Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A look back at the European Championships 1997

The European Championships twenty years ago were held in Fussen, Germany, December 6-13, 1997. That's the winners, above. The women's champions were (L-R) Elisabet Gustafson (skip), Katarina Nyberg, Louise Marmont, Margaretha Lindahl and Elisabeth Persson from Sweden. Germany won the men's championship: (L-R) Andy Kapp (skip), Uli Kapp, Oliver Axnick, Holger Hohne and Michael Schaffer.

Twenty years may not seem a long time to some, but the intervening years have seen curling change dramatically, that evolution being driven by the sport's inclusion in the Olympic Winter Games. And 1997 was the year before the re-inclusion of curling in the Games as a full medal sport. Many of the teams competing at the European Championships in 1997 would be playing at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Japan.

In 1997, there were places for twelve countries in the main European Championship event in both the men's and women's competitions. Each event had two sections of six, the top four from which would combine to play in quarterfinals.

In the Men's Group A1 were Scotland, Germany, Denmark, England, Austria and the Netherlands. In Group A2 were Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Italy and Luxembourg.

In the Women's Group a1 were Switzerland, Scotland, Norway, France, Italy and Luxembourg. In Group a2 were Sweden, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Austria.

There were five countries in what we would now call the men's B Division, trying to make promotion to the A Division for the following year: France, Bulgaria, Wales, Czech Republic and Russia. There were only three women's teams: England, Russia and the Netherlands. More on the B games, below.

The Scottish Men's squad at Fussen is shown above (L-R): James Dryburgh (5th), Douglas Dryburgh (skip), Peter Wilson, Philip Wilson, Ronnie Napier and Alex F Torrance (coach).

All the results can be found here. The Scots beat Netherlands, Denmark, England and Austria, losing only to Andy Kapp's German side in their section games. In the quarters, they played Norway, skipped by Thomas Ulsrud, who had needed a tiebreaker to finish fourth in the other section. According to Leslie Ingram-Brown in his report of the game in the Scottish Curler, Dryburgh played the 'shot of the championships' in the ninth end - an angled triple raise - to count four, whereupon the Norwegians conceded. With that win to reach the semifinals, Scotland was assured a place in the 1998 World Championships in Kamloops.

Scotland lost to Germany 4-2 in the semifinal, Andy Kapp's side going on to win the championship. Dryburgh's side faced Peter Lindholm's Sweden for the bronze medals, and won this game 6-5 with a hit and stay on last stone.

There are no linescores on the World Curling Federation's historical records web pages for this event (here), but the final scores show that Andy Kapp's team, the local favourites, beat Ulrich Schmidt's Denmark 10-5 in the championship match.

This is the Scottish Women's squad. Back L-R: Fiona Bayne (5th), Katie Loudon, Edith Loudon, Jackie Lockhart and Kirsty Hay (skip). In front are Nanette Mutrie (sports psychologist) and Jane Sanderson (coach).

The women came through their section games with wins against Italy, France, Luxembourg, and Norway (skipped by Dordi Nordby), but lost their final section game against Switzerland, despite leading 5-2 at the fifth end. They then faced Sweden's Elisabet Gustafson in the quarterfinals and lost this one to the eventual winners of the tournament.

Although out of the main event, the Scots still had to play two more matches, a ranking game against Joan Reed's England, which only went for six ends, and than a further game to decide 5th/6th place in the rankings. Kirsty's team lost out to Switzerland, skipped by Graziella Grichting, for the second time in the competition. However, sixth in the rankings ensured that a Scottish team would be taking part in the 1998 World Championships.

Sweden beat Germany, skipped by Andrea Schopp, in the semifinal and contested the championship game against Helena Blach-Larvsen's Danes. Gustafson had a three shot lead coming home and duly won her third European title.

In the Men's B Division Wales won four, lost none. France finished with a 3-1 win-loss record, Russian with 2-2, Czech Republic 1-3, and Bulgaria 0-4. These last three countries would take no further part on the competition, but Wales and France still had games to play!

Now, the format of the European Championships changed many times over the years. Back in 1997 it was possible for a B Division team to win the European title that same year. Wales, skipped by John Hunt with Adrian Meikle playing last stones, was able to challenge England, skipped by Martyn Deakin, who had finished their section games fourth in the ranking having won two and and lost three. Wales won this game 7-6, and that gave them the opportunity to play in the quarterfinals. There they met Peter Lindholm's Swedish side, top of the other section, and lost 6-5.

However, I'm sure you will agree that the Welsh team photograph in the official programme shows an elegant squad! L-R: John Hunt (skip and 2nd), Adrian Meikle (4th), Jamie Meikle, Hugh Meikle, Chris Wells.

France too had the opportunity to reach the quarterfinals, but needed to beat Norway to get there. Thomas Ulsrud's team, having already survived a tiebreaker for fourth place in their section, fought off the challenge from Jan Henri Ducroz.

Aside from the semifinals, final and bronze games, further games were played to decide the final rankings of the men's teams in the competition. This was important as the European Championships served then as the qualifying competition for the Worlds, as they still do today. In 1997 the top seven countries in both men's and women's competitions would qualify for the World Championships in Kamloops, Canada.

The results of the games, contested by the losing quarterfinalists, to decide 5th to 8th places were:

Ranking round 1 (which is called, somewhat confusingly on the WCF Historical Results pages, as the 'Relegation game'):
Finland 8 Norway 7
Switzerland 6 Wales 4

5/6 th place:
Switzerland 8 Finland 5

7/8 th place:
Norway 10 Wales 1

So Wales, in eighth place, just missed out on going to Kamloops.

On the women's side, the three countries involved in the B Division finished with the following win-loss records, having played a double round robin: England 3-1, Netherlands 2-2, Russia 1-3. Joan Reed's side then defeated Luxembourg to progress to the quarterfinals.

That's the English ladies above. L-R: Joan Moody (shown here as 5th player, although it was Jacqueline Ambridge, not pictured, who went to Fussen as 5th), Moira Davison, Glynnice Lauder, June Swan, and Joan Reed (skip).

In the quarterfinals they went down 8-2 to Andrea Schopp's German team. Two further losses, to Scotland and Norway, saw them finish eighth in the rankings, just missing out on a place in the 1998 Worlds.

Some Euro trivia from 1997:

1. The local Fussen organising committee comprised Peter Schaffer (President), Charlie Kapp (Vice-president), Christiane Jentsch (General Secretary), Beate Grimm, Roland Jentsch, Rudi Ibald, K-D Schafer and Andy Kapp. 

2. The championships were held in the Bundesleistungszentrum, Fussen.

3. The 1997 European championships were run under the auspices of the European Curling Federation. They are today run by the World Curling Federation, and have been so for some six years now. The history of the ECF, and its demise, is a story still to be written. Not though by me, as I'm not a fan of curling politics!

4. The main sponsor was Augsburger Aktienbank. It would not be until 2002 that Le Gruyere became the title sponsor of the European Curling Championships, an association which continues to this day. 

5. This was the official programme, much of it in German. There were Welcome Messages from Bavarian Prime Minister Dr Edmund Stoiber; the Patron, Dr Irene Epple-Waigel; the Mayor, Dr Paul Wengert; the President of the European Curling Federation, Roy Sinclair; the President of the German Curling Federation Charles Heckman; and from Peter Schaffer, President of the Organising Committee.There were twenty-two and a half pages of adverts in the forty-four page publication.

6. In the days before digital cameras, mobile phones with cameras, and the Internet, it was not as easy as it is today to get team photos to the local organising committee in time for inclusion in the programme. Unfortunately, the 1997 programme does not have photos of Denmark, Finland and Italy men, nor Denmark, Italy and Austria women. However, the French team photo (above) included their mascot, a white cat called 'Puce' ('Chip' in English)!

7. The competition had its own currency, the 'Curling-Euro' which could be used in most of the shops in Fussen.

8. The Finnish women's team had travelled to the North West Castle rink in Stranraer, Scotland, to get some pre-European practice. They asked Gail McMillan if she would coach them in Sweden. Gail, at her own expense, travelled by car and ferry, and collected the team at Munich Airport to finish the journey to Fussen. The Finnish women, skipped by Jaana Jokela, with Anne Eerikainen (aka Malmi) playing last stones, Nina Pollanen and Laura Tsutsunen, with Gail as their coach, reached the semifinals!

Thanks go to John Brown for his help with this article. The photo of the winning teams is by Leslie Ingram-Brown and appeared in the January 1998 Scottish Curler magazine. The photos of the Scottish teams appeared uncredited in the January 1998 Scottish Curler. The images of the Welsh and French men, and the English women are from the official programme, from my archive.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

In search of the red stones

Not all old curling stones are made from Ailsa Craig granite. When David Smith wrote 'Some facts about old stones' back in 2008, see here, he listed many of the different types of stone that had been used to make curling stones, that he had found mentioned in books and adverts from the late nineteenth century. Aside from the various forms from Ailsa Craig (still used today by Kays in Mauchline, see here) there were Burnock Water, Tinkernhill, Carsphairn Red, Crawfordjohn, Silver Grey, Muthill, Giells, Earnock Moor, Blantyre Black, Blantyre Silver Grey, and Douglas Water. There were also Crieff Serpentine, Furnace, and Tinto. In more recent years we can add two types of Welsh Trefor to the list, as used by the Canada Curling Stone Company, see here. And today curling stones are made from Chinese stone by the Tiano Company, see here.

Some of these stone types, old and new, can be identified easily. David's 2008 article contained images to assist such identification, although the detail and source of many of these older types of stone has now been lost.

There's lots to be said about some of them. I've written, here, about 'Crawfordjohns' whose source is the Craighead Quarry, near Abington. But I've become curious about red stones, such as those made, apparently, from stone found near Carsphairn in Dumfries and Galloway, and described as 'Carsphairn Reds'.

These are my own red stones. I thought they were probably Carsphairn Reds, but I couldn't be sure. This past summer I resolved to try find out where this stone came from, and who made them.

The first reference that I can find in the old literature is in the book 'Curling', by James Taylor, published in 1884. In a chapter entitled 'Curling Stones' he quotes extensively from James Brown's 'History of the Sanquhar Curling Society' which had been published in 1874 to mark the centenary of the Society. Brown describes the different material from which curling stones have been made by Sanquhar curlers at different times over the years and writes, "A few from Muirbrack, in the Parish of Carsphairn, have also been made. They are of a peculiar reddish colour, light in proportion to their size, and run well."

The Reverend John Kerr's book, 'History of Curling and Fifty Years of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club', published in 1890, has lots to say about curling stones. In a chapter entitled 'The Science of Curling' he asks an expert, Professor Forster Heddle, for his opinions. According to the National Museum of Scotland's website (here), Professor Heddle was a larger than life character, a renowned academic and one of Scotland's most famous mineralogists.

We learn from Kerr's book that six varieties of curling stone (Ailsa Blue Hone, Ailsa Red Hone, Common Ailsa, Crawfordjohn, Burnock Water and Crieff) accounted for two thirds of all curling stones in use at that time. Carsphairn Reds were not common, but are certainly mentioned. Professor Heddle writes, "Carsphairn. This is a stone the first inspection of which is not in its favour, but which increases in apparent excellence the more it is examined. The rock is a quartz porphyry, and that which is unpromising is the large amount of quartz, bringing in lightness and brittleness. And, secondly, that it is a porphyry, which, in a certain sense, implies absence of uniformity.

A porphyry has a structure in which crystals are embedded in a paste, in the same manner as raisins are embedded in a dumpling. Here is absence of uniformity. As the raisins may be picked out of the dumpling, so might the crystals be knocked out of the paste; and though it might be held that the raisins were the best part of the dumpling, yet it is not so if the 'raisins' bring in lightness and brittleness, and if their removal left a number of holes.

An examination of sections of the rock, however, shows that the surfaces of the quartz crystals are rough, enabling the the paste firmly to grip them; and as that paste is itself of remarkable uniformity - as is the general structure of that stone, there being an absolute freedom from holes - this stone, apart from its lightness, probably is one of great excellence. Never having seen it in mass, I cannot speak to freedom from flaws."

One can tell that Heddle was a good teacher. I won't ever look at a red curling stone again without thinking of his analogy of a dumpling containing raisins!

But where was this Carsphairn stone obtained? I wondered if the 'Muirbrack' mentioned in Taylor's book might be the Marbrack Farm that lies to the east of Carsphairn village. Local knowledge was required, so I visited the Carsphairn Heritage Centre (see here). There I was fortunate to find Anna Campbell on duty, and she had the answer to my question. She knew exactly from where the stone had been obtained - on Furmiston farm, just to the east of Marbrack. She recalled, "Many years ago I walked on the hill face at Furmiston between the B7000 and the farm house. I was looking for evidence of the stones. At several of the rocky outcrops I found evidence of stones which had been roughly hewn as curling stones and then discarded."

This evidence sent me to Furmiston, and the area in question.

There is no large quarry - the stone was obtained from surface boulders, or outcrops of rock over a large area.

 This is the road in to Furmiston.

And used to make this farm road were obvious fragments of a red stone. The current holders of Furmiston knew that stone to make curling stones had in the past been taken from the farm, and were able to confirm there was no single quarry from where the stone was obtained.

No major quarry, but the Ordnance Survey map from 1853 does indicate evidence of some stone extraction in the area, but this of course might just have been for making roads.

There is no doubt in my mind now that my own red stones, above, are indeed 'Carsphairn Reds'.

Here's a block of rough stone obtained at Furmiston.

Presumably the blocks of stone, perhaps roughly fashioned into 'cheeses', were taken to be finished at one of the curling stone manufactories that were established at that time. Who was obtaining the stone at source, and sending it forward? This I have been unable to find out, as yet. There does not seem to have been one family doing this, such as the Milligans at Craighead whose name is synonymous with Crawfordjohn stones. Further research is needed here.

As to where the rough blocks were fashioned into actual curling stones, I have two places where this was carried out. The oldest (named) curling stone manufacturer is Andrew Cowan of Barbieston. Cowan's business ledger, which extends from 1865 to 1889, has survived. Most of the stones Cowan made and sold in the earliest years recorded were Ailsas and Burnocks. But on February 1, 1875, he records in his ledger the sale of 12 pairs of 'Red Carsphairn Granite' at 28 shillings a pair. The buyer's name is somewhat indistinct but looks like 'John Hunter Esq' of Dalmellington. (If this is correct it could be the John Hunter who was manager of the Dalmellington Iron Works at that time.) The total bill came to £16 and 16 shillings, with handles still to be sourced and fitted. I cannot find in the ledger how much Cowan paid for the rough Carsphairn blocks.

A second entry from Cowan's ledger, from November 24, 1875, records the sale of 'one pair of Red Carsphairn stones. Extra finish. Checked round the belt' at 30 shillings. (A checkered marking was inscribed on the striking band.) Cowan seems to have supplied a pair of nickel silver handles for these stones at an additional 28 shillings. So, handles could cost almost as much as the stones! It is interesting to compare the cost of other stone types from the same period. On the same page of the ledger, a pair of Common Ailsas cost 32 shillings, whereas a pair of Burnocks was 27 shillings. A pair of brass handles for the latter was 13 shillings. 

There's a reference too from the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald of January 30, 1891, in an article which described a visit to 'The Curling Stone Manufactory at The Haugh, Mauchline'. This was the company set up by Andrew Kay, and in 1891 was being run by his widow.

Of the various 'metals' described as being used to make curling stones there is the briefest of mentions of 'Carsphairn stone - a deep red'.

There were a number of curling stone makers at the end of the nineteenth century and it is certainly possible that they used Carsphairn stone too.

This advert appeared in the Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club for 1888, and 'Carsphairn Red' stones appear prominently. P and R Fleming were a large firm of manufacturing ironmongers, see here, with headquarters on Argyle Street in Glasgow. Selling curling stones and other curling paraphernalia was apparently just a sideline to their main business. Adverts such as that above appeared well into the twentieth century. P and R Fleming did not make the stones. They were simply the retailer.

'The Complete Curler' by John Gordon Grant, published in 1914, mentions Carsphairn stone in passing. In discussing the question, "Which is the best kind of stone?" Grant writes about Ailsas, Burnock Waters and Crawfordjohns, then says, "Besides the Ailsa, Burnocks, and Crawfordjohns there are several other varieties of stone - Blantyres, Tinkernhills, Carsphairns and Crieffs - to be seen occasionally on the pond (and in the makers' establishments)."

Carsphairn curling stones have their place in the sport's history. They may not have the fame of Ailsas but survivors, still in good condition to be played on outside ice, are rare indeed.

A well polished Carsphairn stone, from the collection of the late David Smith. I wonder who made this one, and who made my pair?

Photos are by Bob Cowan. Thanks to Anna Campbell for all her help. The map clipping is from the NLS maps website here. The P and R Fleming advert is from a Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual.