, an enthusiastic curler, a member of Penicuik Curling Club. Jemima was living at Penicuik House in 1847 and recorded 'The First Grand Match', see here. Given Sir George Clerk's enthusiasm for real curling, it is not surprising that there was a table top version of the game in Penicuik House.

Born in 1823, Jemima would have been only twenty-three years old when she painted 'Summer Ice' in 1846, one of her earliest works. Jemima went on to marry Hugh Blackburn, whom she had known since childhood, in 1849. She became an accomplished painter and illustrator, and many of her paintings can be found by searching for Jemima Blackburn, nee Wedderburn (see here).

Looking closely at the painting, the 'summer ice' in the description looks very like what we would consider now to be a game along the lines of table shuffelboard.

Curlers have always been on the look out for substitutes for curling, given that ice was not always available for play outside.

Back in 2009, David Smith described the wonderful curling-related references that could be found in old newspapers, see here. In the Glasgow Herald of October 28, 1850, he had found an advert by Andrew Galloway of 105 Hope Street, Glasgow, which proclaimed, “The subscriber begs to announce that he has lately introduced an EXCELLENT SUBSTITUTE for ICE, whereby the NATIONAL GAME of CURLING may be enjoyed within doors."

Galloway's tables were reviewed in the Glasgow Sentinel of November 2, 1850. The article notes that earlier table curling games had not been too successful, saying, "Few of these substitutes have yet realised expectation." However, it continues, "The most successful effort that we have yet seen has been made by Mr Galloway, in Hope Street, who has contrived a table, which will enable the curlers to enjoy themselves, in all weathers equally as if they had the glossy surface of a curling pond to act upon. The table is a long plank of mahogany, beautifully smoothed and polished, with the 'tee' and the 'hog-score' carefully defined; and the stones (which are made of cast iron) are polished to correspond with the surface on which they glide."

The article goes on to describe that the stones are prevented from falling off the sides of the table by a surrounding 'hollow', obviating what has been seen as a defect in previous attempts to provide 'summer ice'.

Galloway's adverts proclaim, "The style in which the apparatus is finished is such as to render it an ornamental piece of furniture, suitable for any mansion."

Mansion houses were not the only places that had summer ice tables. The Crichton Royal mental hospital in Dumfries had one, according to the yearly report by its medical superintendent Dr Browne, as reported in the Dundee Courier of May 4, 1853.

In 1870, summer ice was popular in Linlithgow and Bathgate.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, summer ice tables were in use in many different places, and in many towns and villages throughout Scotland. The Conservative Association in Clydebank is just one example, from 1901, above.

The first mention of summer ice in villages to the north of Glasgow that I can find is to Aberfoyle in 1896, where it was being played in the 'Reading Room'. The sport received patronage from Lady Cayzer of Gartmore House who donated a trophy to the recreation clubs of the district for summer ice competition. The Stirling Observer on April 4, 1914, records the 'Summer Ice Club At Home', at Gartmore, an evening of entertainment, the highlight of which was the presentation of the Lady Cayzer Cup, won back from Aberfoyle that season 'after a most exciting contest', the deciding match having taken place at the neutral venue of Buchlyvie. To each of the four winners of the Lady Cayzer Cup, her ladyship gifted 'a beautiful case of silver tea spoons'.

Agnes Cayzer was wife of Sir Charles Cayzer, see here, the Glasgow ship owner, who died in 1916. She herself died in November 1919. In the years which followed, the Cup which bears her name became the premier summer ice competition of clubs in the district. A minute book, still in the possession of the Buchlyvie summer ice players, records the following clubs playing for the Lady Cayzer Cup in the 1930s: Buchlyvie, Kippen, Drumlean, Killearn, Balfron, Gartmore, Renagaur, Aberfoyle, and Brig o' Turk. As many as fourteen clubs have played at various times.

In 1939, the Stirling Observer of December 7, records that the Buchlyvie Summer Ice club met on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings.

In 2002, Melanie Reid wrote a feature about summer ice in The Herald magazine, entitled 'Last days of the Ice Age'. Read this online here. This is a wonderful article, beautifully written, a must read! It examines the history of summer ice, its relationship to shuffelboard, and records Melanie's conversations with David Smith, The Sheriff, about it. Through her words, I can just hear David waxing lyrical on the topic!

According to the Killearn Courier in 2006 only Aberfoyle, Buchlyvie, Gartmore and Kippen were playing summer ice in that year. The last AGM of the Forth and Endrick Summer Ice League was held on November 6, 2012, with only three clubs expressing interest, Aberfoyle having dropped out.

And sixteen years on from Melanie Reid's article, I was to discover that summer ice is still being enjoyed, although only Buchlyvie is continuing the tradition of regular play.

Last Wednesday evening I was invited to visit the village hall in Buchlyvie, to see the game for myself.

Buchlyvie is situated some fifteen miles west of the city of Stirling. The village hall was built in 1884, and today is home for many activities, including the playing of summer ice!

Eileen Mayhew was my contact. She suggested I arrive at the hall in time to see the preparations for the evening's play. One of the first jobs to be carried out was to warm the stones! Here they are over the radiator. Just as in curling, there are eight stones for each side, two per player.

Silicone polish is used on the table these days, and there's a little modern help with the job that used to have to be carried out by hand. Eileen soon had everything ready for the arrival of the other players.

A fire in 1984 resulted in the loss of Buchlyvie's original summer ice table. What is played on now is the table that used to be at Balfron. The playing surface itself is a single plank of wood some 22 feet in length. The table has a room to itself in the village hall.

If you look closely you can see that the table is marked out with the house, and also smaller circles to assist the playing of 'points'. Note too the 'ditch' to catch the stones that fly off the playing area.

Eileen lines up her shot.

The 'stick' is used to give direction.

A tense end!

Stones must be played down the middle of the table, the points markings assisting with that.

Just over the hog!

Keeping score.  Fifteen ends were played in the game. This was played with great skill, and with lots of enthusiasm!

No measures were needed in the game I watched. Had one been needed it would have been carried out with dividers, as shown here with two older stones.

And here are the regular summer ice players at Buchlyvie. L-R: Richard, Alistair, Fergus, Eileen, Jimmy, Billy and Tam. Just seven of them now, but ..... magnificent!

So, what does the future hold for summer ice?

Thanks to Eileen and the other members of the club for their warm welcome last week. Photos are by Bob. The Jemima Wedderburn painting images are © National Galleries of Scotland. The newspaper clippings are © British Library Board, via the British Newspaper Archive. The hard copy of Melanie Reid's article is in the possession of Eileen Mayhew who was present when Melanie visited Buchlyvie in 2002. My special thanks go to Judy Mackenzie, without whose help this article would not have been possible.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

More than a new book - it's a celebration of curling

Review by Bob Cowan

The World Curling Federation had its origins with the international committee of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club back in 1966. This soon became the International Curling Federation, and then the World Curling Federation. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary this year, the organisation commissioned a book, and that has now been published. Fifty Years of the World Curling Federation: A Celebration is a wonderful photo essay. It is a celebration, not just of the WCF, but of curling, and illustrates brilliantly how the sport has changed over such a short period.

Fifty years covers my own involvement in curling. In the mid-1960s, curling was already a huge part of my life. But as a student, I had little interest in 'curling politics'. However, I had the opportunity to witness the impact of the early days of international curling, when curling fans in Scotland were quite taken aback by the sliding deliveries and the takeout game brought to Scotland by the Ernie Richardson teams, in the early Canada v Scotland encounters of the Scotch Cup. Curling changed back then. The World Curling Federation was 'born' in 1966. The sport was evolving fast, as it still is today. Students of curling's history will love this new book, as I do, as it encapsulates the changing face of the sport over fifty years.

The cover photo says it all. It is an image from 1978, the closing ceremony of the Air Canada Silver Broom in Winnipeg, with the USA team of Bob Nichols, Bill Strum, Tom Locken and Bob Christman on the top step of the podium, the Americans having just defeated Kristian Soerum's Norwegians in the final. There is not a vacant seat in the arena!

The Silver Broom years were a great time in world curling. The late Doug Maxwell was the executive director of that competition from 1968 through to 1985. I note that the book contains many images credited to the 'Doug Maxwell Archive'.

The new book, appropriately perhaps, was the work of a four man team. Mike Haggerty was the skip, coming up with an innovative approach to presenting the WCF's story in nine chapters: 'From the beginning', 'Governance developments', 'Championship history', 'Rise of women', 'Technical developments', 'What makes international curling special?', 'Characters in the game', 'The Olympic and Paralympic journey' and 'A look to the future'. Mike writes well, confidently and entertainingly. And he has so much experience of covering major international curling events from his first foray to a championship in person back in 1991.

The book's managing editor was Cameron MacAllister, the WCF's Communications and Media Relations Manager. Richard Gray, who looks after the organisation's own photo archive, contributed many of his own images from recent years, as well as collating others from many sources. This was a huge job - there are more than 350 photos in the book! Much credit must go the the book's designer, Douglas Colquhoun. He lets the photographs tell the story. Some are quite small, some occupy a whole page. Older black and white images sit comfortably beside modern colour images. The former represent the days of film, that being developed in small rooms at championship venues, often by Michael Burns, the official Silver Broom photographer, whose images feature prominently throughout.

And Michael Burns is featured in the book, above. Note that this photo has a detailed caption, but that is not the rule in the book.

Here, for example, is a page with simply a montage of photos to illustrate 'The Spirit of Curling'. Not a caption in sight. As someone who so often preaches that a photograph is incomplete without a caption, I was surprised to find myself approving of the caption-less approach in many parts of the book. It really works!

Here's another example page, with a single image. Not stated is that it is Ron Anton, 3rd player for Team Canada in 1974, in the foreground, although that is irrelevant to the point that the image conveys.

The book documents all the main events and challenges that our sport has faced over the years, and this is done in an attractive way. Such an 'anniversary book' could so easily have turned into a dry tome. It is definitely not that! It is not a book of championship facts and figures, which in any case can be easily viewed on the WCF website, under 'Historical Results'.

I especially liked the chapter on 'What makes international curling special', including pages on how the sport has been covered by the media in the past and present. Of course the formation of World Curling TV in 2004 was such a significant development, and the visual coverage of our sport online these days, enjoyed by so many, is one of the WCF's greatest achievements.

This being a review, I searched hard to find something - anything - to criticise. I have only found a couple of minor slips. The text is tight and there are few typos that I can see. The first women's junior championship was in 1988, not 1998 as it says in error on page 29.

An important omission, in my opinion, is that there is no mention of the role of volunteers, especially in the organisation and staging of major international events.

I would also have liked to have seen at least one photo showing the delivery of a curling stone from a chair using the cue. The 'delivery stick' is what really makes wheelchair curling possible, as well as extending the curling lives of many social curlers.

In one chapter, the book strays away from the '50 Year' story to the first Olympic curling in 1924 at the Chamonix International Winter Sports Week, retrospectively recognised as the first Olympic Winter Games. Being the pedant that I am, I should point out that the first international 'Curling Congress' was held on January 22, a few days before these Games were due to begin, rather than during the games as Mike writes in the book. This group, described in my article here, convened at the Hotel Majestic in Chamonix to decide, amongst other things, how that first Olympic curling competition should be run!

In the description of the events of 1924, on page 75, I found one photograph which should not have appeared in the book. It is described with the caption 'Curling at the first Olympic Games', which technically may be quite correct, but the included photograph has no relevance to the actual Olympic curling matches. It originates from the IOC archives, see here, where it is described as 'Curling in Chamonix - The Swedish and British teams. Chamonix 1924 - During the events. The Swedish team (SWE) 2nd and the team of Great Britain (GBR) 1st.' This description is in error.

The photo actually shows three of the British reserves, with four players from the Swedish squad, and a 'mystery woman'. No women took part in the Olympic curling in 1924. I wrote about this odd photo here. The evidence points to this being a fun game, which took place on the Chamonix rink, after the official matches had taken place. The mystery woman could be Karl Erik Wahlberg's wife or daughter, or Carl August Kronlund's daughter, who were among Swedish supporters who travelled to Chamonix. I was disappointed to see this photo included in the new book, after it had previously been debunked! Still, until the IOC corrects its description, it will no doubt continue to appear in sports' publications.

The photo that should have been included in the WCF book is this one, showing the winners of the first Olympic Gold Medals for curling. L-R: Willie Jackson (skip), Tom Murray (2nd), Laurence Jackson (lead) and Robin Welsh (3rd), representing GB.

Minor criticisms aside, this is a book which rates as a most significant contribution to the curling library! It will undoubtedly be seen in future years as a resource to be cherished. Books about curling's history are rare things. This is amongst the best ... ever!

The official description of the book, see here, has, appropriately, been put together by Jolene Latimer and Jeffrey Au, the latest competition winners of the WCF Sports Media Trainee Programme. This programme itself is just one example of the innovations that the WCF has brought to the sport in recent years, away from the organisation of international competitions.

There is a hard back edition, and a soft cover. It cannot be purchased from retailers. If you want to have the book for your own library or coffee table, you need to contact the WCF headquarters in Perth. Or you can download pdf files of the book, to peruse on your computer or tablet. Find these here.

Current WCF President, Kate Caithness OBE, hosted the book's launch at the WCF headquarters in Perth last week. Here she is with Roy Sinclair, a former President, 2000-2006.

L-R: Richard Gray, Douglas Colquhoun, and Mike Haggerty. A job well done!

Incidentally, this is the team that puts together the WCF's excellent Annual Review each year. The 2015-16 edition of this can be downloaded here.

On a personal note, in just a few days time it will be one year since David Smith died. I have continued this Curling History website in his memory. He had an extensive collection of curling books. He too, I'm sure, would have loved this new book.

Photos are by Bob, except that of the rogue IOC image, and that of the 1924 Gold Medallists, which is from the 1924-25 Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. Other images from 1924 can be found in my articles about the Chamonix Games, here, here, here, here and here. Lars Ingels has been extremely helpful in trying to establish the identity of the 'mystery woman'.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Women Curlers of Buxton

Since starting to write about curling's women pioneers at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, see here, here and here. I've been on the lookout for photographic evidence of when 'mixed' or 'open' curling became accepted. When did men and women begin to play together on curling rinks?

Such evidence can be found in the image above. There's a game in progress, with both men and women involved in the play. The venue? The rink is in the Pavilion Gardens in the Derbyshire town of Buxton, ENGLAND! Dating old photographs can be difficult, but when real photos have been printed as postcards, and these have been mailed, the postmark is helpful. The postcard from which the above image has been scanned was sent in April 1909, and so the action therein must date from before that date.

The photographer who took this image was Robert Forgie Hunter, who would have been twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old. Read about his life here, and here.

The Buxton Curling Club was formed in 1890 and became affiliated to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1904. The club's first pond was in the policies of Wye House, the residence of their 'patron' FK Dickson. In the years that followed the Buxton Curling Club had two other deep-water ponds, before moving home in 1906 to the shallow-water, Cairnie-style pond shown in the image above.

The Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1907-08 describes it in glowing terms, "The pond is the property of the Buxton Gardens Company, and is probably the highest pond in Great Britain, being situated in the lovely and famous Pavilion Gardens, 1029 feet above sea-level. Certainly if it is surpassed by any other pond in altitude, which is not probable, it can be surpassed by none in the beauty and charm of its surroundings, for it lies amidst twenty acres of gardens which are intersected by the windings of the Derbyshire Wye, whose source is within half a mile of the pond; while all round the gardens themselves lie the hills of The Peak, reaching in places the height of 2000 feet above sea-level.

The pond itself is lit by electricity, and will accommodate three rinks at present, an increase of two more rinks being in contemplation. The Gardens Company built it themselves, employing none but their own men, under the supervision of their curator, Mr George Taylor, late curator of Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, and a member of the club. It has been built on the same principle as have those of the Braids and Watsonian Clubs; and Mr Taylor received much information from the Watsonian Club, from Col Peter Forrest of Haremyres (Braids Club), and from WJ Ewart of the Edinburgh Northern Club. The pond has this winter given entire satisfaction."

At September 15, 1907, the club had 84 regular members. Buxton was one of 38 English curling clubs at that time, all affiliated to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, within the First English Province. (A separate English Curling Association was formed in 1971.)

The following women were listed among Buxton CC's regular members in 1907: Mrs Graeme Dickson, Mrs CF Johnson, Mrs H Lancashire, Mrs RA Little, Mrs Arden (or Ayden), and Mrs P Shaw.

Mrs Dickson was the wife of the club's patron, and was the sole woman in the club's roster in 1906 before the move to the new pond in the Pavilion Gardens.

At September 15, 1908, a Mrs JH Harrison and a Miss Cookson can be found amongst the 'occasional members'.

I have listed these eight women as some of them are undoubtedly those who appear in the top photo, and that above, taken on the same occasion. It is again from a postcard, sent on December 31, 1909.

Here is a third, very clear image from a postcard sent on April 17, 1909, so dating before that time. It is not credited to Robert Hunter, so perhaps the curling women at Buxton caught the eye of other local photographers. The photo has been posed, and the circles recently scraped, perhaps prior to the beginning of a game.

Might it just be possible that someone can identify these women curlers? Of course, visitors to Buxton could become temporary members of the curling club for short periods, but I believe that those in the three photographs above are most likely to have been those listed in the club's returns in the Royal Club Annuals. As we know when the Pavilion Gardens pond was in use, and when the postcards were mailed, the photographs of the women curlers must have been taken in the winters of 1906-07, 1907-08, or 1908-09.

Here's an enhanced zoomed image of one of the players. Who is this woman?

Do the photographs tell us anything about the sport back then? The brooms are significant. One woman is holding her broom in an underhand grip, the other in an overhand grip.

And here's a closeup of the boots being worn by the woman on the right of the picture. I wonder what grip these gave on the ice!

There are two more curling photographs in the Annual for 1907-08, showing play on the Pavilion Gardens pond, and captioned as having been taken on Boxing Day 1906. One is credited to 'Hunter, Buxton'. It is not too clear, but it does look as if there is at least one woman playing with the men in one of these photographs.

Other images of curling at Buxton can be found online here and here, the latter captioned 'Curling at Buxton - A Ladies' Rink'.

More on early women's curling in a future article.

The top photo is a postcard by 'RF Hunter Photographer, 4 Station Approach, Buxton, Derbyshire'. The middle photo is annotated, 'Hunter Series 19. Copyright. Publishers WH Smith and Son and RF Hunter, Photo Specialist, Buxton'. The curling image is one of three winter activities shown in the postcard. The other photos are of cross country skiing and sledging. The bottom photo is also from a postcard but has no photographer credit.

ADDED LATER (July 2019): Here is another image of two women curlers on the Pavilion Gardens rink at Buxton which appeared in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of Saturday, February 13, 1909, found thanks to the British Newspaper Archive. Unfortunately the ladies are not named. Again, their footware, seen clearly on the curler on the left, is a far cry for that of today!

The photo is simply captioned, "Ladies curling at Buxton during the recent frost on the shallow pond in the Buxton gardens."