Wednesday, February 21, 2018

When Pingu went curling

Did you know that Pingu went curling in January 1991 with his friend Robby the Seal? The episode was called 'Pingu's Curling Party'. The five minute animation was one of the episodes in Series 2 of Pingu's exploits. You can watch a remastered version on YouTube here, the highlight of which (for me) is Robby sweeping. Top marks to the designer here!

Who was Pingu? He is the lead character of the animations, 'a typically playful, sometimes naughty, little boy penguin', created by Otmar Gutmann originally for Swiss Television. Pingu became a worldwide hit (see here). Before the Web, you could buy the episodes for viewing at home, originally on VHS tape, and later on DVD. And yes, I do have a copy of the DVD in my curling library!

IMDB's plot summary for 'Pingu's Curling Party' states, "Pingu and Robby are curling. Pingu is using Father's bed bottle as a curling stone, but there is small mishap. The neighbour, who has had his reading interrupted, wants to show the two troublemakers how it is done. But to the amusement of the two youngsters, it turns out that the adults can't do any better themselves."

This article is dedicated to all GB curling fans watching the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, and who may be needing something to relieve the stress! Image are screenshots from Pingu's Curling Party.

Friday, February 09, 2018

The hunt for the 1924 diploma

It is not as well known as it should be that when you win an Olympic medal you also receive a diploma which recognises the fact. Initially it was only winners of medals who received these, but nowadays those finishing in the first eight places in an event receive a diploma. What was the case back in 1924? Although the Games in Chamonix were not recognised officially until later as the first Olympic Winter Games, they were held under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee, and many of the traditions of the summer games were incorporated in that first 'Winter Sports Week'. The award of a diploma was one of these traditions.

I suspected that the GB curlers had received diplomas. In his book Beginner's Guide to Curling (Pelham Books, London, 1969), Robin Welsh had written of the successful Willie Jackson rink. Robin's father, also called Robin Welsh, had been a member of the GB team in Chamonix, as Jackson's third player. Robin writes, in a chapter on 'Curling Prizes', "The British curling deputation at the Games, led by Colonel Robertson Aikman, President of the Royal Club, were as proud of the medals and diplomas won, as the four Scots who had won them." (My emphasis)

The official report of the 1924 Games at Chamonix is included with that of the 1924 (Summer) Olympic Games held in Paris, in May-July, after the Chamonix competitions. The official record of the games, published by the French Olympic Committee, Les Jeux de la VIIIe Olympiade, Paris 1924, Rapport Officiel is online and can be downloaded as a (large) pdf file from here. It's written in French and may be referred to as the 'French Official Report'. 

It is in the French Official Report that one can find an illustration of the diploma awarded to the medallists at the Chamonix Games in 1924.

This is the image in the report. The diploma for the 1924 Winter Games was not the subject of a competition, as it had been for previous Summer Games. The task of designing the diploma was simply given to the printing company which had already been used by the French Olympic Committee and had designed their stationery.

This image in the French Official Report is in black and white. Four years ago, when writing about the 1924 Games (see here), I searched for more information and images of this diploma, without success. Had the members of the GB Olympic curling team each received a diploma? No-one seemed to know. Other items of Olympic memorabilia, such as the competitor's badge, and Willie Jackson's identity card, were known (see here) but I concluded that the diplomas, if they had ever existed, must now be lost.

The 2014 Olympics were over, and time had moved on, but one evening when looking again at a book in my curling library, I almost screamed with excitement! There, in a book I had known about since it was published, was a colour photo of the diploma!

The Joy of Curling: A Celebration by Ed Lukowich, Eigil Ramsfjell and Bud Somerville, was first published in 1990 by McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. Well produced, well illustrated books, heavy on imagery, used to be known as 'coffee table' books, those that would sit on a table to impress visitors, rather than on shelves in a bookcase. And remember 1990 was well before the Internet Age. 'The Joy' is a wonderful publication to peruse. It has 160 pages, with wonderful photos throughout.

The book contains a chapter on 'Curling at the Olympics', all of six pages. Note again the year that this book was published - 1990. The sport of curling had just been included, as a demonstration sport, in 1988, at Calgary, where all three authors had skipped their country's teams!

Look at the small image at the foot of page 97.

I've scanned the image to show it here, something I would not normally do, but I do think it is of such significance and deserves wider recognition, for the reasons forthcoming.

The legend to this image in the book reads, "The VIIIth Olympiad diploma and gold medal won by Willie Jackson, who was on the team representing Great Britain."

Yes, there is a gold medal, propped against a framed diploma! Some of the printing on the diploma can be easily read and translated, "Given on the occasion of the games of the VIII Olympiad under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee."

It is clearly signed by the President of the International Olympic Committee, Baron de Coubertin and the President of the French Olympic Committee, Count Clary.

Studying the image in the book with a magnifying glass I can make out the name 'Jackson' written after 'Presented to', but not what is written on the line under that. I presume this states which sport the recipient had won.

Looking at the Credits and the Acknowledgements pages of the book, it would seem that the image of the diploma and gold medal had been supplied by "Robin Welsh of Edinburgh, Editor, 'The Scottish Curler'." Had Robin used this photograph himself at some point?

Robin, who edited the Scottish Curler magazine from 1954 through to 1998, had also been Secretary to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, a post he had retired from in 1985, allowing him more time to concentrate on the magazine. As already mentioned, his father had been on the team which won the Olympic Gold Medals in 1924. He had rare access to Olympic memorabilia and information. He authored two books about curling. I have already mentioned one of these, Beginner's Guide to Curling, from 1969.

His second book, International Guide to Curling, was again published by Pelham Books, London, in 1985. I thought I knew the contents of this book well enough, but I looked at it again. And yes, in a chapter about 'Curling Prizes' is the same photo of the diploma and medal, in black and white. It is captioned "The Olympic gold medal and certificate won by the British curling team at the 1924 Winter Olympic Games at Chamonix. Curling will be included as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary." The image in Robin's book is of lesser quality than that in The Joy of Curling, so it is not possible to read what is written on the diploma. The photograph is not acknowledged so I conclude that it was taken by Robin himself, or that he had arranged for it to be taken, sometime before 1985.

What has happened to the diploma in this photograph since then? I don't know. Robin died in 2006.

We do know that the Scottish Curling Trust purchased two of the gold medals, those of Willie Jackson and his son Laurence, the team's lead player, see here. Were the diplomas among other material purchased, I don't know.

Does the photograph reproduced in the books, which Robin Welsh must have sent to the authors or publishers, still exist? Had it been used elsewhere? Again, perhaps someone will know, and if it can be found, just what it says about the recipient can be read.

Perhaps this article will allow those accessing the Scottish Curling Trust's treasures, all currently in store, to look out for the diploma, and be able to identify it if it's there. It's a rare item indeed, and must be of immense value, given how collectible Olympic memorabilia has become, worldwide.

Other questions arise. Did the members of the curling teams from Sweden and France who participated in 1924 also receive diplomas, and, if so, have any of these survived? And perhaps there are Olympic historians out there who will know if the medallists in other sports in 1924 received similar diplomas.

Lukowich, Ramsfjell and Somerville, writing in their 1990 book say, "Curling is pencilled in again as a demonstration sport at Albertville, France in 1992, but its Olympic future after that is uncertain." No-one could have predicted back then just how our sport would have become so popular and widespread throughout the world, and interest in the Olympic Winter Games curling competitions become so intense as it is today!

Images above are as identified in the text.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Great Britain's Olympic Curlers

With the 2018 Olympic Winter Games almost upon us, here are some photos to remind you of those who have represented Great Britain at the Games in years past. Just how all these teams fared on the ice can be found in the World Curling Federation's Historical Results pages, here.

1924

L-R: Willie Jackson, Robin Welsh, Tom Murray and Laurence Jackson were the GB team in 1924 in Chamonix at the 'Semaine Internationale des Sports d'Hiver' (International Winter Sports Week) winning gold.

Following the success of the event, the International Olympic Committee decided, during their 1925 Congress in Prague, to hold similar winter events every four years, which would be known as Olympic Winter Games. The Chamonix International Winter Sports Week was then retrospectively recognised as the first Olympic Winter Games. Only three countries participated in the curling competition, which only involved men's teams. More about this competition, including who were the four 'reserves' on the GB squad, here, and the other teams involved here. The photo above is uncredited and comes from Les Jeux de la VIIIe Olympiade, Paris 1924, Rapport Officiel. 

1932

Curling was a Demonstration Sport at the 1932 Olympic Winter games in Lake Placid, USA. There was no GB team. Indeed, only Canada and the USA took part, see here. 

1988

Curling was a Demonstration Sport at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary. GB was represented in the men's event by the team that won the Johnnie Walker Scottish Championship, as in the photo above. L-R: Robin Brechin (RCCC President), Hammy McMillan (3rd), David Smith (skip), Mike Hay (2nd), Rob Hermans (presenting the trophy), Peter Smith (lead), and the event sponsor! David Hay would be the team's 5th man in Calgary. Bill Smith was the team's coach/manager. The photo which appeared on the cover of the February 1988 Scottish Curler is not credited.

There was no GB women's team in Calgary in 1988, Team Scotland, on whom qualification depended, having failed to finish in the top eight at the 1987 Glayva World Championship in Lake Forest.

1992  

Curling was again a Demonstration Sport at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France. The venue for the curling was a four sheet rink at the resort of Pralognan-la-Vanoise.

The GB men's team was L-R: Hammy McMillan (skip), Norman Brown (3rd), Gordon Muirhead (2nd), Roger McIntyre (lead), with Bob Kelly (alternate). The photo, without Bob, is by Erwin Sautter and shows the team at the World Championship later in 1992.

The women's team was Jackie Lockhart (skip), Debbie Knox (3rd), Judith Stobbie (2nd), Wendy Bell (lead), and Isobel Torrance (alternate). That's the girls above, with their coach Peter Loudon, in a photo taken by Erwin Sautter that featured in the April 1992 Scottish Curler. L-R: Debbie, Peter, Isobel, Jackie, Wendy and Judith. Is there a better photo of the team anywhere?

1998

Curling became a full medal sport again at the Nagano Olympic Winter Games in 1998. The curling competition was held in the arena at Karuizawa, Japan.
 
Here is the GB men's team, (L-R) Douglas Dryburgh (skip), Peter Wilson, Philip Wilson and Ronnie Napier. James Dryburgh (not in the photo) was listed as the 5th player. Alex Torrance was the team's coach.

Here are the 1998 women L-R: Kirsty Hay (skip), Jackie Lockhart, Edith Loudon, Katie Loudon, and Fiona Bayne (5th). Coach was Jane Sanderson.

Both these photos were taken by Louis Flood and appeared in the February 1998, Scottish Curler.

2002

The GB men's squad at the Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games, where the curling competition was held at Ogden, was Hammy McMillan (skip), Warwick Smith, Ewan MacDonald, Peter Loudon, and Norman Brown. The photo above, without Peter, is by Hugh Stewart, taken at the 2001 European Championships, Vierumaki, Finland, and was published in the January 2002 Scottish Curler.

The GB women's squad at Ogden was skipped by Rhona Martin with Debbie Knox, Fiona MacDonald, Janice Rankin and Margaret Morton. Their team coach was Russell Keiller. This photo of the team, by Hugh Stewart, is from the 2001 European Championships at Vierumaki, Finland, and was published in the January 2002 Scottish Curler. L-R: Fiona, Debbie, Rhona, Margaret, and Janice.

Rhona's team won GOLD of course in Ogden. Her final stone can be watched here. The Scottish Sports Hall of Fame photo of the team is here.

2006

The curling competition at the 2006 Torino Olympic Winter Games was held in the Pinerolo Palaghiaccio, Pinerolo, Italy.

The GB men's squad was David Murdoch, with Ewan MacDonald, Warwick Smith, Euan Byers and Craig Wilson. Derek Brown was the coach. Photo is by Hugh Stewart and appeared in the March 2006 Scottish Curler.

The GB women's squad in 2006 comprised Rhona Martin (skip), Jackie Lockhart, Kelly Wood, Lynn Cameron, and Debbie Knox. Russell Keiller was coach. Photo is by Hugh Stewart and appeared in the March 2006 Scottish Curler.

2010

The curling competition at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games was held in the Vancouver Olympic Centre, Vancouver, Canada. The GB men's squad was David Murdoch (skip), Ewan MacDonald, Peter Smith, Euan Byers, and Graeme Connal. Coach was David Hay. In the photo above with sportscotland chair Louise Martin and Sports Minister Shona Robison and are (L-R) Euan, Ewan, David H, David M, Peter, and Graeme. This photo by Hugh Stewart featured in the February 2010 Scottish Curler. Here's another of the team in their curling gear.

The GB women's squad was Eve Muirhead (skip), Jackie Lockhart, Kelly Wood, Lorna Vevers, and Annie Laird (a late replacement for Karen Kennedy who was deselected late on in the process). Coach was Nancy Murdoch. Here's a photo of (L-R) Kelly, Lorna, Jackie, Eve and Nancy, with Shona Robison and Louise Martin. This photo by Hugh Stewart featured in the February 2010 Scottish Curler. I am sorry that I do not have a photo of the team including 5th player Annie Laird to put up here.

2014

The 2014 Olympic Winter Games were held in Sochi, Russia, with the curling in the Ice Cube Curling Centre. The GB men's squad was David Murdoch (skip), Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow, and Tom Brewster. Soren Gran was their coach. The GB women's squad was Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Claire Hamilton, and Lauren Gray. Dave Hay was their coach.

There are lots of photos online of our two teams, the men winning silver medals, and the women bronzes. But I rather like this one of both squads together which appeared (uncredited, though probably should be to WCF/Richard Gray) in the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Member Ezine Your Curler, in February 2014. This can be found online here. L-R: Claire, David, Michael, Vicki, Eve, Anna, Scott, Kerr, Tom, and Lauren.

All the results and statistics for the Olympic curling competitions can be found on the World Curling Federation's 'Historical Results' pages here.

In just a few days time, the members of the GB sqads for the 2018 Games will have to be added to this list.

I've not included here the other opportunities that curlers have had to represent Great Britain, such as in the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival or at the Winter Youth Olympic Games. And of course in wheelchair curling at the Winter Paralympic Games. All for another article!

In putting this article together I am reminded just how the inclusion of curling at the Olympics in recent years has changed the sport in so many ways - in its perception by the non-curling public, the rise of the 'elite' curler and the role of the 'performance director', the athleticism of the players today, the way the sport is funded and the knock-on effects on the traditional competitions and the grass roots of the sport here in Scotland. And in the rest of the world, the increased interest and growth of the sport is a direct result of curling being an Olympic sport. There is already a lot for the curling historian of the future to write about!

Photo sources and credits are indicated after each pic above.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Battle of Carthula: Was this the first international curling match?

There is a rather odd reference to a bonspiel between Scottish and English curlers, said to have occurred in 1795 at Kirtlebridge. I wondered if this actually took place, so I set out to examine the evidence.

The match is referred to in History of Curling and Fifty Years of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club by the Reverend John Kerr, published in 1890. But it appeared in print much earlier than that.

An account of 'The Battle of Carthula' can be found in Memorabilia Curliana Mabenensia, published anonymously in 1830 but now known to have been written by Richard Broun. Broun was born in Lochmaben in 1801, so he would have been in his twenties when writing 'Memorabilia'. In 1829-30 he was Secretary of the Lochmaben Curling Society. His father Sir James Broun was the Seventh Baronet of Colstoun, and at the time the President of the Lochmaben Curling Society.

The reference to the Scotland v England encounter can be found in Chapter 12, 'Poetical'. This states,
"The following Ossianic description of a celebrated Bonspiel, played at Kirtle Bridge, in the year 1795, is by Dr Clapperton, of antiquarian memory, Lochmaben; and was found among the MSS of the late WDWH Somerville, Esq of Whitecroft."

This is how part of the text looks in Memorabilia Curliana Mabenensia.

Ossianic simply means that Clapperton's work is in the style of the of epic poems published by the Scottish poet James Macpherson from 1760. Dr Clapperton was probably the Robert Clapperton who studied medicine at Edinburgh and Paris, and married Elizabeth Campbell at Elgin. The couple eventually settled in Lochmaben. Robert Clapperton was the grandfather of Hugh Clapperton, the African explorer. In A Sailor in the Sahara: The Life and Travels in Africa of Hugh Clapperton, Commander RN, published in 2007, Jamie Bruce Lockhart writes abouts Hugh's grandfather, "A highly respected doctor, family patriarch, and prominent member of the local well-to-do gentry, Robert Clapperton was a man of parts - amateur expert in minerology, compulsive collector of objects of natural history, and tireless investigator of Roman remains and early churches in the district, with a passion for local history and traditional ballads."

A 'passion for traditional ballads' sits well with Dr Clapperton having collected, or even written himself, the 'Battle of Carthula'. There is no evidence that I can see that Robert was a curler, but other members of the Clapperton family were - Hugh Clapperton became a member of the Lochmaben Curling Society in 1780, and Alex Clapperton in 1876, according to the minute book of the society, as transcribed by Lynne Longmore in Minutes of Note, 2012.

It remains conjecture how the poem ended up in the possession of William David Wightman Henderson Somerville, the Deputy Lieutenant of Dumfries and Galloway. He died in the 1820s, with considerable debts, these being subject to legal actions still unresolved in 1841. Just where these manuscripts are now, I do not know.

Here's the full text of the poem.

"Terrible was the day when we met on the face of the deep - when the sons of the Arctic pole glided along, like the vernal bird, when he skims the surface and dips his pinions in the slow-running river.

We passed over CARTHULA with a stride - the waters congealed under us, and the rocks trembled at our approach. Criffel and Burnswark fled before us, like the ship from the distant land before the blast of the boisterous west. The Tennis-hill leaped, like the bounding roe, over Whita, that lay as lies the hill of the mole under the belly of the wing-footed greyhound.

The Hart stood aghast, the spectators were wrapped in silence when the leaders advanced, like the roar of the mountain stream. Great was the strife of the heroes, and loud the clang of their arms, until the gloomy south dropped apace, and covered us with the mist of the Solway. Then it was that we spoke the words of peace, and retired to the Den of the Lion where the feast was spread - the feast of joy and mirth. The Druid of Patrick's-cell sat by the flame of the Flow, whilst the car-borne Knight of Springkell accosts the Chief of Tarras. 'The actions of my youthful years' (says he) recoil on my memory with joy; when I tossed the flying ball against the sons of mighty England, my hand returned victorious, and gladness dwelt on the face of my father. 'I too (says the chief) have been in battle against the sons of the south. Three days we fought on the face of the deep. On the fourth, the Sassenachs fled, the banks of Esk rang with joy, and we too had our fame.'

The King of the Ice sat by the exhilarating bowl, and pushed round the sparkling glass, whilst a chieftain hoary with years recounts the tales of other times. 'Often have I been famed in the fight' (says he), and my arm was strong in the battle; but my years have rushed upon me like a torrent, and I'm now numbered with the aged.' The grey-headed bard touched the tuneful string, and sent the melody of other times to our ears.

Great were your actions, O ye heroes! and mighty the deeds of the days of old. Here shall your sons meet; here, shall they say, met our fathers. O that our actions were as theirs - and that our deeds were recorded in the song, and should our grey-hairs go with joy to the house of silence.

Where art thou fled, O north-wind? Return and dispel the clouds of the gloomy south - art thou sporting with the whales of Greenland? Or liest thou dormant in the snowy caverns of Zembla? Return, O salutiferous north-wind and dispel the clouds of the gloomy south.

We feasted, we drank, and we sang, and spent the night in joy."

The poem is accompanied by several explanatory footnotes. These could have been added by the poet, although perhaps they were inserted by the author of Memorabilia. These state that:

(1) 'Carthula - The river of Kirtle, then frozen; it rises at the troch of Kirtle and falls into the Solway Firth at Lochmaben Stone.'

(2) Criffel, Burnswark, Tennis-hill, Whita and the Hart were all names of channel-stones (early curling stones)

(3) The Den of the Lion was a public house in Kirtlebridge. 

(4) The 'Druid of Patrick's-cell' was the Reverend Craig, minister of Kirkpatrick-Fleming.

(5) The 'car-borne Knight of Sprinkell' was Sir William Maxwell of Springkell, 'who, when young, about the year 1747, with some others from the Scotch side, won a cricket match near the Greenbed or Roslin Nurse, betwixt Esk and Sark, where the best players in the north of England were beat.'

(6) the 'Chief of Tarras' was 'John Maxwell, Esq, of Broomholm, who was one of a bonspiel played by the borderers of both nations for three days at Liddlefoot, where, if the English had gained, bonfires were to have been lighted all over Cumberland.'

(7) The 'King of the Ice' was Patrick Smith of Craigshaws.

(8) The 'chieftain, hoary with years' was William Irving of Allerbeck.

(9) The 'grey-headed bard' was (Old) Robin Elliot, the fiddler.

The location of Kirtlebridge makes good sense for a curling match between players from both sides of the border from which it is but a few miles distant. It was on the main route north into Scotland from Carlisle. Today, the A74(M) runs to the east of the village, and the West Coast Main Line takes the railway just to the west.

Curling was certainly being played with 'channel-stones' in the eighteenth century, and it was not unusual for these to have names, see here.

The names mentioned in the story are those of real people, but whether they actually ever curled is a good question.

The Kirtlebridge match was said to have taken place in 1795. That there is mention of an even earlier Scotland v England bonspiel at 'Liddle-foot', over three days, makes me wonder if the whole thing is a fiction, and a made-up story. It is implied that there was a population of curlers just over the border in England, in Cumberland, at the time. I'm unaware of any evidence for this.

There are doubts about other information in the poem. Yes, William Maxwell of Springkell was real enough, but did he actually take part in a cricket match in 1747? The earliest recorded cricket in Scotland was in September 1785, according to the Cricket Scotland website here.

I remain sceptical of the story. But the fact that the participants of the Kirtlebridge match in 1795 are said to have feasted, drank, sang, and 'spent the night in joy' in a local hostelry, perhaps even the one in the village today (above), has a resonance with what I know of the history of our sport. It would be great to have corroborating evidence that this early 'international' match really did take place!

So, was Kirtlebridge the location of an international match between Scottish and English curlers? Fact or fiction? YOU decide!

Postscript: The English men beat Scotland at the Four Nations at the North West Castle rink, Stranraer, January 20-21, 2018. No bonfires were lit to celebrate this victory, as far as I am aware! 

Photos © Bob Cowan

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Thank You For The Music: Curling Songs 1792 - 2018

Curlers have always liked to sing. Not necessarily on the ice of course, but at post-match festivities, and club dinners. Or on friendship tours, and at international competitions. At the 2004 Ford World Curling Championships in Gavle, Sweden, alternative lyrics to ABBA's 'Thank You For The Music' made an appearance:

Thank you for the curling, indeed! Beware the ear worm, but the ABBA original is here, and a karaoke track is here, if you want to sing the curling lyrics, above!

Yes, curlers have always like to sing. If proof were needed of this statement, one only has to consult the Curlers' Library, where the very first printed publication about the sport is Songs for the Curling-Club held at Canonmills. By a Member. This little 16-page booklet was published in Edinburgh in 1792. So, the history of curling songs spans more than 200 years!

In the days before the Internet, and the various social media platforms, the spread of curling songs was on the printed page, and the best vehicle for this was the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual. In the 1845-46 Annual, for example, one finds, under Miscellaneous, a section containing six curling songs, where lyrics have been written to accompany well known tunes of the time.

Here's just the first verse (of four) from one song submitted by 'A Keen, Keen Curler' from Chryston.

Fifty years on, the Annual for 1895-96 has a large selection of curling songs, now spread over 15 pages. The above is the first of three verses of 'Patlid: The Stane Upon the Tee'.

Curling songs regularly appeared in Royal Club Annuals each year.

In the month (January 2018) that a Canadian side has arrived in Scotland to contest the Strathcona Cup, it would seem to be appropriate to reprint verses written by R Menzies Fergusson, the Chaplain of the Airthrey Castle Curling Club, recording the first such Tour, when Scots curlers visited Canada and the USA in the winter of 1902-03. D Bentley Murray, a member of the Airthey Castle CC, had been one of the tour party.

Here are Fergusson's verses on 'The Curlin' Scots in Canada', from the Royal Club Annual of 1903-04:

Twa dizzen men a-curlin',
We sent across the sea,
To set their stanes a-birlin'
'Gainst chiels o' Canadie.

Chorus:
A-curlin', a-curlin',
A-curlin' they did go;
Their cowes a' a-twirlin'
To soop Canadian snow.

Upon the broad Atlantic
They got an awfu' blast.
It sent them nearly frantic
To reach the land at last.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

And when they got transported
Frae boat to Halifax,
Their faces were contorted,
Their knees seemed made o' wax.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

But sleep and aqua vitae
Soon put them on their. feet,
And a' were keen to meet ae
Wee rink that they micht beat.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

When on the ice they planted
Their feet and threw a stane,
They fain would ha'e levanted,
And left the game alane.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin, etc.

They got an awfu' dressin'
Frae Nova Scotian men,
But lickin' wadna lessen,
Their hopes to win again.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

Then Captain Kerr uprisin',
Declared they'd no be beat,
Though this was maist surprisin',
And so resumed his seat.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

They chose their skips, selectin'
With caution and wi' care,
Resolved that by reflectin'
They'd try the game ance mair.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

They drew, they wick'd, they curled in,
They cracked an egg to lie;
But aye the foe cam' birlin',
And counted shots forbye.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

Wi practice and wi' patience
They managed whiles to score;
Enjoyed the handsome rations,
And drank the best, galore.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

But when the leddies sported
Their cowes upon the rink,
The lads seemed a' transported
Wi' love, instead o' drink.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

And up the howe cam' jumpin'
Each Tam o' Shanter'd loon,
And oot the hoose gaed bumpin'
The shots they had sent down.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

They lost their heids, and endin',
The game was lost as weel ;
Maybe their hearts need mendin',
For hame they canna steal.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

The hack was gey confusin',
As crampit men aloo',
But by and by tho' losin',
They won a game or two.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

The ice was keen and brittle,
Far keener than at hame;
The play was unco kittle,
'Twas hard to win a game.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

Guid men they were and michty,
The twal' stane bank they'd turn ;
At soopin' they were michty,
And played each rink a kurn.

Churus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

Wi Doctor Kirk and Gibson,
Twa Provosts and a Prain,
Murray, Husband, Henderson,
And ithers in their train.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

Braid Scots was what they shouted,
'Ca' cannie, up the howe,'
And then the foe was routed
At soopin' wi' the cowe.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

At nicht wi sang and clatter,
They spent the time in glee;
Their friends across the watter
They drank in brews o' tea (?)

Chorus - A-curlin' a-curlin,' etc.

'Whit wey,' speers wee MacGreegor,
'Did oor chaps no' win a',
When playin' wi' sic veegor
On ice without the snaw?'

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin , etc.

'Wheesht ! Wheesht ! Ye little deevil;
Yer better no' to ken
They just were far over ceevil
To thae Canadian men.'

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

'They gaed a'e Sabbath jauntin',
To see a waterfa',
When they'd been better chantin'
A Psalm, or maybe twa.'

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

The Scots were always feted
Where'er they chanced to be,
And some were nearly mated
Wi' leedies at the tee.

Chorus - A-curlin', a-curlin', etc.

Now since their trip is ended,
And hame they've come ance mair,
We hope their play has 'tended
Good fellowship to share.

Chorus.
A-curlin', a-curlin',
A-curlin', they have been;
Their cowes a' a-twirlin' -
Sic play was never seen.

Note that the games against the Canadian women do get a mention (verses eleven to thirteen). More about these games here. And the team's controversial visit to see the Niagara Falls on a Sunday is not ignored!

The practice of printing curling songs, and poems, in Royal Club Annuals had died away by the 1950s. But, for the researcher, the collection of such material (many hundreds of songs) over more than a hundred years, must surely be worth academic study, if only for showing how the vocabulary associated with the sport has changed over the years.

Original songs about curling can be found online today, and in many cases are now accompanied by video. My favourites? The Number 1 best curling song of all time, in my opinion, is 'Tournament of Hearts' by The Weakerthans. Listen to that, with the video, here. From the 'Reunion Tour' album, released in 2007, John K Samson on vocals.

Number 2 of my favourites, because of the curling connection, is 'Silver Road' by Sarah Harmer and the Tragically Hip, from the soundtrack of the wonderful Men With Brooms film. This dates from 2002, and is online here.

Rounding off my top three is Alexander Morrison's renditions of 'The Silver Broom' and 'The Grand Bonspiel', composed by Alan Cairney, Kelty Records, 1985. The description of the 7" vinyl recording is here. No longer available to listen to online, as far as I am aware.

Other curling songs to note are Andrew Murdison's 'The Curling Song' (here); Bowser and Blue's 'The Curling Song' (here); 'The Sweep Song' by Laura Melnick (here); Satch Summerland's 'The Real Curling Song' (here); and 'That Curling Song' (here). There will be others. Do let me know of other favourite curling songs that should be listed here.

Added later: 'Curl' by Jonathan Coulton (here); 'It's a shore thing', produced by Rod Palson for the 2003 Nokia Brier (listen here). The Douglas Curling Club apparently has its own song (thanks Robin Scott). The ice rink at Lockerbie has a number of curling songs (thanks to Andrew Dalgleish for passing these on), and Airleywight Ladies CC has a booklet of songs (thanks to Dot Moran for the info).

And what about The Zambonis, with 'Sweep Me Over The Hogline', 'Curling Girl', and Vista Blue, with 'Curling Round the USA' and 'Girl Who Can Curl' (all four here). And there's now (15/1/18) a video to go with Vista Blue's 'Girl Who Can Curl' here!

But coming right up to date is the music video 'Teach Me How To Curl', here, where Cheetos snacks, a Frito-Lay North America product, promotes the US Olympic curling teams in the run up to the 2018 Games. That's Chester Cheetah explaining things in the screenshot from the video above!

Just wonderful, and great fun! Thank you for the music (video)! #DoTheCurl

POSTSCRIPT:

The visiting Canadian Strathcona Cup team with their version of 'We will rock you', January 12, 2018, at the Lanarkshire Ice Rink, listen here!

Thanks to Christine and Hugh Stewart for the Gavle lyrics to Abba's 'Thank you for the music', which provided the seed for this article. I do not know the provenance of these alternative lyrics, as yet. Other images are scans of Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annuals in my archive, or are screenshots of online videos. And thanks to those who have forwarded links to other curling songs, see 'Added later' above.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Day in China, 1913

I was searching in the British Newspaper Archive last week for articles about curling on Christmas Day in times past, and my search took me to this page of the Daily Record of January 14, 1914. There was a photo of a group of curlers on the page. The header was, 'Curling in North China Reminds Exiled Britons of Home'. I was intrigued!

The photo was captioned, "The new curling rink in the Russian Park at Tientsin drew a large number spectators Christmas Day, when a curling match was played between two teams, captained by Mr Cunningham and Major Pringle respectively. Mr Cunningham’s team won in the morning and Major Pringle's in the afternoon. It is many years since curling was played in Tientsin. (Central News.)"

Who were Mr Cunningham and Major Pringle? And who are the others in the photograph? The sweeping implements look like traditional broom kowes!

But, these questions aside, I realised immediately that the Christmas day match was not simply a one-off occasion organised by homesick Scots, as the romantic headline would imply. From where had the curling stones been obtained, for a start? And the caption had the intriguing information that curling had been played in Tientsin before 1913. I set out to find more! 

Tientsin is Tianjin, a port city some 150 kilometers south east of Beijing. Read about it here. The city became a 'treaty port' in 1860, one of many as China opened to foreign trade in the middle of the nineteenth century (see here). Tientsin had two concession areas at first, for Britain, and for France. This number increased to nine, and by 1913, when the Christmas curling match took place, the United States, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia, also had a presence in the city (here).  Read about the British concession here. A flavour of what the concession areas of Tianjin were like can be seen in this collection of old postcards.

Where was the 'Russian Park' in Tientsin? I cannot be sure, but old maps of the city do show a park in the Russian concession just across the river from the British Bund. Perhaps the new rink in 1913 was here.

We have to jump forward a few years to find that there was a Tientsin Curling Club which became affiliated to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1932. It was active before that date though, as the Berwickshire News and General Advertiser reported on December 2, 1930. The article was headed, 'Greenlaw Native In Tientsin'. This referred to the 'Captain' (presumably the President of the Tientsin Curling Club), Mr Sligh, who had headed up a delegation from the curling club to be entertained in  the officers' mess and receive a trophy from the Royal Scots, who had been stationed in the city. 

The article read, "On Sunday evening, November 9, Colonel Romanes and officers of the Royal Scots invited the officers and members of Tientsin Curling Club to a reception, at the Officers’ Mess, at which trophy was presented by the officers of the regiment to the Club in the form of a silver curling stone. In the course of very happily-worded speech, Colonel Romanes said they had enjoyed their curling in Tientsin very much indeed, and very greatly appreciated the help the Curling Club, in the provision of the requisite facilities, such as the loaning of stones, etc. Consequently they would be happy if the Club would accept the challenge trophy to be played for annually by the members. The Captain of the Curling Club (Mr Sligh, who is a native of Greenlaw), thanked the Colonel and officers of the regiment for their very fine present, and said they had thoroughly enjoyed their many pleasant games with the officers, who had given great support to the game during their sojourn here. All the members of the Club were genuinely sorry they were going away. The Club delegation were thereafter hospitably entertained at the Mess."

I find it interesting and somewhat heartening that Scottish officers had had time to play curling when stationed at Tientsin. The background for the military presence of the Royal Scots in Tientsin is hereThey were in the city for around two years before being relieved by a company of The Queen's Royal Regiment. Being English, the new officers may not have been so enthusiastic about the sport of curling as the officers of the Royal Scots had been!

So we know then that the Tientsin curlers had at least one trophy to play for in the following years after they became affiliated with the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. And that at least one of the club's members during that time was a Scot - J Sligh, from Greenlaw. He's pictured below. Looking at the names it would appear that the curling club membership was not exclusively Scottish, and certainly included expats from other nations.  

This is the Tientsin club's membership as published in the Royal Club Annual for 1932-33. Note that this entry suggests that formalised curling in Tientsin dated from 1890. However, curling may well have been played in the city as early as 1874. Such a suggestion can be found in a speech by the President of the Tientsin CC, a Mr. S. L. Briault, as reported in the Royal Caledonian Annual of 1939-40: "Curling in Tientsin commenced about 1874 and it may be interesting to you to know that the first rink was on the river in front of the Taku Tug and Lighter Co's premises."

Briault goes on to say that in 1910 a club was formed and curling took place on the pond in the Russian Park. That would be consistent with the report of the Christmas curling at that venue in 1913.

In the 1930s the Tientsin Curling Club's home was at the Race Club, just to the south of the British Concession. Read about the Race Club here and here. There were certainly ponds on the grounds at the race track, and one such may well have been for curling.

The club had a large and active membership in the 1930s. We have photos of some of the members from season 1936-37.

This photo, from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1937-38 is captioned 'TIENTSIN CURLING CLUB The members of the Tientsin Curling Club at Mr J C Taylor's residence.'

From left to right, back row: Messrs J Sligh, HF Barnes, LH Twyford Thomas, SL Briault, J Irvine, A McKechnie, JA Mouat and WN Bentinck.

Middle row: Messrs LCM Ouwerkerk, R Geyling, LW Jenner, JE Cloke, JWCameron, JM Bandinel, J Allan, WH Evans Thomas, GE Hansen, H Laidlaw and HH Faulkner.

Front row: Messrs A Istl, H Nielsen, GB Carruthers, A MacArthur, JC Taylor (President), HG McKenzie (Hon Secretary), PW Jones, A Burgess and R Bauer.

And here is a photo of the skips in season 1936-37:
(L-R) JM Bandinel, SL Briault, J Allan, J Sligh, JC Taylor (President), HH Faulkner, R Geyling, JS Jones.

It looks like the players are standing on an artificial 'Cairnie-style' rink, presumably the rink at the Race Club. And the brooms in use now are more modern than in the 1913 photo!

The 1938-39 Annual has ten rinks playing regularly. With World War 2 on the horizon, I wonder how the lives of those shown in the photographs above unfolded in the years that followed.

Curling did not resume after the war, and of course the political system in China changed dramatically then. However, Robin Welsh, in his book International Guide to Curling (Pelham Books, published in 1985) records "in 1966, Ernst Debrunner, Treasurer of the Swiss Curling Association, was astonished to find curling stones in Tientsin (they were used by members of the Tientsin Club, which, founded by Scots in 1890, was active until the Second World War)."

According to TM Devine and Angela McCarthy in their introduction to The Scottish Experience in Asia c1700 to the Present: Settlers and Sojourners (published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017) between 1815 and the WW2 more than 2.3 million people left Scotland for overseas destinations. Scotland had a population of less than 4.5 million at the census of 1901. The Christmas curling story from 1913 would seem to be yet another example of Scots emigrants taking the sport of curling with them! Not all those mentioned in this article were Scots, but certainly many were. It would be interesting to learn more about them, and what took them to China. And I'm sure I've only scratched the surface of the history of the Tientsin Curling Club and its members.

Read more about Tianjin today here. And of course the Chinese themselves now curl! The Chinese Curling Association became a member of the World Curling Federation in 2002. Beijing has hosted both the World Men's and World Women's Curling Championship in recent years, and a Chinese women's team will compete in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone!

The image from the Daily Record is ©Trinity Mirror, courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive. The other images are from Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annuals in the author's archive.

Friday, December 01, 2017

The Third Grand Match

Driving today into Lochwinnoch from the south, you pass between two large expanses of water, the Barr Loch, and Castle Semple Loch, both now part of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Lochwinnoch Reserve. Both lochs have a curling history!

This is a recent autumn photograph of the Barr Loch. This was the site of the third Grand Match in January, 1850.

The first thing to say is that back in 1850 Barr Loch wasn't a permanent body of water. It may have been such at one point, but the earliest Ordnance Survey maps note that Barr Loch was 'Drained but liable to Winter Floods'. It wasn't until the twentieth century that the Barr Loch became permanent. In the nineteenth century the area was often referred to as 'Barr Meadow'.

The first Grand Match of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club had been successfully held in January 1847 at Penicuik, matching twelve rinks from north of the River Forth against the same number from south of the river (although it should be noted that another 22 games were played, alongside the North v South match). The second Grand Match took place on Linlithgow Loch on Tuesday, January 25, 1848. Such was the success of that occasion, described here, that a third Grand Match was scheduled for the following year, 1849, again at Linlithgow, but this did not take place.

Through these years the membership of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club was increasing. The Club was formed in 1838, and in the first season 28 clubs were members. By season 1850-51 the membership had grown to 243 clubs. 

In the Royal Club Annual for the season 1849-50, the following paragraph has been inserted almost as a postscript.

"NOTE.—We have great pleasure in stating, that Colonel Macdowall of Garthland, has in the most handsome and liberal manner consented that about 200 acres of land adjoining the Lochwinnoch Station of the Glasgow and Ayr Railway, shall be flooded with water, to the depth of one or two feet, in order that the Members of the Royal Club may have an opportunity to play the Grand Match this Winter, in the event of there being sufficient Ice."

Alex Cassels, the Secretary of the Royal Club, put out a press release on Tuesday, January 10, 1850, calling the Match for the Friday following, and this was printed in Wednesday's Scotsman, and in the Stirling Observer on the following day, above. More parochially, the Falkirk Herald just printed, "The Royal Caledonian Curling match has been fixed to take place this year at Lochwinnoch, upon Friday next. The Falkirk players intend to muster in great force upon the occasion, and we have no doubt will support the honour of the town."

It would be wrong to assume that the arrangements for the Lochwinnoch Grand Match had gone ahead without problems. The decision to consider Lochwinnoch as the venue had been made at a joint Meeting of the Annual and Finance Committees, on December 8, 1849. It wasn't just a Grand Match venue that had to be decided, there had to be accommodation for an adjourned meeting of the Royal Club. It was agreed that the West of Scotland would be a good venue, it was also resolved that the Grand Match should be, on this occasion, between the North and South sides of the Clyde, rather than having the River Forth as the dividing line as it had been in the past. The Secretary (Alex Cassels), Mr J. Callender, Secretary to the 12th Province, and Mr Robert Love, Secretary to the Lochwinnoch Club, were established as a sub-committee to attend to the arrangements.

Alex Cassels then wrote to Mr Harvey, Castlesemple, whose estate included the the main loch (now known as Castle Semple loch) requesting that he might be good enough to allow the members of the Royal Club to meet and play the Match on the Loch of Lochwinnoch, during January or February. Mr Harvey declined to give permission. The reasons for this and the resulting fall out, which involved matters being heard in court, will be the subject of a future article!

Having had this refusal, the location of the Grand Match was very much in doubt. However, as the Annual reported, "Mr Cassels attended a meeting of the sub-committee at Lochwinnoch, when they had their attention directed to the lands of Colonel Macdowall of Garthland, adjoining the Loch. Part of these lands, called Barr Meadow, extending to about 200 acres, was well adapted for being flooded, and this having been represented to Colonel Macdowall, he at once, and in the handsomest manner, granted the free use of the land referred to, in order that it might be flooded, to afford Ice for the Grand Match."

The press release sent out before the match had this additional note clarifying the situation!

Colonel Macdowall's generosity was to stand him in good stead in the future, as he was made a Vice-President of the Royal Club later in the year!

The Lochwinnoch Graand Match was eagerly anticipated. The venue was easily accessible by train, as the above advert shows. I find it interesting that curlers participating in the match could chose to travel First, Second, or Third Class! The fares quoted were half the price of a normal return. The special trains were in addition to regular services which called at Lochwinnoch, leaving Glasgow at 7.30 and 10.30 am. This Lochwinnoch station had opened in 1840.

This is part of a sketch of the Barr Meadow, from the Annual for 1850-51, accompanying the report of the Grand Match. It shows where the 'admin centre', aka the Secretary's Tent, was set up on the ice, and also just how convenient the venue was for Lochwinnoch Station, most players arriving at the loch by train.

The following report of the match was printed in the Royal Club Annual for 1850-51, and in the absence of any paintings of the scene, words much suffice to describe the occasion! That said, the report in the Annual is identical to that published at the time in the Scotsman of January 16, 1850! So, who wrote the report is uncertain.

"At Lochwinnoch, on Friday the 11th January, 1850, the greatest gathering of the lovers of this manly and truly national game that ever was held in Scotland, took place. For a considerable time it had been known to the public, that in the event of the weather proving favourable for a sufficiently lengthened period, this great bonspiel, or grand match, would be played at the above place during that winter. Accordingly when John Frost had raised his icy sceptre, and loch, stream, and fountain had owned his stern supremacy in bonds of gelid cold, the curlers far and wide began to cut their besoms off the broom, and make all ready to obey the call of their noble president.

It may be called' The Grand Match' of the Royal Club; for of all the previous meetings, it was by far the most numerous, both as regards the Curling brotherhood, and spectators. At the Grand Matches which took place at Linlithgow in 1848, 85 Rinks aside were engaged; but on the present occasion, the Clyde was the boundary of separation between the combatants, and there were no fewer than 127 Rinks from the north, matched against the same number from the south side of that River; besides, the president and president-elect had each a party of 10 rinks a side. As the appointed day approached, the excitement became intense, and every shadow of change in the weather was scanned with anxious eyes by the eager and expectant sons of the 'channel-stane'. In spite of several attempts at a thaw, however, the Frost-king kept the grip; and, on the eventful morning, the ice was in first-rate condition, presenting a fair field for the efforts of the numerous enthusiastic votaries of the sport.

At an early hour on the appointed day, the various conveyances to the scene were crowded. East, west, north, and south, they came in laughing bands, accompanied in some instances with flags and music. There were loopy lawyers from Edinburgh - longheaded merchants from Glasgow - farmers from the Carse of Gowrie and the 'Kingdom of Fife', ploughmen from the Mearns, with ministers and schoolmasters from many a landward parish; in short, few districts omitted to send their picked men to uphold their local credit on the slippery field of honour. It is gratifying to add, that several members of the aristocratic circles were also there, besom in hand, engaged with as much enthusiasm as the lowliest peasant, in the exciting mysteries of the game. Curling is proverbially a levelling amusement, in the pursuit of which high and low familiarly rub shoulders with each other, yet are we certain that nothing save mutual love and respect ever spring from the friendly contact.

Having been prevented from meeting on Lochwinnoch Loch, in consequence of a refusal on the part of Mr Harvey of Castlesemple, the bonspiel was held at Barr Meadow, on a splendid sheet of ice, about a mile or so in length, by rather more than a quarter in breadth, kindly furnished (by flooding the land) for the occasion, by the proprietor, Colonel Macdowall, of Garthland. This afforded the highest satisfaction; as it relieved the mind from any anxiety of danger - the depth in no part exceeded two or three feet. The situation was central and convenient - being close by the Lochwinnoch Station of the Ayrshire Railway, and only fifteen miles westward from the great City of Glasgow. It was also beautifully picturesque, being surrounded nearly on all sides by gentle slopes and belts of planting. The old Castle of Barr, too, was to be seen as if overlooking the scene, and beyond there was the elevated ridge of hills, which has the sombre Mistylaw for its chief. On the present occasion, covered as it was with countless groups of men and women (for numerous fair curlers were on the ice), besides children, it presented such an extraordinary yet beautiful appearance, that we believe none who gazed upon it will soon let it depart from their memory.

Upwards of eleven hundred persons were engaged in this magnificent game, and the spectators must have amounted to nearly as many thousands. Every city, town, and hamlet, sent forth its votaries and admirers of the game; and if numbers afford any approval of the pastime, certainly there was no lack of encouragement. Curlers from all corners of Scotland were to be seen engaged; not only many Rinks from the 'Kingdom of Fife', and the 'Lothians' but - more distant still - even from the 'Hill of Birnam', in the 'far North'.

Snow having fallen thickly about nine o'clock a.m. the previously cleared ice was covered; but at half-past 12, the players having been arranged into 137 rinks, a signal gun was fired, and immediately thereafter the roaring play commenced.

Such a flourishing of brooms, waving of caps, sweeping of the ice, eager watching of moving stones, accompanied with shouts of laughter, directions for playing, cries of disappointment, or commendations of success, created altogether such a joyous scene of apparent confusion, that the pencils of a hundred Harveys, or the pens of a hundred Dickens's, would have been totally ineffective in conveying the faintest idea of what was going on. Suffice it to say that mirth and good-humour were observable on every hand; and although a wee drap of the dew was occasionally observed circling round the tee, nothing approaching to indecorum or ill nature ever crossed the hog-score.

The ice was not only the best and truest, but in the best condition, from the 'cauld, cauld, frosty weather' which prevailed. Every one admitted this; but more especially those who were successful. Severe frost continuing throughout the day, the ice was extremely keen and slippery. Stones, by the slightest touch - as if by magic - ran any distance, requiring gentle and cautious playing. The rink which attracted the greatest number of spectators throughout the course of the day, was that skipped by the Earl of Eglinton and Mr Palmer; but from the excessive crowding along both sides of the rink, the ice was greatly biased, and the science of the players in consequence very much impeded.

Three hours after the commencement of the play, and, indeed, while the enthusiasm was still gathering, another boom was heard from the signal. gun, and immediately the contest ceased; and the skips of each Rink repaired to the Secretary's Tent, to report the result of the game; and here, assuredly, the Secretary's Office was no sinecure. His patience and forbearance were largely taxed, and but for his experience and energy, there must have been great confusion. Every one would be first; and it was long before the state of the game, on all the Rinks, could be noted down. After a while, however, this was done, and a summation effected, and it was found that the 'Northmen' were ahead of their competitors 233 shots - and that the President's party was victorious over that of the President Elect, to the extent of 13.

The crowd then began rapidly to disperse, some to take their 'beef and greens', the curler's favourite food from time immemorial, at the club dinner-party in Lochwinnoch, others to fight their battles o'er again, and have a friendly dram for 'auld acquaintance sake' in the tents that fringed the loch; while not a few wended their various ways homewards, joking and laughing over the events of the day."

The North beat the South on the day by 233 shots (2295 to 2062), over 127 games. An additional eleven games were played in the President's v President-elect match. The individual results are shown in the tables in the appendix, below.

The Annual for 1850-51 contains the financial details involved in holding the third Grand Match. On the income side, £27/14/6 was collected from the skips. £14/10/0 came from renting tents - presumably these housed those selling food and beverages to players and spectators. On the debit side there was considerable amounts involved in paying those workmen who prepared the ground before it was flooded, and to those involved in clearing the ice.

One pound ten shillings was the cost of the carriage of the cannon, and its powder, and to pay the men in charge of this!

There was a band too, apparently, and reporters got their dinner paid for, all of which came to £4/10/0. When the books were balanced, the accounts were just over one pound in the red!

A curling song was written to celebrate the occasion:

THE LOCHWINNOCH BONSPIEL.
January 11th, 1850.

Keen and snell is the weather, ye Curlers, come gather,
Scotland summons her best, frae the Tweed to the Tay,
It's the north o' the Clyde 'gainst the southern side,
And Lochwinnoch the tryst for our Bonspiel to-day.

Ilk parish the've summoned, baith landward and borough,
Far and near troop the lads wi' the stanes and the broom,
The ploughs o' the Lothians stand stiff i' the furrow,
And the weavers o' Beith for the loch leave the loom.

The blithe shepherd blades are here in their plaids,
Their hirsels they've left on the Tweedside their lane,
Grey carles frae the moorlands wi' gleg e'e and sure hands,
The bannet o' blue, and the auld farren stane.

And the Loudons three, they forgather in glee
Wi' townsfolk frae Ayr, and wi' farmers on Doon,
"But over the Forth" come the lads frae the north
Frae far Carse o' Gowrie, and palace o' Scone.

Auld Reekie's top sawyers, the lang headed lawyers,
And crouse Glasgow merchants are loud i' the play,
There are lairds frae the east, there are lords frae the west,
For the peer and the ploughman are marrows to-day.

See the rinks are a' marshalled, how cheerly they mingle,
Blithe callants, stout chields, and auld grey-headed men,
Till their loud roaring stanes gar the snowy heights tingle
As they ne'er did before, and may never again.

Some lie at hog score, some oure a' ice roar,
'Here's the tee', 'there's the winner', 'chap and lift him twa yards',
'Lay a guard',' fill the port', 'now lads! there's nought for't
But a canny inwick, or a rub at the guards'.

It is done—we maun part—but fair fa' each kind heart!
Wi' the auld Scottish blood beating warm in the veins;
Curlers! aye we've been leal, to our country's weal,
Though our broadswords are besoms, our targets are stanes.

We are sons o' the true hearts, that died wi' the Wallace,
And conquered at brave Bannockburn wi' the Bruce,
These wild days are gone, but their memories call us,
So we'll stand by langsyne, and the gude ancient use.

And we'll hie to the spiel, as our fathers before us,
Ye sons o' the men whom foe never could tame!
And at nicht round the ingle we'll join the blithe chorus,
To the land we loe weel, and our auld Scottish game.

The song is simply credited 'Uphall'.

What of Lochwinnoch after the Grand Match of 1850? Barr Meadow was used for the Twelfth Province Bonspiel on January 15, thirty games being played in the same stretch of ice that had seen the Grand Match just a few days before. Despite the Royal Club having its own pond at Carsebreck by 1853, the Grand Match returned to Lochwinnoch in 1864 and 1878, to the Castle Semple Loch on both these occasions.

Appendix: Clubs taking part in the Grand Match of 1850, with results.






Top image is © Bob Cowan. Other images are screenshots from the digitised Royal Caledonian Curling Club Annual for 1850-51, or from the National Library of Scotland's Maps website (here), or from the British Newspaper Archive (here).