Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The T B Murray Trophy

Thomas Blackwood Murray was one of the best curlers in the first half of the twentieth century in Scotland. He played second in the GB team, skipped by Willie Jackson, which won the first gold medals to be awarded for curling at the 1924 Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix. These days his name is most often remembered in association with the 'Murray Trophy', above, which is being played for this very week (January 18-22, 2017) as the Scottish Junior Men's Championship is contested at Curl Aberdeen.

Murray was born October 3, 1877, in Biggar, South Lanarkshire. He came from a farming background and began curling at his local curling club at the end of the nineteenth century. His father, R G Murray, was a prominent curler of the time. Tom Murray was a member of the Scottish teams which toured Canada in 1911-12, and again in 1922-23.

Tom Murray played with Willie Jackson in many competitions. For example, here he is, on the right, as a member of the winning team of the first 'Worlds Championship' at Edinburgh in 1922, the competition that became the Edinburgh International Curling Championship, see here. The full team is (l-r) Willie Jackson (skip), Robert Jackson (lead), Laurence Jackson (2nd) and Tom Murray (3rd).

And here he is, on the hack in Montreal in 1923.

He served as President of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1936-37. He died on June 3, 1944. His obituary can be found in the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1944-45 which says, "Since he took part as a member of his father's rink in the match when Biggar Province defeated the first Canadian Team to Scotland, he has been chosen to represent his club or his country in every important match which has taken place. As a curler his skill was outstanding and he was always recognised as one of the best players Scotland has ever produced. His sportsmanship was widely appreciated, his hospitality was unbounded and his geniality made any meeting with him a pleasure not soon forgotten. He held many offices in the curling world and took very special pride in his election as President of the Royal Club in 1936. He threw himself wholeheartedly into all the work entailed by that position."

He was a gifted after dinner speaker. Apparently he often referred to the 'wonderful brotherhood of curling, which appealed to him in no ordinary degree'!

In April 1926, at the end of season prizegiving  at the Haymarket rink, Tom Murray's team had won the Director's Trophy. He used his acceptance speech to suggest that there should be more encouragement of younger curlers, saying, "He had noticed over and over again good young players who could be made excellent players but they were not getting in to the best rinks to show their ability."

Murray's comments were picked up by the sub-editor on the Scotsman's sport's desk, and the report of the prizegiving in the paper on Monday, April 12, 1926, had the headline, 'A Plea for Young Men'!

Tom Murray's enthusiasm for encouraging young curlers led him to present the trophy that now bears his name. It was first played for in 1929 for competition by curlers of 25 years of age and under.

Here is a photo of the trophy from a newspaper of the time.

The Annual for 1929-30 contains a report of the activities at the Edinburgh Ice Rink in the previous season. This says, "Both veterans and juniors were well to the fore at the close of a very successful season of the Edinburgh Ice Rink. A new departure was instituted by Mr T B Murray in the form of a competition for juniors."

The Annual goes on to reprint what had been written in the Scotsman of April 15, 1929, "With a view to stimulating interest in curling among young players, and in order to give them an opportunity of becoming skilful at the game, the Edinburgh Ice Rink Club held a competition for junior curlers. Mr T B Murray, Biggar, the chief promoter of the scheme, gifted a Cup for competition. The success which has attended the venture was commented upon by several prominent curlers at a smoking concert held in the Ice Rink, to mark the closing of the rink, and for the presentation of trophies won during the past season.

Sir Robert C Lockhart, Chairman of the Ice Rink Club, in presenting the T B Murray Trophy to Linlithgow Club, said they owed a very deep debt of gratitude to the donor. That was a pet scheme of Mr Murray's, and he had spent an enormous amount of time and trouble to foster the game among young players.

Mr Jackson said he had watched some of the matches, and he admired the way the boys were playing, not because of the skill being displayed but because they were using their heads all the time. That was the way to become expert at the business. Some of them had a great future before them in curling. It must be very gratifying to the donor of the Cup to see 14 rinks of young players come up. For a great many years past they had had practically no new blood coming into the curling world, and there was no doubt that the Cup had done what the donor intended it to do. He thanked the older members who had coached the boys, some of whom, he predicted, would play for their country.

Mr Murray said it was five years ago since he raised the question of the young players in that room. It was well received, but nothing seemed to come of it, and they thought they had better get a move on. He had the good fortune to be allowed to present a Cup for the competition. They thought they would be lucky to get 10 or 12 rinks, but 65 boys came up, and, as the Chairman had said, 14 rinks competed. He was pleased to hear a prominent curler like Mr Jackson say that the boys played so well. It was fine to know that their old game would go on when they were no longer there. But there was no good, he continued, in having a nursery for the young players unless these were assimilated into the various rinks. He appealed to the older curlers and skips to take one, or two, if they could, into their rinks. They could be taken into the inter-city match, and some might even play in the international."

Here are the winners of that first competition for the 'Murray Trophy'. From left, clockwise: A Paris (3rd), J Morrison (2nd),  I McKnight (lead), and J Oliphant (skip), from the Linlithgow Curling Club. Merchiston CC, skipped by A Allan, with W Roberts, W Ainslie and J Nisbet, were runners-up having lost to Linlithgow 16-9 in the final.

The competition ran successfully in the Edinburgh Ice Rink at Haymarket until 1935 when, for some unexplained reason, it just died. The trophy was handed over for senior competition at the rink.

In the late 1950s, Jock Waugh, of the Corstorphine CC, who had played in some of the pre-war competitions, proposed that the cup be returned and used for its original purpose, to encourage junior play. This proposal was supported by the Edinburgh Ice Rink Curling Club and in the 1958-59 season, notice was sent out to all Scottish Ice Rinks inviting entries.

Teams from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Perth and Kirkcaldy played eliminating ties locally before coming to Edinburgh for the final stages. Two Glasgow based teams, skipped by Robin Campbell and by Alex F Torrance (aka 'Wee Alex'), contested the final. The Scottish Curler of April, 1959, reported, "The quality of their curling was a revelation. All eight players made light of a tricky sheet of ice to play a series of man-sized ends, including many fine, and some brilliant, shots. Three ends from home, at a time when Alex Torrance was making a fighting bid to come back into the game, skip Robin Campbell played a draw which won this match and could have won any match - a full draw through a difficult port to the tee."
Here is the presentation. L-R: Moira Craig, Hugh Ferguson, J Hutchison, Robin Campbell, James Sellar (Manager of the Edinburgh Rink), Robin Welsh (Secretary of the Royal Club), Alex F Torrance, Robert Kirkland, Alex Torrance and James Waddell.

Note the presence of Moira Craig, the lead on Robin Campbell's winning team, who, according to the Scottish Curler article, " ... with a strong, fluent delivery action, was another star in this fine performance which earned the warm applause of seasoned critics."

Moira, who later married her skip, is the only female name to be found amongst the winners of the Murray Trophy and hence inscribed in a plaque on the base of the trophy. Although a number of girls played in the competition through until 1975, when it became solely the Junior Men's Championship, none were ever again on a winning side.

Incidentally, it may be a surprise to those reading this in 2017 to learn that the members of the winning team in 1959 all received cigarette lighters as individual prizes, presented by Leonard and Norman Tod. Changed days! The runners-up were given tankards donated by Jock Waugh.

In the years between 1959 and 1974, the competition was always thought of as the 'unofficial' Scottish Junior Championship.

Just a little personal nostalgia now. Here's a photo of the 1972 presentation. L-R: Robert Kelly (2nd), David Horton (skip), Willie Wilson (Royal Club President), Robert Cowan (yes, it is me), and Brian Methven. Sadly Brian is no longer with us, and I include this pic in his memory.

Modesty (almost) prevents me from saying that the April 1972 Scottish Curler report of the finals (headlined 'Horton Rink in Devastating Form') called David and I 'two of the brightest prospects in the West'! Apparently I was 'deadly accurate', and Bob and Brian 'gave solid support as the Glasgow rink swept to victory'. David and I each have our names on the trophy five times. And yes, it was a long time ago.

In the 1974-75 season, the competition and the trophy had become officially the Scottish Junior Men's Championship, and Peter Wilson's team were the first winners. Above is the presentation photo. L-R: John Sharp (lead), Peter Wilson (skip), Alan Johnston (Royal Club President), Donald MacRae (Assistant General Manager, Bank of Scotland, sponsors of the competition), Neale McQuistin (2nd) and Andrew McQuistin (3rd). The team were to go forward to play in the first official Uniroyal World Curling Championship.

The list of those who have won the Murray Trophy since 1975 can be found on the Royal Club website here. The origins of world junior curling are discussed here.


Well done to the 2017 winners of the TB Murray Trophy! Back: Cameron Bryce, Fraser Shaw. Front: Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle. Photo courtesy of Tom Brydone.

The 1922 photo of the Worlds Championship winners comes from a scrapbook in the care of T B Murray's family, as does the image of Tom Murray on the hack in Montreal, and thanks to them for permission to reproduce these. I do not know the photographers. The newspaper image of the Murray Trophy is also from that scrapbook. It was taken by Balmain, Edinburgh, but I do not know in which newspaper it appeared. The photo of the first winners of the Murray Trophy is from the 1929-30 Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. The photo of the 1959 presentation group is from the author's archive, and featured on the cover of the April, 1959, Scottish Curler magazine. The 1972 photo is from the author's personal archive. The 1975 presentation photo has been scanned from the January, 1975, Scottish Curler. Thanks to Bruce Crawford, the current Royal Club CEO, who allowed me to photograph the trophy at Cairnie House a couple of years ago.

Monday, January 16, 2017

William Andrew Macfie and Curling in Sweden

Last year saw the centenary of the Swedish Curling Association. This was marked in a number of ways, not least by the publication of a substantial book, above. This was put together by Hakan Sundstrom, for many years the Swedish Association's Secretary, and Editor of Svensk Curling, the Swedish curling magazine. He commissioned many Swedish curlers and International personalities to contribute chapters. The book is lavishly illustrated, and even if you don't read Swedish, it is a fantastic record of that country's curling achievements over the years. And there are many of these. 

On the back cover of the book is one of the most striking photographs of outside curling that I've even seen! It shows the sport being played in the harbour at Uddevalla, c1895. Curling was being played in Sweden many years before the Swedish Association was formed in 1916, and I was interested to see that Hakan had written a couple of chapters about the early years of curling in his country. You see, there is a well known connection with Scotland.

The first curling book that I ever acquired was Beginner's Guide to Curling by Robin Welsh, back in 1969. Therein I learned that curling had been introduced to Sweden by a Scot, William Andrew Macfie. Since I became interested in curling history, I have often wondered about Macfie. Who was he, and how did he come to settle in Sweden? Where had he curled previously in Scotland, and did any records of that exist? And was he really single-handedly responsible for curling's introduction to Sweden, and the establishment of the country's first curling club in 1852? Hakan kindly sent me translation of the first chapters of the anniversary book, which contain information about Macfie. Hakan notes that Macfie's history in Sweden had to do with love, and 'hungry horses'. I was intrigued, and so set off to see what else I could find from here in Scotland.

The genealogy of the Macfie family is a complicated one, but has been well researched. For our curling connection, we should pick up the family with two of the daughters of Robert Macfie (1745/46 - 1827). It was Robert Macfie who started a grocery concern in Greenock in 1769 which evolved into a successful sugar refining business. He married Mary Andrew in 1772. The couple had eleven children, not all of whom survived into adulthood. Among those who did were Margaret, who was born in August, 1774, and Janet (known as Jessy) who was born in September 1790, the eleventh of the recorded children. Robert Macfie bought Langhouse, in Inverkip, in 1798.

The older sister, Margaret, married a seaman called James Macfie in 1799. It seems not to be known if James Macfie, with the same surname, was kin, or from a different branch of the family. The couple had four children, William Andrew Macfie (our Swedish curling pioneer) being born on March 21, 1807. His father apparently was lost at sea that same year. William then was brought up by his mother, a single parent.

The younger sister, Jessy, married, on August 3, 1813, William Thorburn, who was the eldest son of William Thorburn of Leith, a successful tea merchant. The Thorburn and Macfie families were already related, as John Macfie, the third son of Robert Macfie, had married Alison Thorburn, second daughter of William Thorburn of Leith, in 1810.

William and Jessy's fourth child, called Jessie, was born on October 18, 1818. They were to have ten children, all bar one surviving into adulthood. The family moved to Sweden in 1823. Jonas Berg and Bo Lagercrantz in their book Scots in Sweden published by the Swedish Institute, Stockholm, in 1962, explain why. William's younger brother, James, had emigrated to Gothenburg where he became a wholesale merchant. With a fellow Scot, William Brodie, he ran the wholesale firm of Brodie and Thorburn. But he ran into financial difficulties, and his older brother William was sent over to Sweden to 'clear things up'. Apparently William liked the country so much that he bought the estate of Kasen, outside Uddevalla (on the west coast of Sweden north of Gothenburg). According to Berg and Lagercrantz, William Thorburn brought his wife and young family to Sweden in 1823. Jessie, the daughter, would have been just four or five years old when the move to Sweden was made.

Back in Scotland, Margaret Macfie was raising her son William Andrew. According to this web page, about 1815 a considerable share in the business of Macfie, Lindsay and Company was given to her, to assist her in bringing up her family. A few years later William Andrew entered the concern as an apprentice, and he subsequently became a partner in it and remained with the firm until 1837, when he was thirty years old. Just what his business interests were then, and how he supported himself financially at this time, is not clear.

Presumably Macfie had met his first cousin, Jessie Thorburn, from Sweden, on family gatherings in previous years. Whatever the details of their courtship, the couple were married in Leith on January 16, 1839. Jessie was twenty-one, and her husband ten years older. Given that the birth records of their first three children can be found in the parish records of Greenock West church, it can be assumed that for the first few years of their married lives they lived in the Greenock area. In these records, William Andrew Macfie is described as a 'merchant'.

According to Hakan Sundstrom's research, the couple lived in Scotland for a while, but Jessie missed Sweden, and wanted to be near her parents. In 1845 they emigrated and settled down on a farm at Anfasteröd, twenty kilometres south of Uddevalla, and close to Kasen where her mother was.
This map is to show just where in Sweden Uddevalla is.

By 1845 the couple had had four children. Their first child, James, born in Greenock in 1840, was to die in Sweden in 1846. Their second son, William, born in 1841, had only lived for a few months. Margaret, a daughter born in 1844, only lived for three years. One can surmise that the couple's early years in Sweden were not a happy time. But they were to go on to have thirteen children, although only five survived to adulthood.

Macfie's father in law, William Thorburn, had established an export company in 1823 on his move to Sweden. The company also had shipping interests. In 1845, when William Andrew Macfie, now 38, arrived in Sweden, his cousins William Franklin Thorburn and Robert Thorburn were just 25 and 17 years of age. These two were to take over the family business when their father died in 1851.

Where do the 'hungry horses' come into things? One of the Thorburn interests was grain export. In England, London's population grew rapidly in Victorian times. Above ground transport generally, and the movement of goods around the city, depended entirely on horses, see here. And all these horses needed to be fed. Swedish oats were in demand!

By the 1870s, oat exports from Sweden contributed some 17% of the country's total exports, and the Thorburn company contributing more that a quarter of this, see here. It was very profitable for the family.

Given that his wife's brothers, who were also his cousins, were running the company, it is certainly likely that Macfie, somewhat older, became involved in that business enterprise too. Exactly what Macfie's role in the company was, and what his other business activities in Sweden were, remain to be researched. Hakan Sundstrom notes that Macfie became a wealthy businessman.

So, what about Macfie's curling antecedents? Hakan Sundstrom writes, "Macfie was a curler and curling stones were in the household that year, and he began playing with these on frozen lakes in the area. It took a few years for William Andrew Macfie to spread his curling interest to friends in the neighborhood in Uddevalla, but on March 5, 1852, Bohuslänska Curlingklubben was formed as the first curling club in Europe outside the United Kingdom." The Bohuslän Curling Club still exists and has active teams in the second division of the Swedish league system.

But was Macfie really a curler before emigrating to Sweden? That has been impossible to prove, so far. Growing up in Renfrewshire in the early nineteenth century, Macfie would certainly have been aware of curling. Of the clubs in the neighbourhood of Greenock, Ardgowan, instituted in 1841, is the oldest, but Macfie's name does not appear when lists of members were first printed in Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annuals. What, if any, curling Macfie played in Scotland prior to his marriage and relocation to Sweden remains unknown. 

Was the introduction of curling to Uddevalla just Macfie's idea alone? That suggestion deserves more scrutiny. His cousins would certainly have known of the game. William Thorburn had been sent back to Scotland for his schooling. Interestingly, William Thorburn is credited along with Macfie with the introduction of curling to Sweden, see here, and by Jonas Berg and Bo Lagercrantz in their book Scots in Sweden. Early documents from the Bohuslänska Curlingklubben are now in the archives of the Bohuslän museum in Uddevalla, and it will be interesting to see if there were any other Scots involved with the club in its earliest years.

Macfie was certainly a driving force. Hakan Sundrom writes, "In addition to the curling stones Macfie imported from Scotland, members of Bohuslän also tried to get Swedish stone manufacture. 'Granite company C A Kullgren's Enka' in Uddevalla made some stones in the hard granite. They were well made and beautiful but when they began to play with them, it turned out that the granite was not sufficiently elastic to withstand the tough hits." The company to which Hakan refers has a Wikipedia entry, see here. I wonder if any of these early curling stones have found a home in the Bohuslän museum, or elsewhere?

The Bohuslänska Curlingklubben attracted those in the upper level of society from Uddevalla, and received royal patronage. This tidbit comes from Scots in Sweden, "The game was played in furs and silk-hats, often to the accompaniment of music by the Regimental Band."

Hakan writes much more about the Bohuslänska Curlingklubben, how efforts were made to spread the sport, and how it eventually became established, leading to the formation of a national organisation. But all this will be for another time.

I will finish here with just a little more about William Andrew Macfie. He died in 1899, his wife Jessie having passed away in 1883. A photo of him has survived.

The anniversary book contains this image which shows curling on the river which flows through Uddevalla. It is captioned 'Members of Bohuslänska Curlingklubben play on the river ice in Uddevalla'. Amongst those who can be identified is William Andrew Macfie, who is third from the right (asterisked), and Robert Thorburn furthest to the left. Commissioner Aberg is playing the stone.

Robert Thorburn died in 1896, so the photo must date from before this time. And it is proof that William Andrew Macfie retained his interest in curling well into his old age.

There is a Thorburn-Macfie family society in Sweden established in 1937 which today unites some several hundred descendants of the Macfie and Thorburn famililies, see here. I wonder if any of them have information of William Andrew Macfie's life in Sweden.

My thanks to Hakan Sundstrom for translating his chapters from Svenskcurlingforbundet 1916-2016 and allowing me to quote them. The photos above are from the book. 

Scots in Sweden by Jonas Berg and Bo Lagercrantz was published by the Swedish Institute, Stockholm, in 1962 to go with a similarly titled exhibition at the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh in the summer of that year. I consulted the book at the National Library of Scotland.

The detailed genealogy of the Macfie family can be found here. I was able to find birth records of William and Jessie's family thanks to the Scotland's People website.

The map of Sweden is courtesy of Google maps.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Curling at the Prince's Skating Club in London

The Prince's Skating Club in Knightsbridge, London, opened on November 7, 1896. The artificial ice rink was installed in a refurbished building, the new interior by JM Boekbinder, a well known decorator of the time. The large ice surface was rectangular, in contrast to other ice skating rinks in London which were circular in shape, according to the Morning Post newspaper.

The Princes Skating Club was a private club, and was a great success. Membership in the early years was ten guineas - around £1000 today. Two years after opening, the interior of the building was renovated, and the artwork redone by M Picat with an Egyptian theme throughout. In charge of the ice was WW Nightingale who had been manager of the Southport Glaciarium some years previously.

Although curling had been mentioned from the start as a possible recreation alongside ice skating, it was not until 1902 that the sport began to be played at Prince's. In November 1902, a Scottish newspaper, the Bellshill Speaker, described the Prince's Skating Club as 'a rendezvous of fashionable society', but 'it was not inhospitable' being available on one day a week to the curling club. The curling club in question was the London Caledonian CC.

The Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1902-03 included in its review of the 1901-02 season, the following, "Last winter much enjoyment was afforded to Scotsmen resident in London by the formation of the London Caledonian Club which was formed for the purpose of playing in the Glaciarium. The president was the redoubtable Mr Samuel Gibson, while the secretaries were Mr Nightingale, the pioneer of ice rinks, and Mr RH Forsyth. Some splendid play was had, and the club, we understand, is to affiliate with the Royal Club.

This form of curling is evidently to be developed, for at the time of writing we notice this announcement in the Scotsman: LONDON'S INDOOR GAME. An effort is to be made this winter to introduce indoor curling as an additional attraction at the Prince's Skating Club, Knightsbridge. The club is one of the most exclusive in London, and this year was the venue of the world's figure skating championships, the King being present during a portion of the competition.

The idea of a curling section in connection with the Knightsbridge institution has been very favourably entertained, already over two hundred members having joined, among whom are some of the best curlers in Scotland - Lord Balfour of Burleigh, General Stephenson and Captain Wentworth.

It is hoped to make the Scottish national winter pastime very popular in London this season. There is abundance of space at the club for curling, the rink measuring 214 feet by 65 feet, which will allow of four games being played simultaneously. The ice is procured by the ammonia process. A couple of days are needed to make the first ice of the season; thereafter a new surface can be provided in little over an hour. A sum of between £200 and £300 weekly is spent on the upkeep of the ice and the building generally.

There is no doubt that such facilities for the practice of curling must prove a great boon to Scotsmen and others in the great Metropolis. By and by it might be possible to return the hospitality now offered by Canada to our team by entertaining Canadians in London where we can be as certain as they are of ice by the device of Glaciaria."

So, the London Caledonian Curling Club was formed during the winter of 1901-02. It did indeed become affiliated to the Royal Club in 1902, and the club met weekly at the Prince's Skating Club. Their 1902-03 season opened on October 30, 1902, as reported in the Scotsman the following day.

There were seventy-one regular members and eighteen honorary members in that first season according to the Annual for 1902-03. The club's patrons included the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, the Duke of Roxburghe, the Earl of Rosebery, the Earl of Dalkeith and the Earl of Mansfield.

The Dundee Courier of January 27, 1903, noted that the London Caledonian had 'made its home' at the Prince's Rinks and, "On one night a week since the opening of the season some very enjoyable games have been witnessed by spectators who seemed just as much interested and enthusiastic as the curlers themselves. As four full sized rinks can be accommodated at a time, it will be at once apparent that it is actually the real thing and not a make-believe, as some good people imagine."

This last sentence would indicate that there was some scepticism about play on indoor artificial ice, most curling in the early years of the twentieth century still being played outside.

It should be said here that in 1903 the Prince's Skating Rink was the only indoor rink for curling in the whole of Britain. Curling had been played on artificial ice in 1877 at the short-lived ice rink in Rusholme, Manchester, see here. The Southport Glaciarium was more successful, hosting curling and skating between 1877 and 1889, see here. Scotland's first indoor rink, to host curling on a regular basis, would be at Crossmyloof, Glasgow. This rink opened in 1907.

By November 1903, the Prince's Skating Club had a new owner, the Duchess of Bedford, who had purchased the site, the buildings, and the plant. Mary Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, seems to have been a most interesting character, see here and here. Remembered these days as a pioneer aviator, when she was younger she was a keen sportswoman and an accomplished figure skater.

Thursday seems to have been the day on which the London Caledonian members played. As well as curling and skating, the rink was used for ice hockey.

Here's the first image of curling in the Prince's Skating Club that I've been able to find. It's by CH Taffs and appeared in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News on April 22, 1905, entitled 'A Curling Bonspiel in London - the Contests'. This shows that by 1905 the Prince's Skating Club had become the venue for major curling competitions.

The caption explains further, "The Royal Caledonian English Province Curling Clubs' tournament for the President's Cup was held at the Princes Skating Club, Knightsbridge, last week and attracted a large entry. In the penultimate round, Malton and Darlington, by defeating Huddersfield and Liverpool, qualified for the final. This yielded a lengthy struggle on the Friday and resulted in a victory for Darlington  by 17 to 14."

In the 1904-05 season there were forty-two curling clubs in England affiliated to the Royal Club. The 'President's Cup' was that donated by William I'Anson, and the trophy is still played for today, see here.

This photo was printed in the Penny Illustrated Paper of April 13, 1907, and captioned 'Curling Championships at Prince's. The annual competition by the English Province of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. Players applauding a good shot'! This photo had been taken during competition for the I'Anson trophy, held again at the Knightsbridge rink in April, 1907.

In February 1908 it was announced that the Duchess of Bedford had donated a challenge trophy for a competition at the Princes Skating Club, 'open to all clubs in the world, affiliated with the Royal Caledonian Curling Club'. The first competition for the Duchess of Bedford Shield was held April 21-25, 1908. Perhaps this first open event at Prince's was not as successful as it might have been, most English clubs having chosen to play in the I'Anson Trophy at the new Scottish Ice Rink at Crossmyloof in Glasgow, also held in April that year. In the years which followed the Duchess of Bedford Shield competition at the Princes Skating Club grew in popularity.

In October 1908, the figure skating events at the London Olympic Games took place at the Prince's Skating Club, see here.

When David Smith wrote his book Curling: an illustrated history, published in 1981, he was unaware of curling at the Prince's Skating Club rink. However, sometime later he acquired 'a group of stereoscopic lantern slides of a very small format', and wrote about his discovery in the May 2008 Scottish Curler magazine. In that article he noted that they dated, apparently, from 1910.

These remarkable photographs show the glass roof, the murals on the walls around the rink, and certainly give an impression of the grandeur of the place.

And they vividly show what the curling in the rink looked like, and what the players were wearing. Note the different types of brooms in use.

Play was from the crampit.

David's research led him to believe that the action depicted was from the Duchess of Bedford Shield competition, and that at least some of the players were from the Newcastle-on-Tyne and/or the Newcastle Tyneside curling clubs, both of which were taking part in the competition in 1910.

The Duchess of Bedford Shield competition was won that year by a Huddersfield team, here posing for a photograph for the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.

In season 1910-11, the Prince's Skating Club became home to a second curling club, called simply the 'Prince's Curling Club'. According to the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer of April 10, 1911, "This club has grown with astonishing rapidity, some of its most enthusiastic players being drawn from the Scots Guards." This club played on the rink on Saturdays. In the Annual for 1911-12, the Prince's Club had nineteen regular and thirteen occasional members. By comparison, the London Caledonian CC had fifty regular and five occasional members. It is interesting to note that several curlers were members of both clubs - suggesting that the new club had been formed to satisfy a demand for more curling, and not because of any dispute amongst London Caledonian members.

Remarkably, here is a photograph of four members of the Prince's CC, albeit that is is not of high quality. The team above (L-R: HJ Betts, BG Adams, HW Page and AW Leslie-Lickley, skip) had won the Club Championship in the 1911-12 season as well as the Vice-president's prize for the rink having the largest number of wins in Club events during the season. They also met and defeated rinks representing Bedford, Grindelwald (twice), London Caledonians, and Wimbledon. Taking part in twenty-one matches, they won seventeen, lost three, and drew one.

AW Leslie-Lickley, on the right of the photograph, was the Secretary of the Prince's CC.

Curling continued at the Prince's rink at least until January 1915. I suspect that all ice activities finished at this time, with WW1 in progress.

Thereafter the venue was used for a variety of exhibitions. In October 1915 there was a display of Christmas toys, the work of disabled soldiers in the Lord Roberts' Memorial Workshops. And on March 18, 1916, an 'active service exhibition' opened at the venue to give Londoners and visitors to the city 'an opportunity of seeing for themselves exactly what trench warfare is like'!

The Prince's Skating Club was let to the British Red Cross Society in May 1917. 

What the rink was like then can be seen in this painting by Haydn Reynolds Mackey (1881–1979). This can be studied in more detail on the ArtUK website here. The painting is titled, 'Prince's Skating Rink, Knightsbridge, London, during the War: British Red Cross Society Store'.

In May 1919, the war over, the Sketch reported that the Daimler Hire Company had taken over the Prince's Skating Club building with a view to turning it into a large garage and hiring depot. The building no longer exists, having been replaced by housing. I have looked in vain (so far) for an image of the outside of the building.

Where exactly was the rink? It was on Hill Street, which has since been re-named as Trevor Place, between Montpelier Square and Knightsbridge, just south of the Hyde Park Barracks. The map above, from 1914, although not published until 1936, names the building.

The top image is © Illustrated London News Group, and made available via the British Newspaper Archive, as are the other newspaper clippings. The BNA was the source of much of the information in this article. The photograph of the Leslie-Lickey team is by News Illustrations Company, London, as printed in the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1912-13.  The Haydn Reynolds Mackey is from the ArtUK website, and credited to the Imperial War Museums. The London map is from the National Library of Scotland's maps website, here.