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.

Friday, October 06, 2017

The Women on Rothie Pond

I've written already about some of the pioneering women who took to the curling ice at the end of the nineteenth, and beginning of the twentieth, centuries, see here and here. When an old postcard came up for sale on eBay earlier this year, I realised that it was of considerable significance. That's it above as I was fortunate to win it at auction. The image provides early photographic evidence of 'mixed' or, more accurately, 'open' curling in Scotland, with women playing alongside the men. I had previously written about the women curlers of Buxton, England, playing in mixed rinks, see here, and I had been on the look out for similar evidence of this in Scotland.

The postcard is captioned 'The Roaring Game. Insch v Rothie, on the Rothie Pond'. The photo is by 'G.L.C.'  It is not a high quality image, and the card is rather well worn, partly because it has been sent through the mail, from Aberdeen to an address in France. There are two postmarks on the reverse of the card, both showing the date of February 7, 1905. This means of course that the photograph of the curlers on Rothie pond must have been taken before this date. The latest that the action depicted could have been recorded is in the winter of 1904-05, or perhaps even before then. To my knowledge there are no earlier photos which show women curling alongside the men on Scottish ice.

There are two women in the photo. The first is clearly taking part in one of the games, above. 

The other woman, on the right in this enlargement of the image, could be playing and awaiting her turn to sweep, or perhaps she is just watching the action. There are seven men involved, so there is every chance she is the eighth curler on that rink and is one of the players.

The significance of finding an early image of women involved in a game between two different clubs is exciting in itself, but I wondered if I could find out who they might be.

The Insch and Garrioch Curling Club was formed in 1889 and admitted to the Royal Club in 1892. Their membership lists in the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annuals in the early years of the twentieth century do not include any women's names.

Were the women members of the Rothienorman Curling Club? Information in old Annuals suggests that the club was founded in 1905 and admitted to the Royal Club that same year. The postcard dates from before the club's admittance to the Royal Club. Rothienorman's application for membership came up at the AGM of the Royal Club held in the Royal Hotel on Princes Street, Edinburgh, on July 26, 1905. The 'Rothie-Norman (Aberdeenshire)' club was proposed by JW Learmonth, representing Merchiston and Davos, and seconded by WA Peterkin of Caberfeidh and Forres.

This is the club's office bearers as recorded in the Annual for 1905-06

And here are the members. There are nine women listed as 'occasional members' of the club! These are: Mrs Crawford Leslie, Miss DJ Crawford, Mrs SW Bethell, Mrs R Gordon, Miss K Crawford, Mrs Allan Gray, Mrs Low, Miss Low and Mrs Black.

There are 647 Scottish curling clubs listed in the Annual for 1905-06. Five are women only clubs (Balyarrow, Boarhills, Cambo, Boghead and Hercules). In addition, some clubs listed lady members separately, for example Balerno (with 11 names), Braid (also with 11) and Broughty Ferry (with 31). Others listed their women curlers as 'extraordinary members', for example Edinchip had seven such. Compared with five years previously, an increasing number of clubs had one or two women members. I was interested to note that one club, Cloanden, had a female Secretary and Treasurer - Miss Nellie Cairns. But the majority of Scottish curling clubs remained exclusively male preserves in 1905.

As already mentioned, the old Annuals show the formation of the Rothienorman Curling Club to be 1905. But that date would seem to be incorrect, the Rothienorman Curling Club, and the 'Rothie Pond' being mentioned in local newspapers well before that date. Indeed, the Aberdeen Journal of Tuesday, February 21, 1893, records a meeting in the Rothie Inn 'with a view of forming a curling club'. The site for the pond had been given free, by Mrs Crawford Leslie, and she was appointed Patroness. A working committee was appointed and and over 40 members were enrolled. The Banffshire Journal and General Advertiser of February 14, 1893, had also reported on the proposal to form a Rothienorman Curling Club, noting that the site of the pond was 'within a short distance from the railway station which, to other clubs, would be a strong recommendation'.

The curling pond, beside the Fordoun Burn, is shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1901, providing evidence that the club was in existence before 1905.

A close-up of the 25 inch map shows that there is another pond just to the north of the curling pond. Newspaper reports record fundraising efforts to provide a skating pond near the curling pond, and this likely is what is shown on the map. Indeed, this second pond can be seen in the rear of the postcard image. Rothie House lies to the north of these ponds.

The Aberdeen Press and Journal of February 14, 1902, had this report of curling on the Rothie Pond. Note the brief mention of a game involving two female skips, a Miss Crawford and a Miss Low.

Some family history research is relevant here. Isabella Forbes Crawford Leslie had inherited the estate of Rothie and Badenscoth in 1877 when her father, Colonel Forbes Leslie of Rothie, died. She was married to Lieutenant Colonel James Henry Graham Crawford of the Royal Engineers. He had died in 1860. Isabella Forbes Crawford Leslie ran the estate from 1877 for the next twenty-seven years until her death in 1904, and it is this 'Mrs Crawford Leslie' who donated the land for the curling pond and was the club's first patroness. Her eldest son was Colonel Henry Crawford Leslie. He married in 1872 Susan Hunter, and the couple had three daughters and four sons. He died in 1898, predeceasing his mother.

The eldest of the grandsons, Reginald William Henry Crawford Leslie, married Janet Macfie Blaikie in Edinburgh on July 2, 1902. He was 29 years old, she was 22. Whilst the guests in Edinburgh celebrated, back on the estate in Rothienorman, there was much celebration too, with a grand dinner and speeches, and a bonfire on Gordonstown Hill, all reported in great detail in the Aberdeen Press and Journal of July 3, 1902. The grandmother's obituary appears in the Banffshire Journal and General Advertiser of April 26, 1904. The obituary indicates that she had been in 'delicate health' for some time. Reginald Crawford Henry had spent much of his life in Australia, returning to Scotland only in October 1901 from sevice with the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa, and presumably was involved in running the Rothienorman estate from then, inheriting it in 1904 when his grandmother died, aged 77. The census of 1901 shows Isabella living at Rothienorman House with her widowed sister and nine servants.

It is Janet Blaikie, now Mrs Crawford Leslie, who appears as the Patroness of the Rothienorman Curling Club and is listed amongst the members when the club was admitted to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1905. She would have been 25 years old then. She seems to have been a keen curler, her name appearing amongst the club's members right up to the beginning of WW1. Reginald Crawford Henry died in 1916, and Janet remarried, to Alexander Gordon Duff, in London in 1917.

Two of the other women who were members of the Rothienorman club in 1905 were Reginald Crawford Leslie's sisters, who must also have been resident at Rothienorman House, or on the estate, at this time.

One of these sisters, Dorothy Isabel Crawford, married Alexander Forbes Irvine of Drum in July 1905. A deputation (Dr Gray and James Durno) from the curling club met with the bride to hand over a carriage clock as a wedding present. This is recorded in the Aberdeen Press and Journal of July 19, 1905, which says, "The deputation expressed their pleasure at her frequent visits to the curling pond. Her appearance there had always been much appreciated by the members. They asked her to accept the gift as a mark of respect and esteem, accompanied with hearty best wishes for herself and Mr Irvine. Miss Crawford, in reply, cordially thanked the deputation for their kindness and desired them to convey an expression of her thanks to all the other members of the club. She had always taken a great interest in the club, and hoped to remain a member of it. She would never forget the many happy days she had spent with them, and she hoped to spend many more."

It is interesting to speculate if Dorothy was able to continue her interest in curling as a married lady.

It is hard to imagine anything of the lives of curlers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, least of all the pioneering women. The discovery of an old postcard has provided just a small insight. The two women shown on the ice were members of the Rothienorman club. Which of the nine women in the club's membership were they? We know now that three of these nine were young women, in their twenties, and that was a surprising find. There's much more to be uncovered of course. Who were the other six women listed in the 1905-06 Annual? Would that the minutes of the Rothienorman Curling Club had survived!

By 1905 women were making inroads on curling ice in other countries too. This wonderful photograph of the St Lawrence Ladies' Curling Club in Montreal appears in the 1905-06 Annual and illustrates just how big a foothold the women there had on the sport, and how they were keen to publicise their efforts. And in Switzerland too, where more and more British people began to take winter holidays. The men could play curling, and it would be unsurprising if wives and daughters did not also take to the ice. This they did ... more about which in a future article.

The postcard images are scanned from the original card in the author's possession. Map images are from the NLS Maps website here. The extract of the Aberdeen Press and Journal is © the British Library Board via the British Newspaper Archive. Scans of entries in the 1905-06 Annual, are from the author's copy. The photo of the St Lawrence Ladies is by Knox, Montreal.

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.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Chuck Hay

Chuck Hay, legend, died last week, aged 87. That's him in happy times on the hack at the Brora rink. You will find the World Curling Federation's obituary here, and the Royal Club's here.

Some years ago I wrote the following about Chuck and his team of John Bryden, Alan Glen and David Howie:

"Chuck Hay and his team won the Scottish title in 1965, the first of a string of successes as the team was to dominate the Scottish Championship for four years. Such success was well deserved. Hay had watched the Richardson rink with their long sliding deliveries, the takeout game with its blank ends, and the powerful sweeping. He made a conscious decision to copy the Canadian style of play. The Richardsons had impressed Hay both on and off the ice and he and his team set out to imitate them. Hay's team understood the game was all about shotmaking: the whole team had to have strength, from lead to skip."

Hay's team strived for success in the Scotch Cup, at that time the unofficial world championship. By 1967, the event has expanded to include eight countries - Scotland, Canada, USA, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, France and Germany.

"On their home ice (at Perth), in front of their home crowd in the midst of tremendous excitement, Hay's rink curled brilliantly to beat Alfie Phillips's Canadian team in the semifinal of the 1967 Scotch Cup.

On an adjacent sheet, Bob Woods, a Canadian then resident in Sweden, skipped his Swedish side to a victory over the USA.

It was to be the first all-European final of the Scotch Cup. In the key tenth end of the 12-end final game, Bob Woods failed by a measurement with a draw which would have tied the game. Instead the Swedes went two shots down. The Scots counted a single in the eleventh, and the Swedish side ran out of stones in the twelfth. Hay, Bryden, Glen and Howie had won the Scotch Cup."

As a young University student, I was in the stands that day, an experience I have never forgotten!

Sir Ronald Cumming, Chairman, the Scotch Whisky Association, with the Scotch Cup and, L-R, Alan Glen (2nd), John Bryden (3rd), David Howie (lead) and Chuck Hay (skip).

Chuck went on to many more successes on, and off, the ice in the years that followed. There's no doubt he will be well remembered.

If you will forgive me though, I want to share a personal memory of Chuck, from a few years before that Scotch Cup success. The occasion was again the Perth rink, in April 1964. I was the second player on Bill Horton's team with David Horton at 3rd, and Martin Bryden as lead. Representing the Crossmyloof rink, and our school, Hutchesons' Grammar, we won the TB Murray trophy, the national championship for curlers of 25 years of age and under. I was just 16. It was our team's first success.

I don't think we youngsters knew back in 1964 much about Chuck Hay who presented the trophy. (Yes, the fresh faced young man standing next to Chuck is really me, proudly wearing the jumper knitted by my mum!) Next to me is David, then Bill, then Martin.

Chuck was presenting the trophy in his capacity as 'Royal Club Council Member and Scotland's most successful skip last season' according to the report in the May 1964 Scottish Curler.

We were to read in that magazine that Chuck confessed that he was surprised by the high standard of play in the final. "They all played exceptionally well," he said, "but the Glasgow boys, in addition, knew exactly what they wanted tactically and this made all the difference." This was kind. It was no wonder that three years later we were vocal supporters of the Scottish team at the final day of the 1967 Scotch Cup!

Photos are from my archive. I don't know just when the top pic was taken, or by whom. The other photos were used in the Scottish Curler magazine, although the photographers have not been credited. The old text is from Curling and the Silver Broom, by Bob Cowan, published by Richard Drew in 1985. Details of all the teams at the 1967 Scotch Cup, and the results, can be found here.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Canadians in Scotland 1909

In 2009, Robin Copland wrote 'Curling in the Footsteps of History', looking back one hundred years to when Canadian curlers visited Scotland for the first time. Robin's booklet was reproduced on the Curling History blog in four parts, here, here, here and here.

Recently I came across some interesting images which relate to that visit, but all raised questions that I was unable to answer. The photo above, from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1909-10 is simply titled 'En Route'. Where was this taken? Was it in Liverpool, as the tourists joined a special train to take them up to Edinburgh on January 16, once they had disembarked from the Empress of Ireland (here)?

The report of the tour as published in the 1909-10 Annual notes that, "The curlers, after having been photographed and refreshed, left Riverside Station, Liverpool, by special trains (sic) for Edinburgh, their appearance with broom, bonnet, and tartan attracting general attention." Now, this confirms that the Canadians were indeed photographed at Riverside Station. However, whether the photo shows the Riverside Station is questionable, see the images of the station here.

The report in the Annual does imply that the curlers travelled on more than one train, but other reports would suggest this is unlikely.

And what about the decoration on the locomotive? There is a special headboard, crossed curling brooms, and two curling stones! Does HR 68 indicate that it could possible be this locomotive, and that the special train was from the Highland Railway and had run down to Liverpool to collect the curlers? Or is the photo simply of special transport arranged for the curlers at some other time on their tour?

The tour itinerary can be found here, and a list of all those in the Canadian party is here.

This is a postcard of the 'Canadian Curlers at Peebles'. Robin has described how the group travelled to Peebles by train on Monday, January 18. As they steamed into Peebles station, 'a great shout arose from the local curlers, who were lined up on the platform'. All then the visitors marched behind a pipe band to the town hall for a civic reception. The Canadians stayed overnight at the Peebles Hydro.

Given the mild weather, there was no natural ice, so actual curling was not in the programme. However, the group was royally entertained with a dinner at the Hydro, and the next day were taken in eleven 'motor-cars', 'six of which were private vehicles lent for the occasion', to visit Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott.

I think that the photograph above is of the group prior to setting off for Abbotsford. Note that several women are present! Indeed, the Canadians had brought with them two women. One was a 'Mrs MacDonald' from Toronto, and I presume she was the wife of Randolf MacDonald who was one of the Ontario players. The other woman was a Miss St Clair Silver from Halifax. She likely was the daughter, or sister, of the captain of the Nova Scotia players. The presence of the two Canadian women probably explains why 'several local ladies' also took part in the outing to Abbotsford. I wonder if it will ever be possible to identify who's who in the group photograph?

Motor cars were still not common in Britain in 1909. Less than 100,000 were on the roads.  

In my collection I have this postcard, a promotional card for the Queen's Hotel, showing the Canadian Curlers' 'Visit to Blairgowrie' on February 4, 1909. Again, there was no natural ice to allow play when the Canadian party travelled north to Coupar Angus, as guests of Strathmore Province on Wednesday February 3. They stayed overnight at the Queen's Hotel, and, according to the report in the Annual for 1909-10, 'they had a delightful outing' on Thursday, February 4, when they visited Murthly Castle. They left the Queen's Hotel at 10.25, travelling in ten motor cars 'lent by gentlemen in the neighbourhood'! 

This is a closeup of two of the vehicles used to transport the curlers. Can anyone identify the cars?

Nowadays, with modern coach travel, it is easy to transport groups of curlers around the country. In 1909 though, the logistics were not a simple matter.

Three test matches, and other provincial matches, were played at the Scottish Ice Rink at Crossmyloof, as Robin describes here.

The photo of the curlers with the locomotive is from the 1909-10 Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. The other images are scans of postcards in my collection.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Wanlockhead School Curling Club

In 1908, the Wanlockhead village school received a letter from the Reverend John Kerr. The Royal Caledonian Curling Club chaplain wanted to know about the school curling club. John Edmond, the schoolmaster, organised for photographs to be taken, and an article about the club duly appeared in the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1908-09, accompanied by the image above.

Here's the story of school curling at Wanlockhead.

One of the many attractions of the Museum of Lead Mining in Wanlockhead village, Dumfries and Galloway, is the Miners' Subscription Library, established on November 1, 1756.

The library holds the minute books of the Wanlockhead Ice Curling Society, founded in 1777. Not so old, but certainly as important, is the minute book of the Wanlockhead School Curling Club, instituted in 1883. Jan, the guide on the day of my first visit recently, holds the minute book of that unique club, above.

A couple of days later, I was given permission to study the minute book in detail. It was fascinating!

The first entry is dated November 10, 1883 and reads "At a meeting of the boys attending the school it was resolved to form a Junior Curling Club." Eighteen members were listed. John Wilson was the President, John Laidlaw, the Treasurer, and John Gracie, Secretary. The skips were named as Alex McCall, George Lorimer, Dugald Cameron and William Stevenson.

It cost 3d to join, and the annual subscription was to be 2d.

Regulation number 6 read, "Any member using profane or abusive language shall be expelled from the club."

The following year, the club had twenty-one members. One has to commend the writing of the secretary, as above! Indeed as the years passed, and one secretary was succeeded by another, all the entries in the minute book are completely legible - in contrast to the minute books of many other curling clubs that I have been privileged to study. Given that these secretaries would have been just twelve or thirteen years of age, the entries in the minute book are a delight to read.

The minute book differs from those of established clubs in that the membership was constantly changing as the boys grew older and left school. Boys would only have been able to be club members for three or four years. School leaving age in Scotland was only raised to 14 in 1901.

There's no evidence in the minute book to suggest that any girls were members.

The format of these minutes was to list the office bearers, the members, the state of the finances, and record the most important matches that the members played. The main competition was that for the 'the medal'. It should be said here that the boys of Wanlockhead school had curled informally for many years before 1883, but it was in that year that a club was formally instituted. John Edmond, the schoolmaster, was the driving force in getting it established. He was a keen curler himself, and a member of the senior club. He donated a medal for the boys to play for and this simple medal is on display in the Miners' Library at Wanlockhead. On December 30, 1884, the minute book records that a ribbon was bought for the medal, cost 3d.

Some years the play for the medal extended over several days. For example, on December 19 and December 22, 1896, four club rinks played out a 'round robin'. The results were tabulated:

William Howland 28     Robert Jamieson 14
William Allison 34        Robert Jamieson 8
William Howland 31     James Wilson 11
James Wilson 28           William Allison 14
Robert Jamieson 28       James Wilson 14
William Allison 38        William Howland 4

No rink went undefeated and two teams, skipped by William Allison and William Howland, won two games and lost one. The medal however went to the team skipped by William Allison who had the better shots-up record.

Although play for the medal donated by John Edmond was the club's premier competition, once the medal play was over, if the ice held, other competitions were arranged. A minute from January 1912 reads 'On Saturday 27th we played for five knives as prizes, rinks under the old skips'.

These days one might wonder at 'knives as prizes', but such prizes are mentioned in a number of occasions through the history of the club. I am sure we are talking about penknives, rather than larger blades, and what young boy would not appreciate a good quality penknife of his own!

The club members also played individually at points. To ensure that everyone had the opportunity of winning something, whatever their experience, the skips played off, the seconds and thirds played together, as did the leads, with a prize on offer for each group.

The minute book only records one occasion when the Wanlockhead boys played away from home. That perhaps was not surprising given the the school club was unique at that time, and travel was difficult, the railway not reaching Wanlockhead until 1902. But in 1896 a challenge was issued to the school at nearby Leadhills, and on January 23, 1897, two rinks from Wanlockhead met two rinks from Leadhills. The actual venue in Leadhills is not stated. The results were (Leadhills skips first):

Scott Hastie 21     William Allison 13
David Murdoch 7    William Howland 21

It was one win apiece, although Wanlockhead were the winners overall on shots up.

A return match was arranged for January 30, and this was played 'on the longer rinks at Hillhead pond'. The Leadhills side changed one of their skips, dropping David Murdoch (!) in favour of James McCall, but Wanlockhead won both games:

James McCall 3   William Howland 21
Scott Hastie 13   William Allison 17

There would seem to be no doubt that youngsters did curl in Leadhills, the senior club there dating from 1784, but there's no record of a school club being formed, despite the success of that in neighbouring Wanlockhead. Perhaps Leadhills just did not have a teacher with the enthusiasm of Wanlockhead's John Edmond. 

It would seem that the Wanlockhead boys 'inherited' the curling pond at Peter's Sike as their own and there they were encouraged to 'get on with it' without interference from the adults.

This pond is high on a hillside to the north east of the village, on the county boundary. From the evidence of old maps it may have been one of the first curling places used by the Wanlockhead curlers. By the end of the nineteenth century, the men had two ponds, the one at Hillhead already mentioned, and one nearer the village, the Stake Moss pond. The construction of the railway caused the Hillhead pond to be given up in 1901.

This is the Peter's Sike pond in May 2017, looking east. It's much overgrown but its location is easily identified, and even after a very dry period it still had standing water.

This poor quality photo from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1908-09 purports to show Wanlockhead Boys Curling.

This rather more convincing photo comes from Old Wanlockhead by Alex F Young (Stenlake Publishing, 2010) from an original image held by the Lead Mining Museum.

Now that I've visited the pond, it seems to me highly unlikely that the boys carried their stones up the hill to the Peter's Sike pond for every game. The minute of November 8, 1911, records, "As some of the curling stones have been stolen from Petersyke (sic) Pond, it was proposed to build a sod house." This was duly constructed. The minute of November 11, 1912, reads "We have recovered some stones and by the aid of Mr Mitchell and Mr Edmond we have got up a neat little house." John Edmond supplied the wood for the house, and Mr Mitchell (presumably the tenant of the land whereupon the pond lay) employed one of his joiners to build it. The house was finished on November 22. 'A gallon of tar was purchased for 6d and the boys tarred the house for keeping the stones in'. (Tar likely means creosote in this instance.)

So, what stones were kept in the curling house? The older boys certainly used full size granite stones. Such stones are shown in the group photos (above and below), along with smaller ones. However, the museum has on display this rare wooden curling stone and it was suggested by David Smith, in his book Curling: an illustrated history, that the boys played with lighter stones like these until they had the strength to play with full size granites. But there is no mention of 'wooden stones' in the minute book.

Once the medal play was over, if the ice held, other competitions were arranged. Indeed, in 1908, 'a fine silver medal' was donated to the club by Walter S Wilson of Glendyne, South Park Road, Hamilton. The minute book records how teams that had played for the original Edmond medal were rearranged to play for the Wilson medal. Both medals have survived and are displayed in the Miners' Library.

The school curling club celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 1913, and the boys received a new, larger prize to play for - a beautiful rose bowl, donated by Archibald Fraser, of Redholme, West Kilbride, and this soon became the club's premier competition. Archibald Fraser's parents had been natives of Wanlockhead, and with his brothers he had donated the Fraser Memorial Hall, with meeting and recreation rooms, to the village in 1908.

The school club kept going through the years of WW1. This was of course was a busy time for all involved in the village in the production of lead, used in munitions.

Industry declined as the war ended, and families began to move away from the village. In 1926 the school role stood at just thirty-six - nineteen girls and seventeen boys.

The minute of November 14, 1927, records that 'John Edmond, for many years headmaster of the school had forwarded ten shillings for which to buy prizes to be competed for during the winter'. Although he had retired in 1920, he obviously still had an affection for the school curling club!

There is only one further mention of the club members playing and that was in January 1933 when four rinks competed for 'the medal' (but which one?) and a different four rinks played for 'the cup'.

The last entry in the minute book is many years later, in 1951, when the club was formerly wound up.

John Edmond seems to have been a remarkable man. I wondered if he had a family, and if they had curled.

John Edmond was born on September 23, 1857, in the Parish of Carnbee in Fife, to parents Robert and Anne. He must have arrived in Wanlockhead before 1883, the year he helped found the school curling club, although I cannot find him in the 1881 census. He married a fellow teacher, Grace Gibb Gillespie, on August 11, 1887. He was thirty years old, she was twenty-six, and also originally from Fife.

Their first child, Robert Gray Edmond, was born on September 10, 1888, but died just three years old. The couple were to have four other children, George, Balmanno, Louis and Harry. It is not surprising that the Edmond children became curlers, given their father's enthusiasm for the sport.

George Gillespie Edmond was born on April 7, 1890, at the schoolhouse in Wanlockhead. From this date it can be calculated that George was just nine years old when he is first listed amongst the members of the school curling club at the beginning of the 1899-1900 season. In that season he played lead. By 1902, he's the club's Secretary, and a skip!

John James Balmanno Edmond was born on September 21, 1892. Balmanno, as he was called, first appears among the members of the school curling club in 1901, and he followed in his brother's footsteps by becoming Secretary in the 1904-05 season.

Louis Anson Edmond was born on March 9, 1895, but died just twenty months old.

Henry Lillie Edmond was born on December 15, 1898. Harry, as he was called, is first listed as a member of the school curling club in the 1910-11 season, and was a skip the following year.

We may know what Harry looked like!

This is another version of the group photo that appeared in the Royal Club Annual for 1908-09. It adorns the wall of the cafe at the lead Mining Museum. According to Alex Young, who reproduced this image in his book Old Wanlockhead, Harry Edmond is the young man standing on the right of the middle row, wearing the kilt and a very fine sporran!

I wondered what had happened to the Edmond children after they left school. All three served in WW1. Staff sergeant George Edmond served with the Royal Field Artillery at Gallipoli, Egypt, Mesopotamia and India. Balmanno had studied medicine and served with the Royal Army Medical Corps with the rank of Captain, and won the military cross. He was wounded in November 7, 1918. Harry became a private in the Highland Light Infantry, wounded twice in 1918, when he would have been just nineteen years old. There are photos of them within this thread.

John and Grace Edmond, having retired to Edinburgh, celebrated their Golden Wedding in 1937.

My thanks go to the extremely helpful and encouraging staff at the Wanlockhead Museum of Lead Mining. Some of the images above are credited in the text, the others are by me. The photo of the Fraser Rose Bowl is from the Future Museum of South West Scotland website here. Sandie Keggans' booklet 'The Roarin' Game: Curling in Wanlockhead', published by the Wanlockhead Museum Trust was very useful. The Edmond family information is from the Scotland's People website. More information about the Wanlockhead curling ponds can be found here.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The brass band played on the curling pond

Wednesday, February 21, 1855, dawned cold and fair. The ice on Corsebar Pond was good. The curlers of Paisley were soon engaged in a bonspiel, those from the north side of the town playing those from the south side. Many came to watch.

A brass band was in attendance! According to the Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser, the band 'enlivened the spectators by playing a number of popular airs'.

Music to curl to, back in 1855. Just imagine!

According to the newspaper report, "The curlers however were too intent on their game to listen to the strains, and each one seemed to be saying:

'The music o' the channel-stane
Sounds sweeter far than a' that' "

This was an early example of a charity match. The losers in each rink were to pay one shilling, and the winners sixpence, the funds going to benefit Paisley Infirmary which had only recently, in 1850, become a general hospital with medical and surgical wards.

The newspaper report concluded, "After a most friendly game, the numbers (at least so far as we could ascertain) stood thus: South 199, North 193, Majority for South six shots. Upwards of five pounds were realised for the Infirmary."

The venue for the match, Corsebar Pond, on the south side of Paisley, Renfrewshire, has a rather interesting history. At first glance it is just one of the 2391 places that are currently in the Scottish Historical Curling Places database, where there is good evidence of outside curling being played.  However, Corsebar is rather unusual, as it was not a pond which belonged exclusively to one club, as it was used by many!

Curling in Paisley has a long history. Aside from the tenuous evidence from an old protocol book what suggests some sort of contest on ice near the orchard of Paisley abbey in 1541 (which may or may not be a record of an early curling match), we can say with confidence that the game was being carried on in and around the town in the middle of the eighteenth century. In 1795, the Sandholes club had more than a hundred members. The Sandholes club was one of those which amalgamated to form the Paisley Union club in 1844. The Union was admitted to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1845. The Paisley Iceland CC had been founded in 1841, joining the Royal Club the same year. The St Mirren CC was founded in 1845 and admitted in 1846. The Boreas CC was founded in 1852, and admitted that same year.

In the nineteenth century if a curling club wished to join the Royal Caledonian Curling Club it had to have somewhere to play. The first of the 'General Regulations' of the Royal Cub, as printed, for example, in the Annual for 1853-54, reads, "Any Local Curling Association shall be admissible into the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, if it consists of at least eight Members, have a designation, and sheet of Ice for its operations, and be governed by Office-bearers under a code of regulations." (My emphasis).

Clubs spent much money constructing and maintaining their curling pond. Rarely though do we find examples of clubs sharing their ice with another.

It seems that by the middle of the nineteenth century the curlers of Paisley were struggling to find suitable places to play! So bad was the situation that the advert above appeared in the local newspaper. Robert Boyd was the secretary of the Paisley Iceland Curling Club.

Robert Brown, in his History of Paisley, published in 1886, writes, "About the middle of this century the game of curling increased its votaries considerably and became very popular, but the curlers laboured under great disadvantage in not having near the town a commodious sheet of ice to play on. This difficulty, however, was overcome. The representatives of the different clubs made choice of a low-lying field on Corsebar farm, in the neighbourhood of Paisley, in which by the formation of an embankment a few feet high on one side a sheet of water extending to about eight acres might be obtained. During winter the water would be accumulated in the pond, and being run off in summer, the land would be used for raising meadow hay. The Earl of Glasgow, to whom the ground belonged, was applied to for permission to carry out this arrangement; and with his usual generosity and desire to encourage an excellent amusement, his Lordship readily agreed to the request."

As the Earl of Glasgow was Patron of the Paisley Iceland curling club the solution to the problem had been close at hand all along!

It seems that a committee of members from four clubs (Paisley Iceland, Paisley Union, the Boreas and the St Mirren) was formed to oversee construction and to run the pond. 

The co-operation of the four Paisley curling clubs is unusual and few details of how this came about are known today, although the online history of the St Mirren CC (here) suggests that two of the clubs (St Mirren and Paisley Union) had previously shared a pond at Hole in Bush (or Holly Bush) farm in 1846.

Construction of Corsebar must have taken place rapidly.

The Corsebar Pond was officially opened in the first week of 1854, although, according to the Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser of January 7, 1854, the first games on the pond had been played the previous Saturday (that would have been December 31, 1853) by members of the Paisley Iceland and the Boreas clubs. However, the 'official' opening was on Tuesday, January 3, 1854. Play began at noon, with five games between the Union and Iceland clubs. The Union was to win four of these. Players from the Boreas and St Mirren clubs were soon on the ice too, and two games were played between these clubs, Boreas winning both.

The day was a success. The newspaper correspondent writes, "The play amongst all the clubs proceeded with excellent spirit during the course of the game, and provosts, magistrates, and ministers of the gospel might be seen confidentially consulting with weavers and masons and plasterers whether a guard should be rubbed off or an inwick played."

The Renfrewshire Curling Club seems to have been founded as a result of the availability of Corsebar ice in 1856, and it too joined the Royal Club in 1857. This club also became involved in maintaining the pond.

Brown provides some more facts about the Corsebar Pond, which was still very much in use when he wrote his 1886 book, "The greatest depth of water in the curling pond is little more than three feet, and it is therefore safe from serious accidents. It affords accommodation for at least thirty rinks, and there is a cottage beside it which serves to store the stones and to give shelter to the curlers when required."

The 'curling house' had not been completed when the pond was opened in 1854.

However, it had been completed by 1858, although it turned out to be somewhat insecure, as the above clipping shows.

Other problems that the pond committee had to deal with can be inferred from a paragraph in the Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser on December 15, 1855. "We observe that the committee of the Corsebar Curling Pond have give notice that persons found skaiting (sic), sliding, or playing at shinty on the ice there, or trespassing on the gounds adjoining, will be prosecuted."

It was also noted that curlers who were not members of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club could obtain season tickets for five shillings, or day tickets for sixpence.   

As well as being regularly in use by five local curling clubs, the Corsebar Pond became a 'neutral venue' for District Medal matches between clubs, the Royal Club promoting these from its inception. On February 1, 1855, for example, Anderston CC (from Glasgow) met Ardgowan CC (from Greenock) at Corsebar, two rinks aside, four players in each rink. This match resulted in a narrow win for Ardgowan 32-30, and the state of the ice on the Corsebar Pond was described as 'excellent'. The umpire was Archibald Sinclair, from Renfrew.

At least one other club used the pond regularly, the Sneddon CC. This was an old club, dating from 1815, although its minute books, which survive and are in the care of the Heritage Centre in Paisley, suggest a much earlier date for the club's beginnings. It was in 1815 when the club, with more than 100 members that year, was 'remodelled', and the surviving minute books date from then. These show that the Sneddon members played on a number of different ponds until 1855, when on January 24, the club met on the 'Corsebar New Curling Pond'. This pond became the venue of choice for the club for its matches until it was wound up in 1880. It would seem that the Sneddon CC never joined the Royal Club, for whatever reason, but the last recorded minute on January 21, 1880, suggests that most of the members had joined other clubs which were members of the Royal Club, and no longer wished to play in Sneddon competitions.

Occasionally, one of the regular users of the Corsebar Pond chose to play elsewhere. According to the Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser of December 29, 1860, eighteen members of the Renfrewshire CC had met the previous Wednesday on Mr John Stirrat's pond at Nethercraigs, 'choosing it in preference to the Corsbar (sic) Pond', to compete at points for the gold medal that had been presented by their patron, Colonel William Mure of Caldwell. Just why Nethercraigs was chosen over Corsebar in this instance is not recorded, but John Stirrat was the Renfrewshire club's vice-president, so perhaps the reason was simply that he wished to provide hospitality to the club members on a pond at his own place of business, Nethercraigs Bleach Works.

Curling on the Corsebar Pond continued into the twentieth century.

This image, from a glass negative found in the Strathclyde Archives in 1979, probably shows play on the Corsebar Pond.

Here's more of that old image, and this shows just how large the pond was.

What of the place today?

Visiting today one finds a flat sports ground, with a changing pavilion, in a primarily residential district. This is the view from the north east corner of the site. The trees seen here are part of 'Donald's Wood', the land rising behind up towards the Glennifer Braes Country Park.

View from the south west.

Along the east side of the site, the original embankment which blocked off the pond from the Espedair Burn has been enlarged and hides a secret. The old curling pond is now part of a flood prevention plan put into place following the Paisley floods in 1994. Should the run off from the Glennifer Braes to the south become excessive a sluice can be opened on the Espedair Burn turning the playing field into a storage area for excess water.

Thanks go to the helpful staff of the Heritage Centre at Paisley Central Library. The Sneddon CC minutes, and Robert Brown's History of Paisley, were consulted there. The British Newspaper Archive was the source of much of the information about Corsebar activities. The top image is a screenshot of the OS 25 inch map of the area from 1897, courtesy of the National Library of Scotland maps website, here. The black and white images of curling on what is likely to be Corsebar Pond came from a glass negative found in the Strathclyde Archives when they were based at the Glasgow City Chambers. The image was published in The Curling Companion by W H Murray. I have been unable to ascertain where the original is now. The recent photographs of Corsebar are © Bob Cowan. If it was not for the enthusiasm and dedication of Lindsay Scotland and Harold Forrester, who maintain the Historical Curling Places website, I would not be a 'pondhunter' and would be unaware of the Corsebar Curling Pond!