Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Scottish Ice Rink at Crossmyloof

The Scottish Ice Rink at Crossmyloof, Glasgow, opened for business on Tuesday, October 1, 1907. This image, from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1907-08, is the only photo of the outside of the rink that I know of. I think we are looking at the rink from the south west.

The rink was the result of the efforts of a small group of Glasgow businessmen, with George Hamilton as the company's chairman, and John Jackson, the secretary. The report in the Annual says, "They had waited for fifteen years on the Royal Club doing something to provide Scotland with an artificial rink, and they also waited upon Edinburgh, which had suggested doing something five years ago in this direction. However, about a dozen business men in Glasgow meanwhile laid their heads and their purses together, and now the scheme was accomplished. They had called it a Scottish Ice Rink, and they hoped that the people of Edinburgh and all Scotland would come forward and help the undertaking."

Sir Charles Dundas threw the opening stone at the rink, and in the afternoon there was a friendly bonspiel between teams from the the east of Scotland and the west of the country. The results of twelve games are given in the Annual for 1907-08. As the rink had room for six sheets of ice at that time, that accounts for two sessions of play.

In the evening a hundred and fifty curlers attended a banquet in the Grosvenor Hotel. The Reverend John Kerr, the Royal Club Chaplain, gave the toast to 'the Success of the Scottish Ice Rink'.

A trophy, the Kandersteg Reunion Cup, had been presented by George Hamilton, the company chairman, and sixty teams competed for this over the first three days the rink was open.

The rink wasn't all about curling. On the second evening there was a skating carnival and fancy dress ball. The Annual for 1907-08 reports, "Over two hundred skaters in fancy dress occupied the floor, while there were a thousand spectators. For the most part the dresses were novel and striking, and the spectacle was a fine one. Judging by the performances of many of those participating in the carnival, it is evident that Glasgow has already a fair number of experts in the art of skating. Every style was to be seen, from the extremely plain to the highly ornate and artistic. The more brilliant skaters were frequently applauded by the onlookers.

The management had made every arrangement for the comfort of their guests, and the excellent buffet was fully taken advantage of. A striking testimony to the excellence of the freezing plant employed was afforded by the ice-floor, which, absolutely without a flaw at the beginning, preserved its clear surface in the best condition till the close of the evening. A first-class orchestra supplied a good programme of music, and several waltzers on skates displayed their skill. A hockey match in the course of the evening excited great interest."

Curling was to be the main occupation at the rink. The first adverts for the rink stated, "Each day will be divided into three periods of three hours each, say from 10 o'clock a.m. to 1 o'clock p.m., from 2 to 5, and from 7 to 10, so as to permit of three games of twenty-one heads being played on each rink per day."

There was also an ice rink club. "A Club has been formed in connection with the Rink, with Club Premises attached, wherein Luncheons, Tea, and Refreshments are obtainable. Gentlemen can be admitted to Membership of this Affiliated Club, and have free access to the Rink and Club Premises, subject to such Rules as may be made. The Subscription to the Affiliated Club is, for Annual Members if located within a radius of ten miles of Glasgow, £1. 1s., and for Country Members beyond that radius, 10s. 6d. Life Members will also be admitted on a contribution of £10."

Members were charged two shillings each per period of three hours, and non-members, three shillings.

This strange-looking image comes from the Annual for 1907-08. I suspect that it is an 'artist's impression' of the inside of the rink, rather than a real photo. This does show that there was a balcony of sorts at the end of the building.

This postcard definitely shows the inside of the rink, but it too is something of a puzzle. The people in the photograph are not skating, but appear to be simply perambulating about the space! The postcard is postally used and carries the postmark January 1, 1909. The photo then must have been taken sometime in the first fifteen months of the rink's operation. The orchestra platform can be made out in the rear of the photo. Note that there is no balcony around the rink's sides.

The Scottish Ice Rink at Crossmyloof proved to be very successful. For example, it hosted the visiting Canadians in 1909 for the main test matches of the tour, as Robin Copland records here.

This photograph, by Turnbull, Glasgow, from the Royal Club Annual of 1909-10 shows some of the Scottish and Canadian teams at Crossmyloof. The image clearly shows glass panels in the roof of the building, allowing daylight to enter.

The rink continued to operate after the outbreak of war in 1914. However, because of the conflict, patronage of the rink decreased in 1915-16, and in the autumn of 1916 the Directors of the Scottish Ice Rink Company decided (reluctantly, according to the report in the 1917-18 Annual) not to open the rink for the 1916-17 season. However, Mr Hunter Kennedy, the Chairman of the Scottish Ice Rink Curling Club, succeeded in raising a guarantee fund of £2000 and getting the club to take over the rink for the time being, paying a rental to the Scottish Ice Rink Company. Despite the war, this venture turned out to be successful, in so far as the guarantors only had to meet a small loss, and the various competitions at the rink were played off.

The ongoing war was still very much in mind. The report in the 1917-18 Annual notes, "It is also very pleasing to hear from the Secretary, Mr James Gourlay, that, out of a total amount of prize money of between £60 and £70, more than two-thirds of that sum was handed back to him to be forwarded to the Scottish Branch of the British Red Cross Society."

The rink at Crossmyloof opened for the new season on November 1, 1917. Britain's other rinks, at Haymarket, Aberdeen, Manchester, and Prince's in London, were all now closed, requisitioned for the war effort. The costs of keeping the rink going were again underwritten by the Ice Rink Club and the season was financially successful.

Towards the end of the 1917-18 season, in March, 1918, the rink was bought by William Bearmore and Company Ltd, 'to be used in connection with the making of aero engines' as recorded in the Annual for 1919-20. All ice sport at the rink ceased.

I have always wondered about what happened to the building then. I had in my mind that it became an important place in Glasgow's industrial past. Or maybe not. I resolved to find out.

Much material about the Beardmore company is now in the University of Glasgow Archives, so I arranged to visit these in Partick. The mystery of what happened to that first Crossmyloof rink can be found in two books: Beardmore: The History of a Scottish Industrial Giant by John R Hume and Michael S Moss', published by Heineman, London, 1979, and Beardmore Aviation 1913-1930 by Charles E MacKay, published by Clydeside Press, 2012.

The night bombing of England in 1917 had led to the establishment of an Air Ministry. There was urgent need to adopt a design for an aircraft engine, and the Ministry opted for the 'untried' ABC Motors Ltd Dragonfly engine, on the understanding that it would be cheap to produce.

The Beardmore company was to receive orders for 1500 such engines, and, in anticipation of the orders, the company purchased, in March 1918, the Scottish Ice Rink building at Crossmyloof for £17,000 to convert it to a Dragonfly engine assembly plant. The first order for 1000 engines was placed on June 8, 1918, with an order for a further 500 following soon after.

For those interested, the ABC Dragonfly was a nine cylinder air-cooled radial engine with three valves per cylinder, two exhaust and one inlet. One of the reasons that the Dragonfly engine was ordered was it did not require a particularly skilled labour force, and the Beardmore shell manufacturing machinery could be used to turn out the engine cylinders.

Two things then occurred. The armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, bringing to an end the fighting on the Western Front. The need to build large numbers of aircraft was no longer pressing.

And in testing, it was found that the Dragonfly engine did not perform to expectations. On May 13, 1919, the directors of William Beardmore and Co, Ltd, were informed that the Dragonfly programme had been cancelled.

No Dragonfly engines were ever made at Crossmyloof and the only manufacturing done there was one batch of crankshafts. The company used the old ice rink as a store!  

By the mid-1920s, there were efforts to bring curling and skating to a new venue in Glasgow, but these efforts came to nought. Then, in 1927, the possibility emerged for the return of winter sports to Crossmyloof.

The Dundee Courier of October 22, 1927, ran an advert, "The Scottish Ice Rink Syndicate - To purchase Crossmyloof Ice Rink, Glasgow, and promote skating, curling, and ice sports generally, 190 West George Street, Glasgow. Capital, £100, in 5 shilling shares."

On May 5, 1928, the Scotsman reported that the Scottish Ice Rink Company (1928) had been given planning permission to 'reconstruct and extend the present rink at Titwood Road, Crossmyloof'.

Curling did return to Crossmyloof. The new facility opened for play in January 1929. The Annual for 1929-30 says, "The Scottish Ice Rink at Crossmyloof, Glasgow, was re-opened as a very much enlarged and improved structure on 14th January 1929, after an interval of approximately eleven years, only a portion of some of the walls of the old rink being utilised in the new building."

The Annual for 1929-30 records, "The opening season was most successful from all points of view, curling, skating, and ice hockey being all taken up by their respective devotees with enthusiasm, and the financial result, after a season of only three and a half months' duration, exceeded the most sanguine anticipations."

Such success led to the building being extended, as the report in the Annual for 1929-30 describes. "The success of the Scottish Ice Rink last season which, without exaggeration, may be characterised as phenomenal, proved to the satisfaction of the directors that the ice surface and accommodation generally, although greatly in excess of that provided in the old rink, were so inadequate that an extension of the building, including an additional ice surface of 100 feet by 38 feet, was decided upon. This extension is completed. The increased accommodation includes a large additional tea-room, cloak-rooms, additional skate-room, and ample provision of spray-baths, the latter being intended primarily for the ice hockey players."

Here's the advert for the rink which appeared in the Annual for 1930-31. Note that you could hire stones, if you did not have your own. Galoshes were available for 3d!

This is a photo, date unknown, of the 'new' Scottish Ice Rink at Crossmyloof. It belongs to the Morrison's supermarket which now occupies this site on Titwood Road. It should be compared with the image at the top of this article. The roofs of the two buildings are quite different.

The ice rink complex was to grow further with the opening of an annex with seven sheets of curling ice in 1938, and then another annex with a further four rinks in 1961. There's more about Crossmyloof's history here, and here.

The source of images is as indicated in the text. The advert was scanned from a copy of the Royal Club Annual in my possession. I thank the helpful staff of the University of Glasgow Archives, and at Morrison's Supermarket in Titwood Road who 'found' the framed image of the Scottish Ice Rink for me, as it was no longer hanging on the wall when I visited, and gave me permission to photograph it.